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Meeting your child's teacher

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

That essential first impression

The start of a new school year is exciting for everyone - kids, teachers and parents alike. There is anticipation and anxiety and many emotions in between. Kids aren't the only ones hoping to make good first impressions; teachers want to do the same for the kids and for the kids' parents, and parents hopefully want to make a good impression, too.

Parent, Teacher, and Student

Either just before the start of school or very quickly in the first couple of weeks, you will have the opportunity to meet your child's teacher. It's the start of a school-year-long relationship for the educational benefit for your child. With a little fore-thought you can make sure that you make a good first impression, too, and get your relationship with your child's teacher off to a good start.

Take advantage of opportunities

Regardless of how your school arranges first parent-teacher contact - whether before the start of school, on the first day, or during an open house - go, and go on time.

If the opportunity to meet the teacher is informal, take just enough time to introduce yourself and identify your child, briefly express your hopes for a good year for your child and leave it at that. Remember that the teacher has many other parents to meet and it would be unfair to monopolize time.

If the opportunity to meet the teacher is more formal - say, as part of a presentation during open house - behave exactly as you would expect your child to behave in class. Listen respectfully and courteously, and save questions for the designated question time.

Don't commit to volunteer if you aren't sure

Often during these first meetings, schools are looking for volunteers for a wide variety of roles, both in the classroom and outside of it. Amid the excitement and energy of early days, it can be easy to overcommit. Particularly for classroom volunteering, your child's teacher needs to be able to depend on you. If you aren't sure you can fully commit, don't. You can always up your commitment level later, but backing out can put teachers in a real bind. While a good teacher will never treat a child any differently based on parent volunteering, it is another area that can affect the parent-teacher relationship.

Make an appointment for deeper discussions

If after your initial meeting you still have more thing about which to talk to the teacher, make a separate appointment for after the first couple weeks of classes. Give your child's teacher - and your child - a little time to settle into the school year and get to know one another before launching into deeper issues. Delving into deeper issues at an initial meeting at an open house - when everyone is being bombarded with new names and information - is as unfair to your child as it is to your child's teacher.

Your initial impressions - yours with the teacher, and the teacher's with you - will go a long way to promoting a foundation of teamwork for your child's school year. Make sure the first impressions are good ones.

For more back to school tips:

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