Parents and teachers have the same objective: to educate a child to reach his maximum personal and academic potential. If both parties have the same goal in mind, why do misunderstandings still occur? To shed some light on the subject, we’ve asked both local parents and teachers to share their candid perspective on what they each feel the other should understand to ultimately help students.
What do parents want teachers to know?
- All children learn differently.
Although schools have to plan a curriculum that fits the needs of a general population, each child has his or her own unique way of learning. “I find that teachers are under so much pressure to follow the curriculum set by the administration that, at times, they forget that all children learn differently,” says Dawn Schick, mother of two boys. “During the parent/teacher conference I make sure to mention how my children learn best at home so the teacher can keep that in mind as they present the lessons. I know my children best, so I have to be an advocate for them if I want them to succeed.”
- Appearances can be deceiving.
Even children who seem to be doing well in school could be having difficult inner struggles. “I want teachers to know that not all kids who have it together on the outside have it together on the inside,” says Amanda Gentry, a mother of two girls. “I really appreciate the ones who can look a little deeper and see the whole child.”
- Passion makes all the difference.
“I admire the teachers who get behind the kids and discover what makes them passionate about learning,” says Gentry. “My daughter has had some amazing teachers whose own passion for learning has just translated so quickly to the classes they teach, energizing the students and making them excited to come in and learn. Teachers who phone it in get students who phone it in. And the opposite – teachers who are true educators inspire kids to be learners.”
- Reminders are useful for busy families.
“Some families are super organized with shared calendars and apps, and some may need a little helping hand,” says Aidreen Hart, a mom of two teenagers. “There’s nothing like a project catching you off guard. Mutual communication and a little notice is appreciated.”
- All feedback is welcome.
“I wish teachers knew how much I want to hear from them about my children,” says Colleen Watson, a mom of two preschool-aged girls. “For example, is she particularly helpful in a given situation? Is she particularly skilled in a given category? I would love more feedback, positive or negative!”
What do teachers want parents to know?
- Coach your children to speak up.
“Teach your kids to advocate for themselves by asking questions and don’t always go straight to the teacher [first],” says high school teacher Allison Godine. “Kids can ask questions even at a young age. Think about the skills you would look for in a potential employee and try to teach those skills to your kid.”
- While each child is special, he or she is still part of a larger community.
“Your child is special to me, but she is also one of a group,” says Godine. “Sometimes I have to focus on the good of the group rather than the needs of your single child.”
- Encourage your child to problem solve on his own.
While a parent’s first instinct may be to step in and resolve an issue quickly, kids need to develop the skills to handle problems on their own. “Let your child struggle and problem solve from an early age,” suggests elementary school teacher Julia Birch. The payoff is learning an important lifelong skill.
- Believe in us.
Kids are listening to the negative, offhand comments you are making – and it’s affecting how they react to their teacher. Show respect for the knowledge and authority the teacher has, and your child will too. A simple example: “Don’t undermine the teacher with your comments about homework,” says Godine.
- Make conversations count.
“Engaging your child in critical thinking through conversation, even about everyday things, teaches them to do this while reading independently,” says Birch. The quality of your daily interactions can result in a big boost in reading and critical thinking skills.
Kids are lucky to have two important supporters in their life: their parents and their teachers. Each offer their own expertise – and students reap the benefits when both parties appreciate and understand each other’s perspective.