There are many things that all parents can do to help their children have a successful school year and to increase their learning. What are the most important things that teachers would like parents to know? What can parents do to work in tandem with the teacher to provide the best help for their children?
1. Be respectful. Everyone needs to be respectful. There is no place in the classroom for backtalking and being disobedient. Parents need to reinforce the value of respect by supporting class rules and authority and by talking to their children about the importance of respect. Parents can model respect by treating the teacher and school with respect and expecting their children to do no less.
2. Show good manners. Simple everyday expressions of "please," "thank you," "excuse me" and "you're welcome" need to be taught to show appreciation and respect. Children need to also be taught to greet people when they are greeted and to look people in the face when being spoken to. Other manners include waiting their turn and not interrupting people when they are speaking. To reinforce the positive behavior of waiting, give your child your full attention when you are done speaking. Children should be taught to hold or open doors for others when they are going into a specific room or building. It is also good manners to allow others who are exiting a room or building to exit before you enter. Don't allow name calling. Explain to your children that this is inappropriate behavior. Children need to keep their desk and other work areas, locker, and backpack clean and orderly. They should be taught to pick up after themselves.
3. Work hard. The students who come to school and try their hardest will most likely develop strong work habits and gain success as learners and in life. The key is having a positive attitude, a work ethic that embraces task commitment, and an inner drive to do your best.
4. Accept others and display tolerance. Respecting differences (age, gender, culture, race, religion, ability) can be modeled for your children through words and actions. Point out how interesting it is that there are differences in the world. Explain to your children that all families have their own traditions or rituals that bring meaning to the family. These are different among all families and that is what makes each family unique and special.
5. Tell the truth. There is no room for lying. Honesty is a value that must be expected. You can remind your children to tell the truth and the importance of this character trait. Model telling the truth and the impact of this behavior. Catch your children "telling the truth" and acknowledge this.
6. Take advantage of opportunities. School brings a myriad of opportunities... whether it is meeting new friends, joining an extracurricular sport or club, taking an elective course, these all help students to grow. Encourage participation and involvement.
7. Take responsibility for choices. When your child makes a mistake or a poor choice, talk to them about the natural consequences and then (despite it being difficult) let them deal with the consequences of that behavior. Don't interfere with a natural consequence. That is how children learn to be self-sufficient and independent. They learn how to problem solve and how to cope.
8. Talk to the teacher about important issues. If your child has an issue, encourage them to talk directly to the teacher. If you as a parent have information to share with a teacher, then please make an appointment and talk to the teacher. Teachers appreciate you going to them first before speaking with an administrator. If there are any problems the teacher can help with, they have the background and general interest to help intervene and problem solve to address the problem. They want to work with you and your child.
9. Praise your children. Praise your children for their efforts in completing school work, and in doing their best on assignments/projects and on tests. Be honest and specific. Don't inflate your compliments. Children who are praised in a genuine manner for their efforts are more apt to embrace future challenges and grapple with tough problems. Emphasize effort over grades.
10. Show interest in your child's learning. Regularly attend parent/teacher conferences. Volunteer to help out either in the classroom, for school functions, or to assist in additional ways (working on a project for the classroom at home, reading a book or talking to the class about an area you specialize in that correlates to the curriculum, etc.). Read the school's website and classroom/school newsletters to stay abreast of what's happening and talk to your children about what is going on in the classroom and school. Ask about their school day and take time to really listen. See that your child does his homework and reads nightly, get a good night's sleep, and that he/she has necessary school supplies that are replenished throughout the year. Support healthy eating and send a nutritional snack and lunch or a suitable amount of money for a prepared lunch.
11. Understand the difference between learning and grades. Check on assignments and monitor/encourage/expect your child to do any assigned schoolwork. Help them plan steps for long-range assignments so they don't feel overwhelmed. Don't expect all "A's," but rather focus on what is learned opposed to the end grade. Ask your children what they learned, what they are curious about learning, and what they want to learn next. This approach leads to lifelong learning more than emphasizing grades.
Learning and understanding these dozen important things that teachers want to share with parents will help build a strong teacher-parent partnership, one that serves as a foundation for children's success in school. When we are open to working with others (teachers + parents + students) and in doing our part, there is no limit to what can happen. One thing is certain: children are better equipped to meet success!