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How to partner with your child’s teacher

Studies show that parental or familial involvement in a child’s education can make a significant impact on that child’s success in school.

Parents meeting with child's teacher

More and more school districts are creating integrative programs to better engage families in the education process. If you’re lucky enough to have those kinds of resources available, get involved! If not, use the following suggestions to become a more involved parent on your own:

Approach teachers as expert resources in your child’s education

Children spend roughly 70 percent of their waking hours outside of school, leaving parents mostly responsible for their children’s education. But that remaining 30 percent is a huge window of opportunity, as is the opportunity to leverage the training and education teachers possess as professional educators to help you better support your child’s education goals. When approaching a meeting with a new teacher, outline ultimate objectives for the school year in broad terms, mention past successes of other teachers, and ask how they feel they can support you and your child. Make an effort to be open to new and different methods that this teacher may have to offer.

Identify the teacher’s rules and style and support them

Sometimes, the key element to a student’s success is overlooked — that the student is the one who ultimately has to succeed. Letting students experience the consequences for mistakes as well as the responsibility for resolving any issues can do more for their success than any grades they acquire. Meetings early in the school year are a great time to discuss a teacher’s typical consequences — does s/he allow retakes of tests if a student performs poorly? How many times does s/he hold a student after class for poor behavior before giving them a detention? What does it take to earn strong grades in this teacher’s class? Identifying a teacher’s discipline and teaching methods prior to any issues arising will better prepare you for these situations if or when they come up. Additionally, when you support a teacher who is invoking reasonable consequences, it shows your student that the teacher’s expectations are sensible and important.

Learn how to communicate effectively with the teacher

Another important factor to keep in mind is that you are one of many parents working with this teacher. Ask the teacher his or her preferred method of communication — for some, it may be phone calls; for others, email. Determine whether the teacher is able to respond during the school day or isn’t available until after school. Ask about a typical response time during a busy part of the school year — it may be up to a week. Try to keep any correspondence brief and limited to critical topics. Don’t be the parent who calls the teacher just to ask if they can check your kid’s shoe size while you’re out shopping. Do be the parent who emails with an update on improvement in study habits at home. Share with the teacher any information about your child that s/he may not have known otherwise that could be integral to improving the child’s learning experience. This could include aspects of your child’s learning style, tips for engaging them personally, etc. Work together with the teacher as a team.

Set an example by getting involved

Attend school plays and concerts. If the class participates in a science fair, make sure to show up or even volunteer. Bring in snacks for class parties. Organize or assist on field trips. Go to PTA and school board meetings. Vote in school-related elections. A parent’s example is a great indicator of what should be important to a child — if parents take education seriously and spend substantial time on it, so will children. Students need to be shown exactly how to go above and beyond. If time is an issue, even attending just three events per year can make an impact.

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Hilary Gan is a professional SAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona.

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