Great advice for parents and teachers alike about ways to build a positive relationship. Here are my selections from the article that I consider worth noting and that we constantly illuminate for our community here at Alexandria Country Day School:
For our parents:
“We all need to learn how to work with diverse people,” he says. “Imagine how confident a student will feel if he or she works with the teacher and resolves the issue on his or her own?” College admissions officers tell Mr. Skelly [Superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified District] they’re looking for students “with a voice,” he says. “When parents intervene on their children’s behalf, it’s robbing them of their own voice.”
For our teachers:
Identify and build on strengths. I [Mr. Skelly] don’t do this enough as a teacher, and most parents, according to educators I’ve spoken to, don’t do it at all, but if you have something positive to say, say it early and often. Parents are better prepared to hear about a child’s challenges, if a teacher knows their child, understands his or her strengths and is prepared to build on them. The same is true for teachers. Let them know what they’re doing right, not just what they’re doing wrong.
Other nuggets of wisdom include responding to parents in a timely manner, coming up with concrete solutions when discussing concerns about a child’s performance or behavior, using emails appropriately (i.e., not to vent or accuse, but for information purposes only), taking children’s complaints about their teachers, peers, or the school with a grain of salt, and finally, the power and disarming nature of an apology.
In my experience, nothing erodes trust between teachers and parents than the lack of communication and when assumptions and perceptions, rather than curiosity and open-ended questions, drive the discussion. The advice above serves as a helpful reminder of simple things that both sides can do regularly to keep the child and his/her well-being at the center of the parent-teacher relationship.
Other helpful resources to consider on building a strong parent-teacher relationship:
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot: The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other