Parent-Teacher Cooperation

6 Ways to Get Your Child’s Teacher on Your Side

You and your child’s teacher both want the same thing: to do a good job and feel appreciated. Take a walk in her shoes, volunteer, and carefully pick your battles so the parent-teacher communication channel stays open all year.

A teacher and parent duo review an IEP together, a key thing to do before school starts.
A teacher and parent duo review an IEP together, a key thing to do before school starts.

When things go wrong at school — your attention deficit child acts up in class, or you find out he has not turned in homework assignments and may flunk the course — you’re more likely to set things right if you have a strong alliance with his teachers. In most cases, teachers are like you: They want to do a good job, they give it their best, and they want to feel appreciated. So if they feel under attack by parents, they become defensive and brush off your requests as “unreasonable.”

Walk in the teacher’s shoes. Convey empathy about the difficult spot teachers are in. They have a hard job, they are underpaid, and they get too few resources to do it as well as they would like. When you press for additional assistance for your child, you are not making their job easier. Avoid “I win, you lose” interactions.

Here’s a good script to follow: Say, “I know how backed up you are, and I appreciate all you and the school staff do for my son. But he seems to be falling further behind, and I know you are concerned, too. I hate to put additional pressure on you, but how can we get the testing going? Perhaps I can get some of the testing done in the community. It’s expensive, though. What do you suggest?”

Be a part of a group. Join the PTA — and get to know the school staff. Talk with parents who have children with similar needs. Remember, there is strength in numbers. You have more leverage with school administrators if you speak with, and for, other parents.

Volunteer to help. Whether in the classroom, the library, or the front office, being seen and becoming known as a benevolent presence makes you an insider. You are part of the solution, not part of the problem. This strategy allows you to get a better feel for your child’s problems, since you might be in a position to observe them more directly.

Pick your battles carefully. If you are not sure something is worth fighting for, but you are worried about it, you should put it on the shelf for two weeks. You’re in this for the long run, so 14 days won’t make any difference. When you revisit the issue, ask yourself: Is it still worth it? If not, let it go.

Anticipate problems and offer solutions. Maybe you’re worried because a new teacher is scheduled to start in the middle of the year. Will she be willing to use the effective home-school behavior plan you’ve developed for your child? Help her with her problem, and solve yours in the process: Go to your son’s IEP meeting with a handout that describes the behavior plan, and request that it be included in the IEP. Or meet with the teacher, before she starts, to discuss her experience with ADHD, and see if she suggests a behavior plan of her own.

Act early and act fast. Says one parent: “Early in the school year, I contact the principal and the teacher. I let them know I want to be informed of progress and problems — that I want to work with them to solve problems, that I support their expectations, and that I want processes in place to help my child succeed. I don’t want my daughter to be ‘beat up’ and fail before we can help her.”