As a new school year begins and parents and caregivers are beginning to meet teachers, let’s ask, “What does effective partnering with teachers look like?”
On my first day as a caregiver to a school-age child, I had no idea how to answer that question. I was a new foster mom and I was pretty clueless as to how everything worked. I overshared with the teacher in a well-meaning but misplaced attempt to partner with her. Since then, we have learned a lot as we have moved several times and been a part of public schools, private schools, charter schools, and even a micro school! The most important thing I’ve learned about partnering with teachers can apply from preschool all the way up through high school:
For elementary schoolers, build it with your child’s main teacher. For middle and high schoolers, try to find one or two teachers to get to know. I know this can be difficult with everything parents have going on, but this practice has been a game-changer with the kids in my home at every age!
How did it help?
- Dealing with Challenges Head-On
The first and most obvious benefit is opening up a line of communication with your children’s teachers. For my child in preschool, having a relationship with the teacher allowed her to communicate what was going on with my child at school, as well as allowed me to be direct when my child was struggling. This kept communication open and consistent.
- Reminding Us Teachers Are Just Like Us
Once, in elementary school, my son came home and told me another kid had shared about “naked kissing” at school a few weeks prior. I remember feeling pretty mad that no one had
told me about the incident. I went to the teacher directly the next morning, explained what happened, and asked if she knew about the situation. She did know, but she did
not know that the information had been shared with my son. She apologized that I was not notified about the situation, and she spoke with my son to let him know that he could always share something that made him feel uncomfortable. I could have tried to blame her, but the teacher was doing her best to support all the students. Having a relationship with the teacher reminds us that teachers are doing their best, just like us.
- Teaching Our Kids Responsibility
Sometimes healthy partnering with a teacher looks like not talking to them. I remember when my middle schooler told me about this huge project that was due towards the end of the school year. I asked if she needed help, but she said no and that it was a group project. The teacher had laid out deadlines, milestones, and expectations. I was supposed to initial the work was being completed, but it wasn’t, so I didn’t sign. Points got deducted, and I had to remind my daughter that her teacher did not hate her. She was just doing her job. The overall grade ended up being a “C,” but I refrained from making a comment about the grade and asked my daughter how she felt about it. She identified the areas she could have improved and took the teacher’s feedback seriously. I was proud of her. In that situation, partnering with her teacher looked like not picking up the phone and calling. My daughter learned so much more from that than if I had tried to call and change the grade.
- Staying Informed About Our Kids
Last year, the high schooler in our home did something out of the ordinary to her teacher. The teacher messaged me to check in and asked if everything was going okay at home. I was embarrassed because things had been difficult at home. My relationship with the teacher allowed me to be honest with him about it. Instead of labeling our high schooler as a troublemaker, he went out of his way to check on her. His communication with me enabled me to get her the help and support she needed as well. Sometimes teachers see things we can’t, and they need to let us know. Our existing rapport made it so much easier for that teacher to share what he needed to with me.
Partnering with teachers can look different for everyone, but pursuing rapport and relationship with teachers is a great jumping off point. Find what works for you and your family! If you find that your kids need additional support this school year, don’t be afraid to reach out to the Dawn Institute for services. We exist for the success of families just like yours!