How to Build a Great Relationship with your Child’s Teacher

Hey friends!  Well, it’s just about that time…..back to school!  For some of you, particularly those in the Southeast, you may already be heading back this week.  For my Northern friends, you still have several glorious weeks left.  As for me?  I am heading back next week, and the kiddos are due to arrive on the 28th.  I am gearing up for a great school year, and looking forward to seeing many familiar faces, both teachers’ and students’. Bring it on, 2017-2018!  (And for all of those wondering, I am halfway to retirement!)  Yippee!

For today’s post, I thought that I would share some simple tips for parents.  These tips will help to ensure a smooth year with your child’s teacher.  If you can think of any others, please feel free to share below!

  1.  Respect the communication boundaries that the teacher sets-  Boundaries are there for a reason, and they make for a healthy professional relationship.  Perhaps your teacher requests to be contacted specifically by email, as many teachers do nowadays.  If that is the preferred method of communication, then roll with it.  I make it clear to my parents at the beginning of the year how and when they can get in touch with me.  For me, sending an email is the simplest form of communication, and it is accessible to 99.9% of people.  I only respond to emails that are sent during the day, so if a parent wants to hear back from me during the day, they should really contact me by the early afternoon.  Since having Gavin, I don’t even sit down in the evenings until 8:30pm or later, and checking my email is the last thing on my mind at that point.  Therefore, I tell parents early in the year that if they email me by noon, they can expect a response that day.  Anything after, and it may be the following morning.  Clear as a bell.

However, I do understand that many working parents cannot attempt to contact a teacher until the evening.  That is okay.  If you do email your child’s teacher in the evenings, please make it clear that you do not expect an immediate response.  Something simple along the lines of “If you are reading this tonight, please don’t feel that you have to respond right away” is perfect.  

Teachers have lives too, and the stereotype of the spinster teacher going home to knit or darn her stockings or whatever has gone out the window.  (That is a thing, right?  Darning stockings?)  Your teacher may be spending time with their own children, hanging out with friends, or even (gasp) working a second job.  (Yes, many young teachers work an additional 10-20 hours a week to make ends meet, on top of the 40+ hours they spend helping your child).  Or maybe your teacher is just binge watching episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix.  That is okay too.  What you want is a teacher who unwinds in the evenings.  A relaxed teacher equates to a happier teacher, which ultimately leads to less teacher burnout.

Whatever you do, just respect boundaries.  And for the love of God, don’t go requesting any friendships on social media.  That stuff can get us fired.

2.  Offer to help- At the beginning of the year, approach the teacher and ask what they need.  At the elementary level, this will likely involve helping out in the classroom, offering to read books to children, or maybe joining the PTA.  At the middle school level, you may be chaperoning field trips or assisting with school dances.  Even high schools need parents to help administer tests during crunch time.  If you want to physically get in there, so to speak, there is something for everyone.

Perhaps you have no desire to be in the trenches.  (Ya know, icky germs and stuff).  Hey, I don’t blame you.  Besides the occasional cool field trip, I don’t plan on getting too involved either with that nonsense.  I am more the “send the check in” type parent.  I already attended elementary school, and don’t feel the need to do it again.  If that applies to you as well, that is totally fine.  See what supplies the teacher needs at the beginning of the year. Teachers typically have wish lists.  Believe it or not, simple things like a decent box of tissues (read: sandpaper-free) are often in high demand.  Offer to buy extra supplies for disadvantaged students.  Around the holidays, join a school program to buy gifts for students in need.  There is something for everyone, so just do it already.

3.  Give tokens of gratitude- This, my friends, is fancy talk for giving your child’s teacher a gift.  To break it down, your child’s elementary school teacher spends approximately 35 hours a week with your child.  Statistically, this is more than their parents spend with them at this juncture in their lives.  Not only are they teaching your child reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they are also helping to mold them into productive citizens.

Therefore, when the holidays roll around, or teacher appreciation week (I am giving you a pass…..pick just one if you wish), please show your gratitude.  I am not saying you need to get them a Tiffany bracelet or anything, but a $25 restaurant gift card would sure go a long way.  Teachers at all levels work hard.  When I pick up Gavin from daycare at the end of the day, I say a silent prayer for his daycare teachers.  These poor people have the patience of saints, and on top of it, they are wiping my kids’ butt.  (And they do it well).  You think I am not showing up with a case bottle of wine and a gift card during the holidays?  You crazy.

Sadly, it’s frowned upon to gift your child’s teacher with alcohol, for obvious reasons.  Back in the day though, it was totally cool.  True story… grandmother worked at my great uncle’s liquor store when I was a young child.  She was able to get her hands on many a bottle of free liquor, which my five siblings and I would gift to our bus driver every Christmas.  Can you imagine that today??  Giving your child’s bus driver alcohol??  Bahaha!  No wonder we had the same driver for about 15 years LOL.  THAT guy certainly wasn’t about to give up his bus route!

Okay…..but now you have two kids in high school, and there is a total of 10 teachers to buy for.  I totally get it… are not going to shell out the equivalent of a car payment in gift cards.  Now, we gotta get more creative.  Some practical and cheap ideas:  go and buy a bunch of $5 Starbucks gift cards.  All teachers love coffee.  It’s a requirement.  Stock up on Bath & Body Works hand soaps during the sales.  They also have cheap candles several times a year.  Snag ’em while you can!  If you know their favorite candy, go and buy them a bag.  Gourmet chocolates are always a good bet.  Think Lindt or Ghirardelli.    Avoid mugs….we already have plenty, and they really aren’t all that practical.  If you do go the mug route, try a cool travel mug.

Definitely avoid home-baked goods.  Nowadays, people have crazy diets, and you have no clue if your child’s teacher is vegan, gluten, nut, soy, sugar, carb-free.  You get my drift.  Plus, I am just gonna be honest here.  I eat so many treats around the holidays, and I am probably not going to sacrifice my cheesecake or cookies from my neighborhood cookie exchange.  What I will sacrifice??  The unknown treats in the ubiquitous cellophane bag.  Something’s gotta give, and it will likely be those.  As Shakira said circa 2005, “Hips Don’t Lie”, my friends.  #inthetrashtheygo

Times are tough, and you have no extra money to spare at all?  Hey, no shame.  We have all been there.  I have the perfect solution for you.  Sit down at your computer, look up the email address for your child’s principal, and send a heartfelt email, expressing appreciation for your child’s teacher.  Parents don’t think to do this enough, but it’s really the kindest thing you can do.  Sometimes, the best things in life really are free.

4.  Follow the chain of command- You have a question about your child’s grade or an upcoming project.  Maybe you have a question about instruction the teacher is delivering in class.  Please, please do not contact their principal for minor issues.  Honestly, there are days when I receive 50-75 emails a day.  I cannot imagine how many a principal receives.  Always follow the chain of command when you have a question about something small in nature.  That chain of command starts with the teacher.

Well, what if you emailed your child’s teacher and don’t hear anything right away??  Surely that is the time to contact the principal, right??  Again, an emphatic “no”.  I explain to my parents that my email response time (barring an emergency) is 24 hours.  Often, they will hear back from me in a few hours, but on occasion it can take a day.  Remember, for every email your child’s teacher sends you, they are sending about ten-plus emails to other parents.  (Subsequently taking time away from instruction/grading/planning).  Give it a day, send another email.  If you don’t hear back from the second email, send a third email asking if there is someone else who might be able to assist them.  This should serve as a gentle prompt to the teacher that they need to respond.

Another thing to do if you run into this issue….check with another teacher.  This is particularly effective at the middle school level, when teachers work in a team environment.  Contact them to see if maybe the teacher is out sick.  The last thing you want to do is contact a principal when you don’t hear from a teacher, only to find out said teacher had an unexpected death in the family.  You might feel like a jerk if you do that.  Or, feel free to ask your child.  They can tell you if their teacher has been absent, thus explaining a lapse in communication.

Obviously, there are times when it is totally appropriate to contact administration.  Bullying, drugs, suicide threats, or when the physical/mental well-being of a child are at stake are all appropriate times to do so.  Use common sense.  For small stuff though, follow the correct chain of command.  You wouldn’t like it if someone went over your head to your boss, and teachers don’t either.

5.  Work with your child’s teacher, not against them- Remember, your child’s teacher is with them every day, sometimes for multiple hours.  They are going to see sides of them that you will not see.  Please, believe us when we tell you that your child copied an assignment or heckled the sub.  We are not insinuating that your child is a deviant sociopath or anything.

Kids will be kids, and even the best kids will make poor decisions on occasion.  

If we give them a reasonable consequence, please support us.  It’s one things for a kid to cheat on a test in middle school…..whatever you may think, it is not going to affect their college acceptance.  However, if they think they can get away with it and are never told any differently, they may think they can continue to get away with that behavior in college.  Um….can you say expulsion??  It must be a truly heartbreaking feeling, flushing tens of thousands of dollars down the toilet.

Repeat this statement to yourself….”My child is not always an angel.”

If Steve Sanders had ever had consequences, maybe he would not have stolen the final exam in high school.  What about Donna Martin?  Falling down drunk at her prom??  And then they gave in and let her graduate?  Okay, I realize that these cases are from a fictional television show, but it was Beverly Hills.  I am sure it was not far from reality.  (Side note….am I the only one still sad that 90210 is not played anymore?  Weekend mornings just aren’t the same).

I saw this quote hanging on the office door of one of our counselors, and I had to snap a pic.  So true.

I have no desire to debate the issue of entitled children in this post, as I know it’s a controversial one.  I will say, though, that I fear the consequences if the pendulum does not start shifting in the other direction.  Kids will be exposed to life’s consequences at 18, or 21.  Those consequences won’t be near as gentle as what parents and schools can implement.

Well, there you have it.  Tips on being a great parent that your child’s teacher will love to work with.  Be that parent.

Here’s to a great school year, friends!

Heather 🙂

Do you have any tips for working with your child’s teacher?  If so, I would love to hear them!

2 thoughts on “How to Build a Great Relationship with your Child’s Teacher

  1. Omg…yes to all of these! I’m a teacher and I think that my biggest pet peeve is when patents think I am always at their beck and call…I do have a life outside of my classroom! Thanks for such a great post!

    1. Definitely agree….not sure what they think we do outside of school. The best is when I see my students at restaurants, like “you go out to eat?!”

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