Teachers are important people in your child’s life. A good fit versus a bad one can make all the difference in your child’s success during that school year.
Someone else has an equally important role in your child’s education, and that’s you, the parent! Many teachers see the relationship with parents as a key partner, and they count on your support to make the learning work.
“Any teacher will tell you that if a child’s parent is supportive that they will gladly work through any issues that might arise over the course of the school year,” says Derrick Meador, a principal. “Teachers are human, and there is a chance they will make a mistake. … Most teachers are dedicated professionals who do a terrific job day in and day out. It is unrealistic to think that there are not bad teachers out there, but most are exceptionally skilled at what they do.”
Having racked up hundreds of hours over the course of the school year teaching your child, here are a few things teachers want you to know.
Education doesn’t stop when school’s out
As one teacher, Pete Mason, puts it, think of your child’s day as divided into three segments: School, sleep and time at home. The first two-thirds are well filled, but think about how they’re spending time in that open third, at home.
When you think about how much they’d love to fill that time binge-watching cartoons, it’s a sobering thought.
“The eight hours at school and the eight hours at home need to be chock full of learning so that while sleeping, the thoughts are processed and organized and problems solved, making the students stronger learned in the long run,” Mason writes.
As a parent, you’re also your child’s first teacher. Whatever their age, here are some ideas to keep the learning going when school’s not in session:
1. Talk about the school day. Many kids have the urge to compartmentalize their lives and shove the school day into the past. However, teachers will tell you it’s important to encourage them to recall and explain what they learned.
Ask what they’re studying in science, and take time to point out and discuss real-world connections to the topic. Have them walk through how they solved a challenging math problem. When they can explain it well, that demonstrates an understanding. (If they struggle, it’s a cue more learning may be required!) When they spend that extra time recalling what they learned, it boosts retention. In addition, your interest sends a message that education is important to you.
2. Make every day educational. The original gold standard of learning at home is the teacher’s longtime guidance to make time to read each day. (And if your school-age child is a reluctant reader, read out loud to them — they still get many literacy-related benefits, such as building their vocabulary and listening.)
Beyond that, brainstorm other opportunities that will expose them to different subjects in their free time. Visit a local history center or a nature preserve and take a guided tour. Keep an eye out for enriching activities that combine academics and fun. A Bricks 4 Kidz afterschool workshop, for example, incorporates math and engineering concepts with the fun of building with LEGO Bricks — the perfect complement to what they’re learning in school!
3. Include them in your routine: Have children help with household tasks. Gardening, grocery shopping, meal planning, laundry and cooking will impart skills like time management and problem solving. Of course, point out real-life applications of the subjects they learned in school, such as math, science, spelling and reading.
4. Cast a wide net of experiences: Did you know that having experiences builds literacy? A familiarity with what’s happening in books builds important connections to literature. Keep your eyes open for opportunities for new, hands-on, interesting experiences. Take day trips, do volunteer work and visit restaurants that serve entrees that are new to their palates.
5. Check in with teacher. As we blogged earlier, ask your teacher to talk about your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. To follow up, ask how you can help your child gain strength at home. Sometimes, a quick review of the core basics is helpful. For example, set aside 10 minutes a few days a week to run through addition drills or have an at-home spelling bee for core vocabulary words. Teachers usually have many ideas they have found helpful, including free websites, local resources and extracurricular classes.
6. Don’t overload with activities: Play is a child’s work, so leave space to give them free rein over how they choose to spend their time. If this comes with protests of boredom, don’t give in, but let them figure out the solution on their own.
Set the example
You’re constantly telling the kiddos to hang up their backpacks and put their dirty socks in the laundry. Every. Single. Day. We’ve been there. Yes, there is definitely room for big improvement in the listening department. Talk to a teacher, though, and you’ll learn that kids are listening (and watching) a heck of a lot more closely than we ever thought.
1. Don’t badmouth: When parents badmouth school, the teacher or the curriculum, students pick up on that. And it almost always shows up in the student’s drive and attitude. Even if you have well-reasoned, legitimate reasons to disagree or disapprove, don’t vent to your child.
2. Show respect for education: This is somewhat related to the above tip. When parents make education a priority, that attitude often rubs off on the kids. Talk about the importance of learning, and the doors it can one day open for your child.
3. Be a good example: In addition to talking the talk about school, it’s important to walk the walk. When it’s time for your child’s daily reading, don’t spend the time scrolling through social media. Pick up a book and read alongside your child. If you’re working on something that challenges you, whether it’s a hobby, a fitness goal or a night class, let them see your effort and determination, and freely share your victories and defeats.
When you think about the number of children teachers have to manage at one time, that’s quite the accomplishment. Part of it is classroom management, but even when you’re not there, you also are an influence. Here are a few insights on how you can reinforce smooth sailing at school.
1. Create a routine: It may surprise you, but teachers say your child may be capable of doing more for him- or herself than you might expect. If they need more responsibilities, go ahead and raise the bar.
One path to success is taking a cue from the classroom: build assigned tasks into a routine. For example, you might dedicate Saturday mornings to room cleaning and laundry. While they may protest and drag their feet initially, they’ll eventually expect the chore and may even see the value in getting it done quickly.
2. Trust but verify: Many teachers warn that parents should take their child’s report on school happenings with a grain of salt. (In fact, many will also add you wouldn’t want your child’s teacher to believe everything your child says about home!) If your student relates something to you that’s troubling, don’t pick up the phone and give the principal an earful. Set up a meeting with the teacher. Using neutral, straightforward language, calmly ask the teacher to explain what happened. It may turn out your child left out key details.
3. Understand the school self vs home self: Teachers hear this a lot: “But … my child has never done this at home!” Sure, they have never drawn on your bathroom walls, but when egged on by their pals, it’s possible they’ll make the wrong choice.
4. Face the consequences: It happens: You get a call from the vice principal and your child was in the middle of a heated playground scuffle. Or perhaps your child earned a low grade because they’ve fallen behind on the work. It’s tempting to press the teacher for a second chance, but you’re not doing your child any favors. Teachers say the hard lessons learned will pay off in the long run. Otherwise, you’re training your kids to expect a bailout, and when they’re older, that won’t be good!
Your child may not know it or appreciate it, but their education is their biggest asset. With these insights from the professionals, you can help your child get the most out of their opportunity.