Parent-Teacher Cooperation

Don’t Wait for the Parent-Teacher Conference! 11 Year-Round Cooperation Rules

Your child’s teacher spends five to six hours with him each day. She doesn’t know him like you do, but she sees things you can’t — or won’t. Here’s advice from real parents and teachers who found ways to work together that really benefited everyone.

Parents of ADHD child talk with teacher
Parents of ADHD child talk with teacher
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What I Wish I'd Known...

A note — or worse, a phone call — comes home from school. There are problems. And, right away, you're defensive and not a little worried. But chances are good that your child's teacher takes no joy in reporting his challenges, and has valuable tools and experience to help. The trick is unlocking a collaborative relationship driven by one goal: helping your child succeed. Here, ADDitude readers share the most valuable piece of advice they'd share with parents headed into their first parent-teacher conferences of the year.

Highlighting the word "respect," critical for a successful parent-teacher conference
Green highlighter the word respect
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1. Start with Respect

"Start with respecting each other for the work you have to do everyday. Teaching and parenting are hard work." –Jennifer L.

"Emphasize that collaboration is not about evaluating or criticizing either party's performance. It's simply reaching consensus about what seems to be in the best interest of the child. If there's defensiveness or hostility, slow down and find common ground. Build from there." –Kyle

"I let the teacher know that I am trying to help make his job easier – not be part of the challenge. I will be vigilant and check in regularly on my child's progress, but I'll do so as someone who wants to help, not create more work."  –Jane 

Question bubbles held up at a parent-teacher conference
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2. Communicate Openly — and Often

"Both sides must be clear about roles and expectations. The minute I find out who my child's teacher is, I explain my son's ADHD and 504 Plan. I suggest accommodations that have worked before and provide a list of my child's previous teachers to ask what helped when my child was in their class. I encourage the teacher to talk to me with concerns about my child and ask what I can do to help." –Kimberlee

"I am honest about my son's meds and challenges at home. I email the teacher when he has a rough morning so she has a head's up. I express interest in how he is doing with her and his peers. I let the teacher know I'm in it WITH her and not AGAINST her. I am also very vocal about our challenges; I see families all too often hide the problems, which helps no one." –Aimee

[Quiz: How Well Do You Know Special-Ed Law?]

Different emotions on faces, representing the many feelings at a parent-teacher conference
Collection of smiles
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3. Check Emotions at the Door

"I presented the case for what my son needed in a clear, unemotional way using the school's buzz words like 'most successful atmosphere.'" –Aimee

"Ask a lot of 'how' and 'why' questions, and ask for data so that decisions are not being made based on emotions. Don't make it the discussion, 'What are YOU going to do for MY child.' Make it, 'How are WE going to address this problem in a way that it is realistic and reasonable for everybody?'" –Laurie

"It's helpful to remember that both parents and teachers are trying to act in the best interest of the student. While we might not always agree about the best course of action, when emotions run high we could all benefit by taking a deep breath and appreciating each other's absolute dedication to finding the solution." –An ADDitude Reader

Hands doing a team-building cheer at a parent-teacher conference
Hands in
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4. Be Accountable

"Share your email address and phone number with the teacher. Emphasize that you will be the teacher's partner in assisting the child." –D. Mayes

"Accountability for all — the student, parent, and educator — is key." –An ADDitude reader

"Show teachers what you're doing at home. Tell them how long homework takes. Explain how you try to keep kids organized, use medication, modify diet, see a counselor. It makes teachers feel less like the requested modifications are beyond reason." –Andria

"Don't give up" on a chalkboard at a parent-teacher conference
Don’t give up
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5. Be Persistent

"Don't give up! You are your child's best advocate to make sure that he is getting the help and tools he needs in life. Do your own research and educate the teacher if she doesn't have experience with special needs." –Nicole

"The squeaky wheel gets the oil. If you are persistent without being hostile, most schools will do all they possibly can to assist with your child's needs. Ultimately, no one will speak up more or has more at stake than the parents. You can see the potential in your child that others sometimes cannot see." –Rhonna

"Never accept that a teacher isn't going to help your child. If teachers are not willing to collaborate with you, make sure you go to their superiors with your concerns." –Mindy

Orange heads with thoughts coming out of them, representing a parent-teacher conference
Orange heads and stuff
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6. Involve the Whole Team

"Sign releases for all of your treatment team members so they can collaborate. Don't assume that school intervention and private practitioners should be separate." –Laurie

"I establish collaboration at the beginning and end of the school year to anticipate what's needed next year. I hold round table meetings with all of my child's providers to cover perceptions, recommendations, and goals. I send quarterly email updates to the whole team with developments, challenges, and other comments from the group. I call it my child's board of directors. It's positive, open and at times tough, but it works for me." –Lisa

"At the beginning of each school year, I send a letter to every teacher and staff member working with my child that introduces her, explains fidgets, habits, quirks, and initial needs from Day 1 (instead of waiting for an IEP meeting)!" –Cat

[9 Ways to Reinvent the Parent-Teacher Conference]

Balloons floating into the sky after a parent-teacher conference
Balloons in the sky
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7. Celebrate Success

"Our strategy to lay the foundation for positive parent-teacher collaboration is to express gratitude regularly to the teachers." –Karen

"Shift focus from the negatives. Even a small success will change the atmosphere for a child." –Michelle S.

"Put all negativity aside and focus on helping the kids reach their full potential. Look past the daily frustrations and forward to the satisfaction you will have knowing your help will play a part in their successes!" –Penny

Parent and teacher having a conference to discuss a student
Two teachers with student
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8. Get Involved

"I volunteer and help the teacher as much as possible. It builds a trusting relationship." –Aimee

"Try shadowing your child at school. See where the struggles in her day start. Then formulate a plan of action with the teacher to help your child navigate her day in a more positive manner." –Amber

"Be involved in the school, and set up avenues for clear communication." –Karen

Parent reading a book to her child after a parent-teacher conference
Parent reading book to child
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9. Be the Expert on Your Child

"Come to the table with solutions that work best for your child — you know her best! If you are willing to help create a plan and aid in it's implementation; you'll have great success." –Susan

"I prepare by boiling-down all the 'stuff' in my head about my child's abilities: what helps and what presents challenges. I make a bulleted list of five things (one page printed on color paper) I want the teacher to prioritize for my child — things the teacher can do to accommodate my child, plus my contact details and how we can get feedback to each other quickly." –Jane

Hands pointing to information for parents and teachers
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10. Use Technology

"Teachers can set up a daily homework texts using Remind 101. Just create a group with all parents' numbers. Then, it's as simple as sending one message a day. Parents can't respond, so the teacher doesn't have to worry about being swamped, but the parent can know what to specifically ask for, and review the child's homework." –R. H.

"I put together a Google Doc and sent an invite to everyone on my child's team to provide feedback. Everyone was able to see each others concerns, and I was able to bring a very comprehensive list to the doctor regarding the kinds of issues seen at school." –Laurie

A teacher helping a student and discussing his parent-teacher conference
Teacher helping student
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11. Teach Kids to Self-Advocate

"It's important that my daughter take responsibility for her own education and learn to appropriately and respectfully self-advocate with the teachers." –Karen

"Frequent face-to-face meetings that include teacher, parent, and child are helpful. Be willing to hear the hard stuff from teachers without getting defensive. Make sure that you are all working toward the same goals." –Suzanne

[Improving Parent-Teacher Communication]