Your child is your number one priority, and in a perfect world you could give them everything they need.But let's face it — you cannot do it alone. The best way to support your child's needs is to build and maintain a strong, positive relationship with all the people at school who play a role in educating your child. And, make sure your child knows that this is a team effort — you're all working together to help him or her succeed!
Here are some tips on how you can foster a sense of partnership with the teacher and administration to support your child's education.
Connecting Before the School Year Starts
- Begin your relationship with teachers and other school staff members by letting them know that you look forward to working with them as a partner in educating your child.
- Exchange email addresses with your child's teacher and agree to keep in touch at least monthly, even if your child is doing well.
- Share information about your child that they might not otherwise learn during the course of the school day, such as:
- Your child's favorite books, movies, hobbies, and interests;
- Learning activities and techniques that seem especially helpful for your child, and
- Positive stories and anecdotes about your child, or important events in his or her personal life that may affect how they interact with others.
Maintaining the Connection During the School Year
- Stay involved! Make a point to show up and participate in events such as the annual science fair, back-to-school night, and open house.
- When your child tells you something they particularly liked or disliked at school (e.g., classmates, activities, etc.), share this information with the teacher.
- Be on time, positive, and prepared for school activities and meetings!
- Offer to volunteer your time in the classroom or as a chaperone on class trips.
- Consider donating classroom supplies or a gift certificate to a store where teachers can purchase materials for the classroom. (You'd be surprised how many supplies teachers buy with their own money!)
- Contribute fun extras to the classroom like prizes, disposable cameras, and extra snacks, and look for ways to help the teacher maintain a fun learning environment.
Remembering that the Teacher is a Person First
- Send cards for special events in the teacher's life, such as birthdays or the birth of a child or grandchild.
- Don't forget to say "thank you" for both the big things and the little things a teacher does for your child.
- Saying "thank you" can be more than just words — give gift certificates, bring a fruit baskets, or buy small gifts to give to the teacher "just because."
- Respect the teacher's schedule — what might be a good time for you to talk may not be such a good time for the teacher.
- Don't forget to acknowledge the teacher's co-workers — classroom aides, lunchroom and playground supervisors, secretaries and school nurses, custodians, and security personnel, bus drivers and crossing guards — anyone who helps to keep the school running and safe.
Sharing Your Appreciation with Others
- Let the administration know how much you appreciate your child's teacher: Stop by the office and speak to the principal or vice principal in person or send a letter to the superintendent, director of special services, special education coordinator or supervising teacher (with a copy to the teacher).
- Nominate your favorite teacher for Teacher of the Year! Many community newspapers offer contests like this. Your teacher may receive a reward!
Ending the School Year on a Positive Note
- Volunteer to organize an end-of-the-year art and writing project for students to introduce themselves to their next year's teacher;
- Send handwritten notes of thanks to all your child's teachers (and members of the IEP team), telling them once more how much you appreciated the special attention they gave to your child, and
- Keep in touch — send a card every now and then to let your child's teacher know the lasting impact they had on your child's future.
- When you take your child to school in the morning, you're not dropping them off — you're handing them over to a trusted partner who is dedicated to making sure that your child has everything he or she needs to be successful now and throughout the rest of their educational career. And as with any partnership, communication is the key to success — get involved and stay involved!