1. Read school literature. One way is to read. Read everything that comes home from school. It may seem overwhelming at times, but you will feel more in touch with what's going on at your child's school if you read the notices and newsletters. These papers are the school's communication to you regarding the exciting events and activities taking place there, as well as invitations for your participation. Weekly activities, such as library days and physical education class, may require particular dress or that your child bring something to school on a specific day. Remember to mark these on your calendar, or help your child devise his own calendar for special reminders.
2. Communicate with the teacher. Open communication is essential to any healthy relationship. The parent-teacher relationship is no exception to this rule. If you feel that your child is struggling with something at school or at home, discuss it with your child's teacher. When your child proudly shares his classroom achievements, let his teacher know how proud he was of himself. Most importantly, alert your child's teacher of any changes at home. Job shift changes, new daycare providers, death of a family member or pet, a new home or a new sibling can all affect a child, no matter what his age is. A quick note, phone call, or chat with the teacher after school can prepare her to deal with any reactions that your child might have to changes taking place at home.
3. Include your child -- solicit his/her views. Your child should be an active participant in this relationship as much as you and the teacher are. When your child expresses feelings of inadequacy, frustration or anger about school, encourage your child to talk to the teacher about it. If your child is shy or uncomfortable talking to the teacher, arrange a meeting for all of you to talk together. Knowing that adults are willing to listen and help is crucial for children, particularly as they enter into the difficult years of adolescence.
4. Discuss situations/concerns. There may come a point during the school year where the teacher says or does something that you disagree with or don't understand. It's important to remember that children bond with teachers as they do with parents or grandparents and that any negative things you have to say about the teacher may confuse or upset your child. Depend on that open line of communication to approach the teacher calmly and with a positive attitude. Most disagreements can be settled this way, by going directly to the source and discussing the situation openly.
5. Uphold the parent-teacher relationship. Finally, remember and uphold your role in the parent-teacher partnership. Should your child act inappropriately at school, take the time at home to follow through on the incident. Try some role-playing activities with your child to help him see why his actions resulted in discipline, and what choices he could make to avoid discipline in the future. If your child is struggling with mastery of a skill, ask the teacher what you can do at home to help your child achieve the goal. When you see your daughter slipping those little bean bag animals into her backpack, gently remind her of the classroom rules about having toys at school. It's these acts and others like them that may go unnoticed by the teacher, but are much appreciated.
As my son enters first grade, I am preparing to meet his next teacher. I don't feel nervous this time because I know what's expected of me as a parent and a partner in his education. My plan is to be straightforward, leaving out the anecdotes that I shared with his kindergarten teacher. I will hold out my hand and say "It's a pleasure to meet you. We're looking forward to a wonderful year. If there's anything I can do to help you, don't hesitate to ask." Yes, I think it's going to be a happy, peaceful, and productive year.