*Please note all opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect on my Principal, School, School Board or even my own husband.

**Also note that although I am a teacher, I do have a learning disability. You may see evidence of this through my writing with my many run-on sentences and homonym mix-ups. I still have good ideas and won't let that stop me from expressing them and I tell my students the same thing.

***Even though many people think teachers know everything, I do not, in fact I know I have a lot to learn and that is part of why I love teaching. Feel free to teach me knew things, but when you leave comments, I ask that you be nice about it - thanks.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Holding Teachers Accountable- Part 2 - Parent/Teacher Relationships

How to communicate with your child's teacher in a meaningful way.

I realize that not everyone reading this will have a job, but if you do, think about how you feel when someone you work with doesn't tell you about something you are doing wrong.  Instead of them pointing out your mistake and helping you improve, they go and tell your boss.  How do you feel?  This happens more than you know when parents go directly to the Principal to get answers instead of talking to the teacher first.  Going to the Principal is a good option, but not until after you have tried a few of the below strategies first.

Let's face it - we're all busy - parents and teachers... and kids for that matter.  A lot of teachers nowadays will be communicating with you via technology.  They may have a website or blog or send emails home.  A big part of communicating is to help keep you in the loop and yes admittedly, keep you off their back.  If we communicate with you up front, hopefully we prevent some added communication from being needed.  I teach in the community I live and have been known to have a parent-teacher interview at Farmboy, the swimming pool and even last week at Hewitt Park on Friday night.  I like teaching and take pride in my work and talking about it is fun for me... but not every teacher wants to talk about work in their spare time and I respect that. We need to remember that teachers are people too, they have families and problems to go home to just like you.

Most teachers are readily available by email now and a quick questions can often clear up mis-understandings... and most of teachers are happy to do so.  Truthfully it makes our job easier when your child is doing what they need to be, so a quick email in the short term often helps us out in the long term.  I would say that 90% of the issues I encounter are a child not understanding what I said, misinterpreting details, students not sharing the full story with parents or students simply having a different perspective than the teacher. Most of these are quickly cleared up in an email or with a quick phone call. Some parents are not taking that step. How many of you have had a friend complain about what the teacher is doing or not doing?  (I'm guilty, I know I have) Instead of complaining (or at least in addition to venting) advocate for your child and work with the teacher to find a solution.

Things to remember:

1) Teachers are not perfect, we are human, we do make mistakes. I often apologize to students or parents for something I have said or done and being forgiven is appreciated.  (I'm not talking about real bad things here: I forget to bring something from home that I promised a child, I forgot to mark their journal entry last night, I didn't communicate with a parent about an incident at school...) It happens.

2) Kids are not perfect, they make mistakes... usually more often than me!  When your child tells you something, remember they are a child.  It does not mean they are not being truthful and it does not mean it does not reflect how they feel, but there is an adult perspective that is worth hearing and knowing about before you jump to conclusions.

3) Parents are not perfect... and they like to protect their babies.  I'm a parent and I know that when my son comes home from school in tears, my heart breaks.  I want to fix it anyway possible, but that isn't always the right thing to do.  Sometimes a kid feeling sad or bad is a good thing. Sometimes working through these types of issues makes them stronger and more resilient.

Things NOT to do:

1) Do not show up at the classroom at 8:30 a.m. before class upset about something and force the teacher to deal with your issue.  This is not fair to the teacher or the class. You can set a teacher off for the whole day doing this. (I have seen my fair share of teachers in tears first thing in the morning - including myself twice)

2) Do not blame the teacher without first asking what happened.  You are the parent to your child, you want to believe your child and take care of them, but it is important to hear what the adult has to say.

3) Do not say negative things about your child's teacher in front of your child.  Your child has to spend 6 hours a day with their teacher.  You want to help develop a positive relationship, not make a negative one fester.

4) Do not wander into your child's classroom uninvited.  Do not snoop through the teachers desk, drawers or file cabinets... I know you think I would not have to say that... yet it is here for good reason!

5) Do not email or expect a conference with the teacher every week or every day - you can burn your bridge fast that way.

Okay, so what should I do:

1) Respect the teacher. Talk to them politely, make eye contact, shake hands, smile... I know seems obvious, right.

2) Acknowledge all the hard work that the teacher is doing.  The long hours of marking, the cool lessons they have planned, the interesting discussions you had at home because of a lesson they taught...

3) When you have a question, ask it nicely. Maybe say what your child said and wonder if that is correct or if they are missing some information?  Ask for clarification.

4) If your child is coming home repeatedly with questions unanswered, lots of homework, feeling bad about school, feeling bullied... then request a meeting with the teacher.  Let them know what you would like to address at the meeting so they can prepare for it.

5) Volunteer to help. Supply goodies for class parties, attend the field trips when you can, offer to photocopy or prepare crafts for younger grades, read with students who need extra help.

6) Support the teacher.  When your child has messed up - acknowledge it, deal with it at home and support the teachers decisions and disciplinary action.

What if...?

1) My child's teacher does not communicate with parents - no blog, no website, no emails, no paper newsletters?   Ask the teacher if there is a way to find out what is happening in the class.  Is there a blog or website to get updates?  Even if you know the answer is no, it lets them know that maybe this would be used or appreciated. Ask if your child is supposed to be writing in an agenda or if they can use their device to take photos of the homework, notes or anchor charts.  Let the teacher know you appreciate getting any emails or calls letting you know how your child is doing, if he is falling behind or if she got a new assignment you need to be aware of.  And as a last resort make friends with a parent whose child is a talker - they will be able to tell you what is going on and you can then prompt your child from there.

2) My child's teacher is not teaching using methods that benefit my child?  I try to use a balance of methods hoping that at certain times all students will benefit from the teaching style, but not all teachers like: chaos, noise, group work, building things or mess and I've also know teachers who do not like quiet - they thrive in action. You've got a couple choices here, personally, I think that having a different style of teacher for 1 year is a good thing in the long run.  It may not be your child's best year, but they will learn new strategies to cope and it gives you an opportunity to help them persevere and be resilient in times of uneasiness.

That said, if your child is really struggling, you need to ask for a sit down with the teacher and brainstorm some ideas. Let the teacher know of strategies that have worked in the past, see if one or two of these ideas could be implemented or tried with your child. Examples: My child worked with a peer buddy last year in Math and that really helped them, is that something we could explore for this year?  My child needs to get up and move every 20 minutes or so, can you have a little symbol she uses to show you that lets you know she is going for a little walk.  (My students hold 3 fingers like a W and that tells me they need a break and are going to stretch their legs and clear their mind in the hall for a few minutes)

3) My child's teacher makes fun of them, belittles them, embarrasses them? I've done this before... unintentionally of course, but some children are very sensitive and in this case I think it is worth mentioning to the teacher. I wouldn't be accusatory because 95% of the time this will have been done unintentionally, but making students feel bad is not acceptable.  Well... I can make them feel bad when they have made bad choices and they should feel bad if they just punched someone in the face, but I should not make them feel stupid or worthless at any point, ever! If you do find that your child is being bullied by a teacher (repetitively, on purpose making them feel bad) then it's definitely time to advocate for your child.  If you've talked to the teacher once already and they know the situation and have continued to treat your child with disrespect, then it is time to take the next step and talk to your Principal.

4) My child's teacher is not helping them or following their IEP? If your child has an Individual Education Plan, then it is a teacher's job to use it to benefit your child.  It may call for your son to have reduced tasks or your daughter to be allowed to use a computer. These are not optional if they have been determined to be necessary in aiding your child to learn. Start with a teacher conference and go over the IEP and what you would like to see done to help your child. If you do not see results, you should have an LST or LRT (Learning Support or Resource Teacher) at your school and that would be your next step.  These teachers are designed to help the other teachers support the students.  It could simply be that your teacher has never made these types of accommodations before and needs to be walked through how to do it. After all this if you don't see improvement, it's time to discuss the situation with your Principal.

This post is already really long and I am sure I have missed things.  Please feel free to point out scenarios you have encountered and what has worked for you and your child. Just remember there are tools out there that you can use to help keep communication open: Agendas, blogs, email, phone messages, parent/teacher conferences, Learning Support Teachers and of course the Principal and Vice Principal.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share... nicely!