12 Things Teachers Want Parents To Know

Teachers don’t always get the opportunity to tell parents how they can work together to make children more successful in the classroom and beyond. At least not, perhaps, the things that teachers really want parents to know, but aren’t allowed to say.  We asked some current and veteran teachers to share with us the top things they wish all parents knew (in no particular order) to both support the teacher and their child’s ability to get the most out of their education.

1. Ask how you can help your child.

  • This tip may seem silly or obvious, but it is so very important! All too often parents are afraid to reach out to their child’s teacher to see how they can help reinforce learning at home. Chances are your child’s teacher will have some specific ideas about how to turn any academic or behavioral concerns into strengths.  Learning and academic success go far beyond the classroom.

2. Assist your child with their homework, but do not do it yourself!

  • Sometimes parents can go a little too far in helping with homework.  If your child is struggling to understand a concept or complete an assignment and you are unable to provide clarification or your own examples, be in touch with the child’s teacher.  Better yet, help your child devise a plan to ask for more time, go in early to school, or stay after school so that s/he can still have the opportunity to learn the concept on their own. Most teachers will be understanding, even if there is a point reduction for turning something in late. Plus your child may earn “brownie points” for hanging in there and sticking with something when it’s hard.

3. Ask about class—every single day.

  • You want to know what your child is up to while they are home, so why not what they are doing when they are at school? If you start early with your child, asking specific questions about how their day was, what they learned, what they liked about school, and what they have for homework, your child will learn the healthy habit of communicating with you about this important aspect of their life. Along with this tip, do not accept “nothing” as a reasonable answer! This tip can be used at the dinner table, before homework time, or on the drive back from school–whenever you have enough time to listen and respond to your child about their day.  Don’t forget that modeling this type of communication is helpful too, so open up about what you did while they were away too!

4. Read to your child or set aside family reading time.

  • It is especially important for children to be read to from a young age.  Even before your child is verbal or seemingly is able to understand the content of books, reading helps your child with their language development. For older children, whether they are being read to or are able to read on their own, reading improves their vocabulary, provides them with content knowledge about the world around them, improves their concentration, develops their imagination skills, strengthens their brain connections. And most relevant to this article–children who read at home do better in school!

5. Use technology to enhance your supervision–but not smother.

  • Schools are striving to become more technologically savvy and advanced each year.  Teachers are expected to encourage your child to develop their skills interacting with different forms of technology and to also use technology to keep parents and students informed about their classroom.  Particularly at the high school level, students and parents are often able to log on from home to view their grades, lectures, and extra learning materials. This extended access means that parents can be more aware then ever before about how their child is doing and track their progress.  However, this extended access can sometimes be taken too far when teachers are demanded to update grades on a daily basis, to respond to parents about a grade before having the opportunity to discuss the grade with the student, or when parents are more in contact with their child’s teacher than they are with their child about what is going on at school.  We’ve heard from dozens of teachers about how the extended access technology provides to their classroom has meant that too much communication is occurring between adults only and missing an important connection–the student.

6. Let your child learn from their mistakes.  You can’t “fix” everything for them.

  • It can be hard as a parent to watch your child make a mistake.  However, as challenging as it is to sit back at times to allow your child to brush themselves off and get back up, this is a key part of maturing and developing into an adult. For example, if your child doesn’t do well on a test, remind them that it’s normal to mess up sometimes and encourage them to ask the teacher for extra help and ideas to help them better prepare in the future. Encouraging your child to try again when they have made a mistake is just as important as praising them when they have succeeded.

7. Encourage your child to be their own advocate.

  • As easy as it may be to call or e-mail your child’s teacher in order to get a quick response or solution to a problem, there are times when you should hold off and let your child handle it on his/her own. This doesn’t mean that you should stand back on the sidelines and stay completely out of the way.  However, you can be just as supportive by helping your child to figure out what went wrong, how they can fix it, and importantly, how to advocate for themselves with their teacher or a peer, if necessary.

8. Tell your child’s teacher when you like what they’re doing!

  • Lots of teachers only hear from parents when they have a concern. While teachers are usually very happy to be made aware of these concerns, it would also be nice for them to hear from you when they are doing a great job! Just like any other person, teachers thrive on praise and are likely to strive for even more!

9. Extra-curricular activities are an important part of school, too.

  • Children who are involved in extra-curricular activities are often better students. Some parents worry that involvement in extra-curricular activities will be too heavy of a distraction from their child’s studies.  On the contrary, students that are involved get better grades and often have fewer behavioral problems. Other benefits of involvement including learning about time management, developing diverse interests, improving self-esteem, and building relationship skills. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing, so if your child is heavily involved, make sure that they have enough time for relaxation and out-of-school socialization time.

10. Follow through with school consequences at home.

  • If your child broke a rule at school, demonstrate your own respect for the importance of abiding by these rules with a discussion or consequence at home. It is extremely hard for teachers and administrators to reinforce school rules (rules that are present for child safety and optimal learning), when parents do not do their part and reinforce the rules and their consequences. If you do not agree with a school rule or a consequence, you can also take the opportunity to model for your child an appropriate appeal or response. Still–the message should be clear that how your child behaves at school is important enough to you to be emphasized, applied, and discussed at home.

11. Offer to help out.

  • Teachers always need help.  Whether it be with a field trip, gathering extra school supplies, volunteering one-on-one time in the classroom to augment child learning, or creating posters and bulletin boards for the classroom–they will appreciate any way you can help! Maintaining order in a classroom full of kids, creating fun and exciting lesson plans, and attending to the varying skills and abilities of each child takes enormous amounts of time and effort.  Teachers are better able to do all of this particularly when some of the less teaching-intensive tasks can be delegated.

12. You make up 50% of the team. Teachers and parents should respect the other 50%.

  • This tip certainly goes both ways.  Teachers and parents should hopefully have respect and trust in one another.  On the teaching end, this means that teachers hope that, in most circumstances, parents can have faith in their education, experience, and teaching skills to do a great job in educating their child.  Teachers we talked to, for example, mentioned that parents have become increasingly questioning about classroom issues or anecdotes told to them second hand and taken out of context. While parents should always be advocates for their children, it is important to first ask for context and clarification, rather than assume the worst. The teachers we polled said that the majority of the time, concerns brought to them by parents on the behalf of the child stemmed from a misunderstanding– one that was much easier to remedy when approached respectfully.

What would you add? Do we have any readers who are teachers themselves? We hope these tips are helpful and lead you and your child through another successful school year. Parent and teacher cooperation is vital for a child’s success in school–not just academically, but it all facets. Let us know what you’d add in the comments.

Photo Credits: Teacher: Rob Shenk (CC); Students with iPads: Brad Flickinger (CC); Girls Playing Basketball: Ralph Arveson (CC)

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Katherine lives in Kansas City with her husband, toddler, and 3 furry children. When she is not at home with her daughter, she is finishing up her Ph.D. in psychology or working on one of her multiple half-finished art projects. She loves ceramics, crafts, fitness, paper mache, and pretending to learn French and Spanish.

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