Four tips for parents to make this the best school year yet.

 As an educator I find that parents are often under certain misconceptions about teachers and education.  I believe that these misconceptions also often lead to somewhat of a rift or disconnect between parents and teachers. These misconceptions also contribute to children receiving a less than adequate education.  Here are four tips for parents to help improve your child’s educational experience.

1.       Build: Parents are a child’s first teacher.   When children enter school, teachers should be building upon a foundation laid by parents.  Kindergarten is no longer about play.  Children are expected to be reading by the time they leave kindergarten, whether or not this is a realistic goal may be debatable, but it is currently the standard.   Give your children a head start by teaching some foundational concepts.  Some things of importance is the ability to count objects (at least to 10), letter recognition and letter sounds, writing and recognizing their name.   Read to them on a daily basis, this fosters a love for reading.  No matter how old your children are they love to be read to aloud.  Children who love to read will always find the answers they seek.

2.       Support:  Parents can sometimes become defensive when teachers call home to report a problem.  Believe me, teachers do not stay up at night and think of what lies they can tell on a child. Trust your child’s teacher and show a united front in the presence of the child.  This will improve behavior at home and school, and it will help to prevent children from pitting parent against teacher.  I have personally had students lie to their parents with me present, essentially calling me a liar, and parents wanting me to explain myself.  This behavior causes teachers to be hesitant about calling parents with concerns when they know that parents aren’t willing to listen and be supportive.  Teachers spend an entire day on their feet, if after a day of teaching they are reaching out to you, there is reason.

3.       Communicate and stay involved:  I’ve gone an entire school year without meeting some of my students’ parents, they didn’t even pick up report cards.  Use the technological advances to your advantage.  In most school districts, parents have access to every grade their child earns.  Teachers’ grade books are now digital and available for parents.  Parents should no longer be saying, “I didn’t know…”  There is really no reason why parents should not know how their children are performing in school.  The electronic grade book is the best, yet underused tool afforded to parents.  Utilize your access to the gradebook, and contact teachers immediately when there is a grade that you have questions/concerns about.  Reach out to your child’s teacher just to check in to see how the year is going, and ask if there is anything you can do to help your child at home.    Communication is key to any relationship, including parent-teacher relationships.

4.       Advocate: Parents must advocate for their children, the only way a parent can advocate is if they are involved and in tune with the needs of their children.  Is your child gifted?  Does your child enjoy sports?  Is your child a visual learner?  Does your child struggle in a particular content area?  These are some things parents should know, and share with the teacher.  Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can advocate for the best educational opportunities for your child. 

Seek to form a partnership with your child’s teacher.  Make a point of attending the open house to meet him/her and share a little about yourself and your child, assure his/her that you are willing to support your child.  As in any profession, there are “bad” teachers, but the majority of us want what’s best for children and want to see them succeed.