I’ve spent a lot of time talking to teachers about the difficulties they face working with parents. I devoted a chapter in my book to the topic. But as a parent, I also interact with a lot of other parents. And I know they’re frustrated by teachers sometimes too.
I wrote an article for TheApple.com this month about the parent’s perspective. I asked parents about the challenges they’ve faced working with teachers, and what teachers can do to improve the parent-teacher relationship.
What are the challenges parents face?
* A mom in California said her daughter’s pre-k teachers’ rigid reading techniques were hampering her daughter’s progress rather than facilitating it. But the teachers insisted that her daughter adhere to their formulas, even though they were counterproductive.
* A dad in Baltimore said his seventh grade son was struggling in math because he was overwhelmed by the workload. When he first approached the teacher about the issue, the teacher was resistant and asserted the student was not paying attention. (After several conversations, the teacher adjusted his expectations and the student began to thrive.)
* A mom in Los Angeles said her son’s first grade teacher told him (in front of her) “Math just isn’t your thing.” He was apathetic toward math for the rest of the year, saying, “Math just isn’t my thing.”
* A dad in Virginia said shortly after his son entered middle school a teacher called to set up a meeting about the boy’s schedule. But when his wife arrived at the school, she soon realized the purpose of the meeting was to alter their son’s individual education plan. The teacher lectured her about her son’s poor behavior and academic performance.
What do parents wish teachers would do?
* Consider the Parent’s Input.
Teachers are experts in the field of education, but parents often have inside information about their child’s learning style, study habits and attitude that could be valuable to the teacher.
* Be Flexible.
While a teacher may have honed an effective learning strategy that clicks with most students, it may not work for everybody. If a student in not responding successfully to a particular teaching method, it may be time to try an alternate approach.
* Choose Your Words Carefully When Communicating With Students
Children are impressionable. Even an offhanded comment can have a major impact on a child.
* Choose Your Words Carefully When Communicating With Parents
When it comes to their children, parents are emotional. Approaching parents with sensitivity and understanding will allow the teacher to avoid a defensive reaction.
* Show Parents You’re On Their Side.
Teachers can prevent confrontations by proactively communicating with parents and demonstrating their concern for their students, says Dr. Jim Taylor, P.h.D., a parenting expert and author. “Show parents you’re both on the same team,” Taylor says.
Teachers can accomplish this goal by keeping parents informed about their child’s progress through brief monthly or biweekly reports, which can be e-mailed, Taylor says.
“This shows that the teacher knows and cares about the child,” he says. “It makes parents feel more in control, more in the loop, and they will have less anxiety, less fear,” Taylor says. “Fewer emotions means fewer problems.”