How Parents Can Support Teachers During the School Year
In this article, we’ll share how parents can work with teachers to give students a better chance of success
Teacher and Copywriter
Parents and their children weren’t the only ones who faced a challenging year. The abrupt school shutdowns that happened at the start of the global pandemic were a major setback in teachers’ ability to help children learn. With many children now back in physical classrooms, we thought it might be helpful to highlight ways in which parents can support teachers as the school year unfolds.
How Helping Teachers Helps You and Your Child
Here’s a simple truth: teachers want to see your child succeed. So, it follows that teaming up with your child’s teacher to see how you can best support them is a no-brainer. Research shows that children whose parents and teachers work together get better grades, demonstrate better social skills and show fewer signs of behavioral issues.
Teachers have a unique perspective on your child’s classroom journey. They get to observe how your child listens, works and plays in an environment with others. Students often switch between independent, small-group and large-group learning all day and that’s something we can’t mimic at home.
Think of teachers as being your eyes and ears during the times you can’t be there. We know that our children’s behavior can change when they’re around us (for better or worse). When we trust our child’s teacher, we can embrace their two cents and begin to ask the right questions to help our child without confusion or despair.
Here are some suggestions on how to best support your child’s teacher:
The more your child can do for themselves, the more they’ll get out of school. For younger children, this means being able to begin and end the day by themselves. It’s no small feat for a child to zip up their coat or put on their boots. When they master these skills, they’re not only less likely to miss out on precious recess time, they’re building the foundation for higher thinking.
Similarly, when your child can sharpen their pencil or ask for missing supplies, they're learning how to problem-solve, assessing what they need to complete a task. They’re also using their creative thinking every time they try a solution on their own.
At home, you can practice building independence in a few ways. One of the most exciting ways for younger children to practice is to focus on tasks usually reserved for grown-ups. Encouraging your child to help with food prep is a great way to start. When you let them use appliances or knives (with supervision), it builds their confidence. For older children, something as simple as tasking them with making their lunch every day builds independence and a sense of responsibility. Larger activities, such as attending a sleepover or a camp is another way to teach them about being organized.
Practice Focus & Concentration
Understanding the importance of concentration is a skill teachers wish parents could help them with. When teachers need to teach fundamental reading skills or cell biology, there is little time to waste. Often, we forget that learning to focus is a skill we have to practice.
If you didn’t grow up surrounded by tablets and screens, you might have had an easier time getting into concentration mode. Times have changed, and children’s brain development is affected by how much screen time they get. Research shows that extra screen time for younger children can lower mental skills, including their attention spans and language ability.
The first thing you may want to do is find the setting that works best for learning. You can work to figure this out with your child. For younger children, you can help them associate learning with a quiet environment. Choose a spot in the home for reading or school activities that is clutter-free. Try framing silence as a way to encourage your child’s thinking to come out. Next, make a habit of working on only one task at a time, whether it’s building a tower or printing letters.
If you’ve got an older child, start a conversation about how they work and learn. You might notice they do their schoolwork with their phone by their side or while listening to music. Instead of attacking their choices, talk about what makes for the best environment. Then, you can work on building it together. You can start by asking, do you have a favorite place in the house to study? Or, you can encourage them to test out one task without distractions and then ask how it went.
Keep Communication Wide Open
We know we’re supposed to keep in touch with our child’s teacher, but we may not always know what to say. When we run into the teacher at pick-up time, we might muster up something like, “How’s Sally doing?” This kind of vague question won’t prompt a meaningful answer. To get a useful response, you’ll want to pinpoint a specific topic to discuss.
Your child’s teacher likely knows exactly what your child’s biggest priority is in class. It might improving their math, reading, or social skills, etc. But what teachers might not always be sure of is how much you want to hear. If you want a quick snapshot of your child’s progress, start by picking one area to ask about. The more specific you get, the more helpful the answers. Try using language that implies teamwork, such as, “Are there any areas of her behavior we can work on at home?" Or “What would you say is his biggest challenge with reading right now?”
Teachers are wired for teamwork and will appreciate your willingness to work together. Don’t forget to show up for parent-teacher conferences and check in with teachers before spring or summer breaks. If you’re wondering what kind of workbooks or exercises to try at home, your teacher can often recommend ones that match your child’s ability.
As we navigate a return to school that looks very different from what we were once used to, it’s important to keep kindness in our focus. The good news is that while parents were rearranging their lives to accommodate school closures or online learning, teachers could easily empathize with your struggles. They, too, had to shift how they connected with you and your children. Teachers truly are your ally in the quest to give your child the best experience growing up. When changes or confusion arise, try to connect with that sense of partnership as you take challenges on. A little kindness continues to go a long way.
Parents and teachers are on the same side — and when they work together, everyone wins.
Oliver is a classroom educator turned copywriter and content writer. With a passion for teaching and writing, she happily splits her time between the classroom and the keyboard in the spectacular Pacific Northwest in Vancouver, Canada.
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