Dear Mrs. Brooke,
How can I build a strong partnership with my child’s teacher?
Thanks for your help,
Dear Local Parent,
It is well known that when teachers and parents work together, students achieve at a higher rate. A year ago, I began my doctorate of education leadership at Seattle University. During my studies, I read a book called, “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Because I am passionate about teachers and parents working together to create success for students, I kept framing this “leadership challenge” as a parent, as a teacher and as a leader in a child’s education.
Kouzes and Posner share five traits on how to be an effective leader: Inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, encourage the heart, model the way and empower. And so, to answer your question on how to build a positive partnership with your children’s teacher this year, I give you the leadership challenge.
Inspire a shared vision
Everything we do as parents should be in the best interest of our children. Whenever making decisions that affect our children, we should ask, is this what is best for kids? And we must ask this of all kids, not just our child or a select group.
Parents who want to build a relationship with their child’s teacher must remember this. We are advocates for our own child of course, but when we step in the classroom we are there for all the children. The teacher needs us to share in this vision and make the job easier, not more difficult.
As parents, we must be ready to help all children succeed in our child’s classroom. Some parents I know just want to volunteer so they can see “what’s going on in the classroom.” This is an added plus of volunteering but this should not be the goal. The goal should be to help all children learn when we are in the classroom. Listen to the teacher. Use the words he/she is saying. When the teacher claps to get the children’s attention, you clap and encourage the same. When the teacher is explaining directions, listen. Being a classroom volunteer is just one way you can build a relationship and share in the vision of helping all the children there succeed. However, it is not the only way. Even if you can not give your time as a classroom volunteer, take the time to donate items or resources, volunteer to do a special project, or share your expertise. Most of all support your child at home by reading aloud to your child every day (yes, even if they can read by themselves), provide learning opportunities, encourage the passion of learning, and converse with them about their day.
Challenge the Process
As parents, we are our biggest advocates for our child and we should be! We want the best for our children. Sometimes, there are disagreements. This is okay. However, the way we go about “challenging” the process is key. Parents who disagree with a teacher on how something is handled should first go to that teacher and discuss the issue. Many times the issue is just a simple miscommunication that can be solved with a quick conversation. Other times, this is not the case especially if the same problem keeps repeating itself with no solution. If we as parents feel the problem has not been solved after exhausting communication efforts through emailing, conversing, and trying to solve the problem, only then would that be the time to get the principal involved. We as parents also must pick our battles at times. We must know when to challenge. My gauge is if there is immediate danger or emotional upset being caused to my child (ie. bullying issue) or if in the future the issue will affect other students in a harmful or negative way. This is when I would step in as a parent and advocate not just for my child, but for future children to come. Many parents throughout the years have challenged the process in education that have created great impact on student learning such as the healthier lunches, walking to school, afterschool activities offered, and implementation of emotional and social curriculum. Be a partner, not a roadblock!
Encourage the Heart- This to me may be my most important role as a parent in helping the teacher. Possibly, it is because I am a teacher and I know the reason I became a teacher is because of my heart, my passion, and my love for teaching and for kids. Our hearts need encouragement. Kind words from parents are like no other. Stories of how your child’s learning has changed at home or attitude has become more positive or more passionate about a subject is like music to our ears. When you take the time to tell us that even through a quick email, it shines bright in our inbox and is treasured more than you know. Emails, little notes to say thank you, a latte “just because”, a class book just out of the blue to add to the library, and of course a gift card is always nice! Also, if you are pleased with what you see in your child’s classroom tell the teacher, tell the principal, tell the community! Share your love for that teacher and that will indeed get back to them and they will feel your support.
Model the Way – If we aren’t learners, how do we expect or children to be? I am not saying we parents all go back to school, I am saying that we continue to grow by sharing stories with our children of the new learning of the day, our work, our goals, and our achievements. We model that we are readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, and care about the issues and our community by giving back in acts of service. These are the lessons happening outside the classroom that you as the most important teacher carry over into the classroom and make a teacher’s day brighter. Model the love of learning!
Empower – As a leader in your child’s education it is so important you help give your child the tools at home to support the learning going on at school. By reading to your child from the beginning and never stopping you are giving your child the biggest advantage of all. Talk to your child about what they are learning at school, engage them in books on the subject, on projects that integrate the subject matter, take them to the library, to places that will them give them experiences that solidify the learning. When you do these things you are empowering your child to be an engaged and active member in their learning.
I thank you for being your child’s first and most important teacher and a strong leader in your child’s education. Best wishes for beginning a lasting relationship with your child’s teacher.
Mrs. Joy Brooke is the first and most important teacher of her 6-year-old son and 4 year-old daughter. She resides in Kirkland with her husband and two children. Brooke is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood. She holds a bachelor’s degree in educational studies and a master’s degree in educational policy and management from the University of Oregon and endorsements in Early Childhood Special Education, English Language Learners, and Reading K-8. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Education at Seattle University in education leadership. She is co-chair of First Book – Seattle, which gives books to children who need them most. You may learn more at askmrsbrooke.com and follow Ask Mrs.Brooke on Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact Mrs.Brooke by e-mail at email@example.com with any questions regarding your child’s learning.