As a former primary school teacher with 15 years experience and a parenting educator with 30 years experience, I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of healthy relationships between a child’s parent/s and their teacher. I hold a Master of Educational Studies from Monash University specialising in parenting education, a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma of Primary Teaching from SCV Toorak University (now Deakin University). I’ve done the theory and I’ve also put my the boots on the ground. Uniquely, this has allowed me to appreciate perspectives from either side of the school gate.
Studies show that healthy parent–teacher relationships are a more significant factor in student success than parent income levels or social status. Parent–teacher relationships require effort and energy from both parties if they are going to really benefit children and young people. Here are some strategies to help you build a healthy working relationship with teachers in the year ahead.
Get to know them
For your partnership to be meaningful and successful, you need to meet with your children’s teacher(s) with the goal of forming a respectful professional relationship. Be willing to share your aspirations for your child and be willing to build the teacher’s knowledge about your family. For balanced perspective, also gain an understanding of the teacher’s approach and what focus areas they have for their particular year group. This can be done formally by attending start of the year information evenings and informally through conversations, reading newsletters and staying in touch in digitally and in real-time.
Trust their professionalism
Children need to know that their parents are fully behind what their teachers are trying to achieve if they are going to commit fully to learning. The best way to support your child’s teacher is to trust their knowledge, professionalism and experience. Avoid the temptation to question the expertise of teachers in front of students, particularly when the teachers use methods that you are unfamiliar with. Initiate conversations with teachers around methodology to give them the chance to explain the approach they are taking.
Go through the right channels
Despite the best teaching practices things do go wrong at school. Kids experience learning difficulties. Conflict and peer rejection happen. Kids will often come home from school with grievances, and call on you for assistance. Resist the urge to react emotionally. If you need to contact teachers do so respectfully, calmly and through the correct channels. A measured response will generally achieve the best result for your child.
Utilise their resources
Teachers and schools often put a lot of work into sourcing and sharing credible resources that they think will help parents. Take the time to read, utilise and enjoy the information provided to you. It’s intended to make your parenting journey easier, which will also benefit your child not just at school, but at home. If your school doesn’t yet have a clearly defined source in place, consider suggesting one to the teacher, such as the Parenting Ideas memberships for schools.
Build links to student learning
There’s a huge body of research that points to the correlation between parent engagement in student learning and their educational success. If you want your child to improve their learning, take an interest in what they are doing. Follow school and teacher guidelines about helping at home and attend as many conferences, meetings and events involving your child as possible. This strategy has a significant, long-term impact on your child’s attitude to learning.
Stay in touch
Life’s not always smooth sailing for kids of any age. Family circumstances change. Friends move away. Illness happens. Mental health challenges can hit anyone at any time. These changes affect learning. Make sure that you keep teachers up to date with significant changes or difficulties that your child or young person experiences so they can accommodate your child’s emotional and learning needs at school.
Show your loyalty to your child’s teachers by being an advocate. Talk positively about your child’s teacher and school, rather than being negative about them when speaking in the wider community. Teachers hold very public positions and generally work hard to build good reputations both within their school and their wider education community. Consider a teacher’s reputation among the community and also with children when you discuss educational matters with others.
Building healthy parent–teacher relationships doesn’t just happen
It takes goodwill from both sides, a commitment to setting aside the time necessary to support the home-based learning tasks that are expected, and a willingness to communicate both concerns and commendations through the correct channels.