What your child's teacher wishes you knew

Jul 31, 2014 at 4:00 a.m. ET
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Few people in your children's lives will spend as much time with them as their teachers, so it makes sense to be on same page as those responsible for helping to shape the person your child will become. We picked the brains of kindergarten through middle-school teachers to bring to light the things they wish you knew about their role in the world of your child.

They want to work with you, not against you

"Teachers and parents will need to work as a team to better the child," explains Brianne Peters, a Global Studies teacher at Pinewood Preparatory School. "We are not the enemy to you or your child — we are their biggest cheerleaders and want to see them succeed, not suffer! Believe in us, listen to us, trust us and help us make a strong connection with both you and the student that will last for much longer than just 180 days."

LeAnne Troutman emphatically agrees that offering your child's teacher support, respect and a positive attitude are important parts of the equation. "Show you care! Have a great relationship with the teacher and let your child see that. Parent, teacher, child — one team."

Your children, in a sense, are their children too

Abi Clark, an ELA teacher with Orangeburg Health Schools, says, "I will do everything in my power to make your children succeed in school and life. When they are at school, I will be a surrogate parent to them so they know they have support and love all day, every day."

Children fare better with a schedule — inside and outside the classroom

"One of the things I've realized from teaching kindergarten and first grade is that children need rest, a routine and downtime," explains Allison Parler. "Lack of these can be detrimental to a child's success. Many parents do not realize how much sleep a child at that age still requires — sometimes lack of attention and excessive activity is due to children fighting to stay awake. Their little bodies need a schedule. This also helps prepare them for a daily schedule in a classroom."

Over-stimulation hinders your child in the classroom (and beyond)

If you're concerned your child might be spending too much time with technology, your instincts are probably spot-on. "Turn off the TV, video games and smartphones. Encourage your child to play with puzzles, coloring books, Play-Doh, LEGOs, build forts outside — things that encourage their imagination, creativity and problem-solving. Those are 21st century skills children desperately need," stresses Oakdale Elementary School teacher Paige Pierce.

Being realistic is a big help

When you think about the amount of time your child's teachers spend with him, it makes sense that they know your child's personality and quirks nearly as well as you do. "I wish parents wouldn't act surprised when a teacher describes a particular behavior or attitude that we are encountering," confessed Marcy Gasperson, a third-grade teacher. "We know they are giving you the same kind of attitude or behavior at home. Please be open to hearing what we have to say. Our degrees might be in education, but we are really specialists of children. We are here to educate your child, not be their parent; every day I am a role model, but I also need you — as the parent — to be a role model, too."

They know what they are doing

Audrey Gruber, a second-grade teacher at Williams Memorial Elementary School, laments, "I wish parents knew that I'm here to educate their child the best way I can. I wish they would allow and accept new methods of teaching and step outside their comfort zone of the way they were taught. Things have changed — not to penalize their child, but to better accommodate their needs."

Merica Dyar, a second-grade teacher at Greenbrier Elementary, feels the same. "When I have to tell a parent her child is struggling or has trouble, it's because I'm a professional teacher with training in these areas. I'm telling them these things because I want to help... not because I want to be mean."

You need to be an active participant in your child's education

"Check the daily communication folder — you will be informed and enlightened," emphasizes Joanna Eugenia, an elementary school teacher at Richland School District Two. "Even though your child is in school, you still have to do parenting. The teacher doesn't take that job over for you. Your children are learning about life from watching you, so be mindful about the example you set for them." Amber Harrell, who also teaches for Richland School District Two, echoes the importance of written communication. "Read newsletters that go home from your child's teacher!"

The written word shouldn't be neglected, either. "I wish parents knew how important it is to read to or with their child and to expose them to as many books as they can — and not just the digital version, of course," offered Cate August, Williams Memorial Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

Ultimately, iterates recently retired teacher Rae Beth Fultz, "Communication in any form is so important!"

Let your child learn from failure

"It may be difficult, but don't try to fight your child's battles for them," says Robert Ellington, a science teacher at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School. "And if they fail an assignment or test, be supportive and encouraging, but let them fail. In many cases, that may be one of the most valuable lessons they learn."

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