Back to School: Tips from Teachers to Parents
As many students get ready to head back to school, nerves abound. Not only are the children nervous about their new teachers and classmates, parents are also worried for their child to have a positive and successful school year. If parents want their children to become better students, what better source to ask for ideas than teachers? Here are some teachers’ top tips to parents:
Use email. Teachers are happy to talk to parents about any concerns they have, but phone calls can be disruptive. Email is a great way to reach your child’s teacher because it’s a quick and easy way for the teacher to communicate when she has a few moments rather than playing phone tag. Emails can also be printed out and placed on their desk as a reminder if there is an action the teacher needs to take.
Communicate in positive ways. Parents should try to establish positive collaboration early, before any problems arise. Let the teacher know that you want to help your child learn, and you are open to his/her advice. Ask them to contact you right away if they notice any problems or concerns. As mentioned above, emails offer an excellent communication tool. Parents shouldn’t email only when something is wrong. If you are pleased with the way the teacher did something with your child or in the classroom, let them know! Also, provide your child’s teacher with helpful information. For example, you should let your child’s teacher know if they are having a hard day because of a loss in the family. Just be careful you don’t overdo it.
Treat teachers like professionals. Although parents know their children better than anyone, teachers have profound insight they can offer. First of all, remember that teachers work with kids every day and have seen a wide variety of learning styles, issues, and problems over the years. They have the education and experience to see things parents might not. Your child may act very differently in the school environment than they do at home. When a teacher brings up a concern, listen with an open mind and consider it carefully before immediately rejecting their advice or comments, even if the behavior described is something you have never witnessed before. If you work with your teacher, together you can determine the best steps forward for your child. Finally, never bad-mouth the teacher in front of your child. If your child hears you mutter, “that teacher doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” or “your teacher should never have done that,” then your child learns to disrespect the teacher, creating a very rough relationship in the classroom.
Encourage responsibility. In every child’s school career, they will make mistakes. Sometimes your child will fail a test, forget their homework, or act up in class. This is a normal part of life, and an excellent learning opportunity for taking responsibility for their actions and learning from their mistakes. Parents are eager to protect their children from troubles – it’s a natural instinct – but if they jump to their defense at every turn, they will be robbing their children of the chance to develop responsibility and learn from their actions. When a child does not perform the way they should in class, parents should refrain from trying to excuse, defend or rescue them. By defending their inability to get homework done or their behavior problem, parents in effect teach them to reject responsibility. Instead, parents should focus on solving the problem and allowing their children to navigate these issues and learn the deeper lessons.
Overcome your fears. A frequent complaint of teachers is the way parents can influence their child based on their own past experiences. Parents may think they are being understanding when they tell their child, ‘I was always bad at math, too.’ Instead, they are setting their child up to assume that math is hard and not even their parents could figure it out. Math makes life easier, and if parents are able to demonstrate that they are not intimidated by numbers, their child will automatically mimic them and assume they can improve their math skills, too. Parents, remember that your attitudes about school (math or otherwise) affect your child.
Ensure understanding. Many parents believe that if they are checking their child’s homework and the answers are right, their child is understanding the information taught. This is not necessarily true. Some children are excellent at guessing or regurgitating memorized information. Instead, ensure your child is understanding the lessons in two different ways. First, ask your child to teach you their lesson. You want them to be able to explain what they did, how, and why. Second, reinforce learning by relating the principles in your everyday life. For example, show them how you use math to calculate tips at a restaurant or statistics at a sporting event.
Don’t compare your child with others. Every child is a unique individual. They learn, play, and interact differently. There is absolutely no value in comparing your child with any other children. It will only rob your child of self-esteem, not motivate them to improve.
Stay involved. Many parents that were highly involved in elementary schools, back off when their child enters middle or high school. Although teens are more self-sufficient and act like they don’t want you anywhere near them, this is not the time to take your hands off the parenting wheel when your teen is facing so much more stress, such as intense peer pressure. Take the time to know their friends, their teachers, and their schedules.
Let them go. Even though you should stay involved in your child’s life, do not micromanage your child’s education. School is your child’s job, not yours. Your job is to teach them how to be successful, not do it for them. So, if your child is having trouble with something, talk him through the process. Teach him steps to take to solve the problem himself. For example, if your teen can’t seem to stay organized, then recommend he use color-coordinated folders, notebooks and composition books for different subjects and show him how to set goals and action steps to meet deadlines.
Know the difference between learning and grades. Most people can recall in their high school career at least one class where they received an “A” but didn’t learn anything, and at least one other class where they really struggled for their grade but learned a great deal. Grades are not always the best indicator of learning. Parents should not be arguing with their child’s teacher over grades. This type of focus actually creates students that avoid risk and challenge. Instead, parents should ask their teen what they are curious about or what they want to learn next to instill a love of lifelong learning.
Your child’s teacher is your partner in your child’s school year. If you look at them as a support system, your child will have a much better chance to succeed.