Parent/Teacher Relationship: Your Most Important Parenting School Tool

How many times have you received a progress report and only then discovered that your child was struggling in a class- no forewarning from the teacher–no call , no email, no note- just a bad grade when its too late to effectuate any change?

How many times have you discovered after the term has already started that your child had been assigned to the “crazy” teacher because you didn’t know you could submit a request before teacher assignments were made?

How many times have you stayed up much-too-late helping your child with a project that seemed too demanding for one-day’s notice, only to find out after-the-fact that your child misunderstood the directions?

These kind of situations often occur when a parent is out of the information loop. The thought that you may be missing key information and insight about your child’s academic progress should keep you up at night! Parents are dangerously mistaken if they assume that all resources relevant to helping their children are going to be delivered to them in their child’s take-home folder. You must take steps to get yourself plugged in. And the first step must be to connect with your child’s teacher.

Here is a simple truth: If you, as a parent, have not connected with your child’s teacher, directly and personally, you are not optimizing your child’s educational experience. I do not believe that there is an exception to this statement. In the present school environment, private or public, parents who are paying attention know that parental involvement is the key to getting want they want in the way of outcomes. These parents know that school resources are limited and that these limited resources are expended on those families who are aware of the resources and demand them. If you are not involved, that is, if you have not, at least, met and conferred with your child’s teachers, your child is not receiving all of the help, information, opportunities or care that he or she could be getting. You may not even know what you and your child are missing.

The MSNBC series, Making the Grade, does a good job of addressing what schools need to do to help parents who are under siege meet the demands of managing their children’s academic lives. There is much that must be done to facilitate parental involvement, especially working, single and young parents.

Here’s an excerpt:

But with or without facilitation, parents must carve out ways to be there for their children. Neither public or private school experiences are optimal without committed parental involvement.

Often, when African-American families join a private school community, they are so preoccupied with fighting the negative perceptions they feel the greater community has about them (and Blacks in general). We Black parents believe the other parents and teachers assume we need financial help and that our children are academically deficient. [I am not, by this assertion, suggesting that Black parents are paranoid or overly sensitive. We are often (OFTEN) confronted with overt statements from other parents and students about our ability to afford to be at these independent schools and whether our kids can cut it). But even if the greater community does harbor these assumptions, we Black parents need to understand two important realities. One, that more White families receive financial aid than Black at most predominantly White private schools. And two, nearly everyone else in the school is receiving some additional academic assistance. The financial aid assumption is a topic worthy of its own discussion—for another time. I’d like to focus on the academic support topic here.

It seems that every other community except the Black community recognizes that students cannot achieve in the current competitive academic environment without help. Often we Black parents send our bright kids to these private schools with the handicap of our we-can-make-it-on-our-own beliefs . We consider it a sign of weakness to seek and ask for help. While we are busy trying to appear qualified, independent, worthy (and teaching our children to do the same) by functioning in silence and alone, the school’s teachers and administrators are construing our actions (or inaction) as lack of concern on the parents’ part and ambivalence on the students’ part. Then once the teachers have concluded that we don’t care enough to get help or advocate for our kids, they feel no obligation to communicate with or extend themselves to us. After all, they have a whole population of parents who are relentlessly hounding them about their children’s needs! Black parents must jump in there, and demand services for our children and information for ourselves. When we don’t step in we perpetuate the very perceptions of inferiority that we want to avoid.

By taking the steps to meet the teacher in the first weeks of school, you send the message that you are a proactive and concerned parent; and that you want to stay on top of your child’s progress. You have opened up the lines of communication to the teacher and let your child know that you are an active part of their school experience. It is a way to let teacher and child know that you are still in charge of your child’s education.

Much has been said about the importance of the learning triangle- the idea that the most effective learning happens when there is a direct connection between each essential participant in the educational threesome- parent, child and teacher. Even if you do little at home to support or contribute to the learning experience, you should at least keep close watch on what is happening at school. This is how problems are both solved early and avoided altogether.

Amazing things happen when you show up at school and introduce yourself to the teacher. When you let the teacher know that you are interested in optimizing your child’s educational experience, the teacher feels he or she has an ally at home. The child feels he or she has an advocate. The teacher comes to know you and what you want from her. The child knows that the adults in charge of her academic future are talking and working together. You feel empowered because you have someone to call with questions and concerns.

Even in the worst scenario, where you and the teacher do not develop a friendly symbiotic relationship, the teacher knows that he has a watchful parent to deal with and thus, more care is taken with your child. In every case, the initiation and cultivation of the parent/teacher relationship is a win-win proposition.

How to establish a relationship with your child’s teacher:

1. Meet with the teacher privately within the first two weeks of school. Even if you meet at Parent Night, make sure you have some one-on-one time.

2. Make sure you let the teacher know:

a. You are interested in being involved. Let her/him know your situation and your limitations, so that the two of you can work out how you can best take part in the classroom or other school activities.

b. That if a problem ever arises, you would like to know as soon as possible, whether it is academic or social. You want to be informed.

c.To feel free to call you anytime and for any reason.

3. If you have concerns or your child has any learning or social issues, tell the teacher. (example: “my child is young for his grade, so he is likely behind in some developmental ways.” Make sure you inform the teacher of issues. But present the information in a positive light that reflects optimally on your child.)

4. Give the teacher all of the ways to contact you. And ask for all of her contact information. Ask which form of contact is best or preferable.

5. Thank the teacher for taking the time to get to know you.

By letting the teacher know that you want to be contacted, you are not implying that your child is a problem. You are simply clearing the way for communication. And communication is the key. In most cases, the positive response you receive by taking just these initial steps will astound you and put you on the right track to optimizing your child’s school year.

Posted by Gina L. Carroll at 01:28:40 Permanent Link Comments (2)
[Originally posted 07/2005]

1-Probably the most valuable point made in this commentary is the idea that a parent without much time to support learning at home can maximize their input in their child’s learning experience by simply meeting the teacher and thereby begin to take advantage of the triangle learning model. This is a much needed eye-opener for parents with little time and/or income. (Comment this) Written by: John at 2005/07/20 – 03:02:01



  1. I love this post and I write about integrating home schooling, traditional schooling and parent/teacher involvement on my blog as well. I learned a lot here!

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