Three tips for maintaining the parent-teacher relationship

ATL LogoTeachers in the U.K. are concerned that parents are failing their children. In a talk at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted said that children are arriving at school without being able to dress themselves, use the toilet properly, or eat at the table. Chlidren from various economic backgrounds are beginning school with social and language delays that interfere with classroom learning and behaviour, according to Bousted. And that may not be the biggest problem - a recent survey indicates that 40% of teachers in the U.K. have been confronted by an aggressive parent; this finding suggests that kids are arriving at schools lacking basic skills, and parents blame teachers for the difficulties that result. Other research has shown that positive parent-teacher relationships are related to improved school performance. It seems reasonable to me that parents who don't respect their child's teacher might also interfere with the relationship between the teacher and the child as well, which could in turn reduce the child's willingness to comply with instructions and their motivation to work on difficult assignments.

So what can parents do to establish and maintain a working relationship with teachers? has some suggestions:

  1. Be collaborative. Don't walk into a meeting and confront the teacher about his or her mistakes. Instead, attempt to brainstorm  with the teacher to find solutions to the problems.
  2. Allow the child-teacher relationship to develop on its own. I can't think of very much that could destroy a child's motivation to comply with a teacher than a parent who verbally attacks a teacher in front of the child. If you disagree with something a teacher has done, listen as calmly as possible to your child's feelings about what happened. Validate their feelings and comfort them, but try to avoid negative statements about the teacher. Later, when you feel calm, speak to the teacher about what happened; don't do this in front of your child, though. More than likely, your child will spend several hours per day, five days per week with that teacher. Regardless of your feelings about the teacher, your child is the one who has to work for him or her. And remember, you've only heard your child's interpretation of what happened. There are two sides to every story.
  3. Communication is essential, but how and when you communicate is important. If you write the teacher a note, keep it to the point. If you need to speak to the teacher, set up a meeting or a call when they'll have time to talk to you. Prepare for meetings by listing your questions and concerns. Try to make specific statements about your child's difficulties rather than general ones. Provide clear observations and describe what worked in the past. Even if you don't see eye-to-eye with the teacher, finding out how you can help your child meet the classroom goals might reduce his or her stress in the long run.

Parents, we'd love to hear how you've handled difficulties with teachers. Teachers - what's helped you to improve relationships with parents?

You can read more about the study here.

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