I’ve written several posts on the parent/teacher/student relationship. This unique triangle is rather specific to the K-12 learning environment. Without proper care and feeding of that relationship, things can get off track rather quickly with your child. I’m speaking from experience here, so read on for my story and what to do about it.
By virtue of not being present in the school, the parent is in a position where they are on the outside looking in. We expect our children to accurately share what is happening in their classrooms, and we expect timely updates from their teachers. For busy teachers and children who are struggling this might not be the case. The kids may not want to share bad news, and the teachers expect that the kids share everything at home. Here is where the parent gets lost.
One of my kids is that struggling child. He struggles because he would rather socialize with his friends in school instead of doing the work. We know this because he brings home little to no homework and his online grade reports show several zeroes (By the way parents, zero on homework or classwork indicates no effort, which is not the teacher’s fault). Consequently, we seem to get to the end of a grading period and make a mad scramble to get his grades to an acceptable level.
So, needless to say we haven’t had the best luck with this, which tells me that I need to do a better job with the teachers. As I wrote in a previous post, “trust but verify” is the right approach to take when you have a kid that might not be forthcoming with his schoolwork. When we have been successful, there are a few common themes that seem to recur, and those are listed below.
We have been the most successful when we’re able to get the teacher’s email address and their phone number who will cooperate in an ongoing dialog. By having direct access to the teacher, any communications that might be lost between the classroom and the living room can be confirmed. The information that parents get from direct communication tend to settle any disputes over assignments that are due or performance in the classroom.
Ask for a conference with your child’s teachers. This gives you a more in-depth chance to talk about what might be going on in the classroom. If your child has multiple teachers and you begin to hear the same things from each of them, you might begin to zero in on some underlying behavior or problem common to all classes.
The next most effective approach is to have the website where the teacher posts any coursework or information. By having the website, we can gain access at home to the most recent assignments and ask to see that the work has been completed. If your teacher will post homework on the day that it is assigned, then you can encourage your child to do that work before it is past due. On the other hand, a teacher’s website is only reliable if it is regularly updated.
We have used an agenda for an older child. In our experience these have been limited to use in elementary school and junior high, then the teachers expect the high school students to write down their own assignments. We’ve even had our son’s teachers sign his agenda to verify that they have seen it and that the written assignments are correct. It might be a little embarrassing to your child, but maybe that’s the spark they need to take some responsibility.
Most schools have another website where the actual grades are posted. These can be good to have as well, but our experience has been that some teachers wait till the end of the grading period to put in grades. By then, it is too late to help your child recover.
In summary, building those relationships with your child’s teachers through ongoing communication is the most likely avenue to success. What you don’t know about you cannot fix, but you also cannot ignore the problems. Teachers are much more likely to work with parents who pay attention and get involved than those who do not. You owe it to your child to know what is going on in their classroom and to help them through their struggles.