Teamwork. It’s a word people use a lot, but we shouldn’t take it lightly – especially when it comes to support systems for our children.
We can move mountains when we help, encourage, and collaborate with, each other. I’ve experienced this myself when it comes to parent-teacher relationships.
Kathy Courchene, a gifted therapist and founder of Gifted 24/7, has too. Her children, both twice exceptional, are now grown; however, she did plenty of advocating for them when they were in school.
It was always with the intent of connection and mutual respect. She had taught high-school art for a year and saw, firsthand, the challenges teachers experience, so she knew collaboration was key.
Trust and respect
“I would give the teacher specific information to help my kid, but I also understood my focus was on my one child, while the teacher had to focus on all of the students in that class,” explains Courchene.
She says she verbally acknowledged the difficulty of teachers’ challenging jobs. “I summarized the work I was doing to provide what was best for my child. I also said I considered her (or him) part of my family’s ‘team’ to support those efforts. Teachers always appreciated me going to them in the spirit of collaboration.”
Christine Weis, a teacher-turned-coach, and creator of the For the Love of Teachers blog, echoes this.
“Teachers need trust and understanding from school administrators as well as parents. Asking ‘What do you need and how can I help?’ also goes a long way.”
Short and sweet
Between teaching during the day, grading and class prep at night, and fitting in a personal life, a teacher’s time is limited, so brevity is key as well.
“Be succinct,” stresses Courchene. “If you want to share something that relates to your child, don’t recommend an entire book. Instead, find a short article that’s relevant.”
Also, assume that the teacher wants the best for your child. If something surprises you or seems off, ask questions (rather than make demands or accusations).
For example, you could say: “I’m surprised by Susie’s grade on a social studies assignment she brought home. When I asked her about it, she wasn’t sure what the reason was, either. Please tell me when you have time to talk, so we can understand this better. Thanks!”
The perfect balance
On the flip side, don’t relinquish your role as your child’s advocate.
“Though teachers and school staff may have more expertise in their professional functions than a non-school-affiliated parent, each parent has more expertise in knowing about her child, who happens to be a student in that school,” adds Courchene.
In other words, it’s a delicate balance; however, going into each school year with the proper mindset can make a big difference.
Do you have another tip? If so, please tell me. Maybe I’ll talk about it in an upcoming post.