What is the Effect of Parents' Engaging with Teachers at Primary and Secondary Levels of Education?

10/06/2017 08:49 pm ET

Do you find that you would like to interact with your child or teen’s teachers but are unsure how to proceed? Do you need their points of view on helping with homework, the amount of time needed for study at home, your child’s special learning needs and interests, and other sorts of advice you wish to receive? The question is how to go about engaging with a teacher or teachers without burdening them with too much of your time and theirs versus fearing any connection at all.

The Primary Grades

If you are a parent who is having their first experience with a child in school, you may have many questions about what you should expect of your child and what a teacher expects of your son or daughter. You may also want to pave the way for a happy beginning for your kindergartener or first grader by having your child meet the teacher before school begins and having an early conference after about a month goes by. Is your child’s teacher open to this intervention?

Some teachers offer right off their emails and phone numbers inviting parents’ to connect with them to have the school year run smoothly for your child. Whether the teacher is easy going and flexible in the classroom or has a clear-headed plan they follow, it is useful for them to know your specific child as soon as possible. Of course, each teacher needs time to get to know many kids, and some kids are more outspoken than others. But, it’s a fine notion to introduce yourself to the teacher early on, so that your child adjusts smoothly and you learn the best ways to assist the teacher in meeting his or her goals by knowing what is expected of you on the home front.

Even if you are an experienced parent, each of your children is different and each grade level demands different levels of learning. Speaking to the teacher directly informs you of the curriculum and how you can promote the learning the teacher aims to teach.

If your child has specific strengths and weaknesses, you may want the teacher to know upfront or you may want to wait and see how your child functions in this new classroom without biasing the teacher one way or another. Being open to the idea that different teachers enjoy certain subjects more than others may affect your child’s learning experiences. Similarly, if your child is in a general classroom or one integrated with children with special needs, the teacher can prepare you to orient your child to the atmosphere that prevails.

An open approach to most teachers is beneficial. Explain you know how busy they are and don’t want to invade their space, but you are available for calls and meetings as often as needed. This gives the teacher the opportunity to know they can reach out to you as well as you reaching out to them.

Secondary School

In middle school and high school the picture is more complex because more teachers and subjects are involved. Your child must become oriented to a range of expectations from their teachers, subjects in which they excel or find difficulty, and learning how to prioritize the various workloads each teacher demands.

Your role as a parent is to facilitate learning not only for grades but for its own sake. Learning is ideally a part of living, not just something one does in school. If you share this value, it’s helpful to let the teachers know then they can count on you to inspire your son or daughter to engage in new learning experiences for the sake of adventure and discovery.

The word, discipline, comes from the word disciple or student. It’s about learning, not about rewards and punishment as most often parents and teachers alike believe. If you take the opportunity to meet with your tween’s or teen’s teachers, you may want to hear their points of view about learning their subject matter and ask how you can best support their goals and yours for a sound education for your child.

In other words, at every level of education, parental involvement is a plus. It certainly shouldn’t undermine the child’s independence in

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and artist. She is the author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are found. Her paintings and other articles can be seen on her website: htttp://lauriehollmanphd.com. If you would like her to paint a portrait or landscape from a photo,l she’d be delighted to oblige.

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