Building the Best Parent-Teacher Relationship

How do you foster a terrific relationship with your child's teachers? Education expert, Bruce Hammond, offers some guidance for getting off on the right foot!

Memo to the nation's self-help gurus: Why not a book on fixing relationships between teachers and parents? Call it Teachers Are from Saturn, Parents Are from Jupiter. The infomercial could feature a wise-looking expert (white coat optional) and a tearful reunion between a parent and a teacher who were mortal enemies before reading the book. Throw in a few cute kids, a communal hug, and voilà.

So far, Barbara DeAngelis hasn't returned my phone calls. But I still think that most problems between parents and teachers could be resolved with a little more understanding. The key concern is a fundamental difference in how each group thinks about education. Even as my brain whispers "three easy payments of $39.99," here it is for free:

While parents worry about what their kids learn, teachers are more concerned with how they learn. While the parents see the product, the teachers live the process. Are students working in small groups or discussing as a class?

When schools do things that seem crazy to parents, the issue of HOW vs. WHAT is usually at hand. For example, if a school offers European history from 1000 to the present, a teacher can cover that much material in a year by lecturing. But suppose the school wants to integrate the curriculum with English. That will mean work that combines both subjects -- in-depth study of particular periods and more collaborative activities -- and that could mean that the course will cover only 1500-present. Parents are then likely to ask why 1000 to 1500 was cut, especially if the material isn't taught elsewhere. A teacher might respond that the learning process is enhanced by group activities and the connection of ideas across subjects. And the debate continues ...

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