The topic of conversation on Facebook right now: what teacher does your child have?
As soon as the list is posted on the school door, or the letter is received in the mail, parents are comparing notes and asking questions, because we all want to make sure our child has a successful year with their new teacher. While I’m fortunate to know all the teachers in my children’s small Catholic school where there’s only one teacher per grade, my experience is not the norm. Most public schools have several teachers per grade. Not every parent can volunteer in school, and see the teachers as often as I do.
Teachers want our children to succeed. We can help that success by reaching out in 5 different ways. Tailor these to fit your own circumstances.
1. Write a letter to your child’s teacher
Preschool and Kindergarten teachers usually ask parents to send in a photo of their child and write a paragraph about their son or daughter to help with the transition to school. As a parent, you can continue this letter writing each year as a way of building a relationship with the new teacher. This letter can also help you focus your efforts to help your child do their best this year.
Keep your letter simple and short. Share your child’s strengths and weaknesses. If your child struggle with an academic subject last year, mention it in the letter. The information should be in your child’s file, however, teachers will appreciate a fresh reminder in case the student needs extra help.
2. Find out how to communicate with your child’s teacher
School policy may dictate how you can communicate with a teacher. All communication for my son in high school goes through the school’s email system. At my children’s elementary school, most teachers are okay with a note; some will do a quick chat outside after school.
Usually teachers let parents know the first day how to reach them if there’s an issue or a question about something that happened at school. If you need to be reached only one way, make sure the teacher has that information even if the school has it, too.
A friend of mine let her children’s teachers know she could only do emails about non-emergency school issues when she was at work. Since she was often in meetings, a phone call or text would be disruptive. On the flip side, if she did get a phone call while in a meeting, she knew she had to respond immediately.
3. Attend your school’s Open House/Back to School Night
Kindergarten and preschool teachers often have an Open House to introduce kids to school. This is a great time to see the classroom, and talk about the daily routine for your son/daughter. For older grades, schools schedule a Back to School night within the first few weeks of school. At the high school level, my son’s teachers gave us a copy of what would be covered during the first semester and their expectations for grading. For my elementary students, Back to School night was more casual with the teacher answering parental questions individually.
4. Volunteer at school
Yes, we’re all pressed for time. I get that as a mom of 5 kids who works from home, volunteers at school, and volunteers as a Girl Scout leader. The truth is: we make time for what’s important to us. Volunteering at school doesn’t mean showing up all the time in school. You could sign up as a lunch aide one hour a month, or offer to be a guest reader for an hour. If you’re not able to come into school, some teachers would love help with prepping materials for the younger grades like cutting out pumpkin shapes at Halloween. Or, maybe you can make phone calls to help organize volunteers for events.
In Kindergarten at my children’s school, the teacher has a series of fun days each Friday of May and June. Working parents in the class get the dates ahead of time, and take time off from work to participate. They know it’s the highlight of the Kindergarten year, not to mention something the older kids talk about as they get ready to graduate Eighth Grade.
5. Address issues promptly
Every teacher wants to address issues promptly, and keep the class moving along in their learning. A struggling child loses momentum if they don’t get help, and the longer a parent or teacher waits, the longer it takes for the child to catch up to their peers. If you’re not clear on the homework, and a call to another parent in the class doesn’t answer your question, write a note to the teacher. Any concerns about your child being bullied must be dealt with promptly. Teachers may not be available on the playground to witness the behavior.