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Be The Parent That Teachers Love: What You Can Do Today

Congratulations, you’ve just survived Term 1 as a parent!

Now is the time to assess your relationship with your child’s teachers. Did you get off to a good start? Are the teachers giving you regular, useful feedback about your child? Do you have a relationship based on mutual respect and trust? Are you supporting the teachers’ efforts in the classroom? These are just some of the questions you can reflect on, as you prepare your child for the new school term.

Why should you build a positive relationship with your child’s teachers? This will become increasingly important as Singapore scales down its focus on graded assessments — with fewer assessments, it is your child’s teachers that will provide the best feedback about your child’s progress.

Read on to find out how you can work towards a better home-school partnership.

Be honest: are you an over-involved, uncooperative, or absent parent?

Have you been inundating your child’s teachers with numerous messages, e-mails, or requests to speak over the phone or in person? Do step back to assess the motivations behind your actions. Are you afraid that your child is falling behind academically, or are there other issues such as bullying that warrant your daily attention and concern? (Read our five-step strategy for dealing with school bullies.)

If your child is not experiencing major school challenges, you may want to remind yourself to take a pause before you next contact your child’s teacher. A change of perspective on what counts as a “school emergency” may help. For instance, if your child has forgotten his or her water bottle or recess money for the day, you can view this as a learning opportunity for your child, where he or she will be compelled to find a solution to an everyday problem.

On the flipside, parents who don’t make effort to communicate with their children’s teachers are losing out on a valuable means of helping their children to improve in school. Occasionally, this happens because a parent is preoccupied with work or other obligations, and has decided that it should be the school’s responsibility to educate its students. However, the fact remains that parents have a huge influence over their children, especially in the early years — your involvement can make a difference for your child.

And finally, have your child’s teachers given you feedback about your child that you disagree with, or feel defensive about? Be aware that your child may exhibit different behaviours at home and in school. To be clear about what the issues are, ask your child’s teacher to provide specific examples of the undesired behaviour, as well as what you can do at home to complement the teacher’s efforts at correcting your child. If you feel that your child has been unfairly targeted, do remain calm and seek mediation with a third party, such as the principal or the head of the discipline department.

Are you making a positive contribution to the classroom?

Below are some examples of parents that teachers love. Do you fit the bill?

  • Parents who volunteer readily when help is called for.
  • Parents who donate supplies to the classroom.
  • Parents who are open to feedback from the teacher, always seeking to help their children improve.
  • Parents who never forget to say thank you, or to give a word of praise and encouragement.

Here’s another important tip for the digital parent: don’t make fun of your child’s teachers or share their mistakes on social media.

“As a fresh Primary 1 parent, I posted one of my daughter’s wrongly marked math questions on Facebook… It was shared within seconds and elicited harsh comments about the teacher and the education system at large,” says a KSP member. “I had a lot of clarifying to do and I deleted the post shortly after. While I appreciated that friends were trying to show their support, I felt terrible for the teacher, who was young, conscientious, and well loved by her students.”

A social media post can go viral quickly, exposing a well-meaning teacher to unwanted scrutiny, ridicule, and embarrassment, and don’t forget, the teacher has to return to the classroom to teach your child the very next day. If you have concerns about your child’s teacher, contact him or her directly to resolve matters.

Are you making smart moves when dealing with teachers?

First impressions count, and the best way to make a favourable impression on your child’s teachers is to display good manners in all your dealings with them.

Here are some simple etiquette rules that all parents should abide by:

  • Ask the teachers for their preferred mode of communication and keep to that.
  • Contact teachers only during office hours.
  • For parent-teacher meetings, each parent is usually allocated 10 to 15 minutes. If you feel you may need more time, do schedule a separate session with the teacher instead.

As teachers are busy people, parents also need to learn how to make each interaction with a teacher count.

Before a parent-teacher meeting, draw up a list of questions for your child’s teachers, based on your top concerns. Questions can be divided into three categories:

  • Academic: what are your child’s strengths and weaknesses for each subject?
  • Behavioural: does your child take instruction well from teachers?
  • Relational: how does your child get along with others?

If you need more examples of questions that you can ask, refer to this list, provided by a local primary school teacher.

Occasionally, teachers may unwittingly provide vague or unhelpful feedback. When this happens, you will have to tweak your questioning style to ensure that you receive more useful information. For instance, a question such as “How is my child doing in class?” may elicit a general response such as, “Oh, she’s doing fine!”

A KSP member suggests that if you are looking for a more specific response, try saying, “I would like to reward my child for effort. Did you notice any improvements made by him/her in the recent assessment?” (More examples here.)

Ultimately, as one parent puts it, you and your child’s teachers are playing on the same team. Do your best to band together, and the person who benefits most will be your child.

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