Teachers and Parents: Teamwork Tips

A school teacher and mother of a child with ADHD shares her strategies for building a good relationship with the school.

Science teacher by chalkboard

I’m a teacher who has worked with children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and I’m a mother whose son has ADHD, so I have seen ADHD from both sides of the desk. Here are some of my strategies to create a winning relationship with your child’s teacher and school:

Assume the Teacher Wants Help

Even if you’re frustrated with your child’s progress in school, don’t walk into a conference with a chip on your shoulder. If you’re positive in your interactions with the teacher, you’ll encourage positivity in return. Also, avoid bad-mouthing a teacher in front of your child. It will get back to the teacher and confuse your child by undercutting an authority figure.

Ask for a Conference

I usually ask for a conference around the second week of a new school year; the first week is too busy for teacher, child, and parent. As tempting as it is to enjoy the honeymoon phase — when the teacher hasn’t yet noticed that your child is tying his shoelaces together instead of doing his work — talking openly with a teacher will help your child have a more productive year.

Try this: Use constructive language when talking about your child. Don’t present him as a problem. For instance, saying, “He does better if he’s sitting toward the front of the room” is preferable to “He just doesn’t listen and I don’t know what to do with him.”

Check In with the Teacher Regularly

Keeping communication open encourages the exchange of vital information. When David’s teacher realized that he wasn’t completing his Monday writing assignment because he couldn’t remember what he did over the weekend, she called me and asked that I review his weekend with him on Monday mornings before school. Problem solved.

Try this: If you’ve got the teacher’s ear, suggest one of the following classroom interventions to help your child stay on task during the school day:

  • Using a timer to alert a child to move on to the next classwork question or assignment.
  • Establishing a pre-arranged signal — a tap on the knee or even a wink — to refocus an inattentive child when he’s in group situations.
  • Devising a simple chart system that breaks down tasks into smaller pieces and offers rewards for completing each of them.

Search for That Special Someone

Classroom teachers often have their hands full and may not always be able to attend to the special needs of your child. If that is the case, look for someone else in the school to enlist. It could be a guidance counselor, a media or art teacher, a nurse or an administrator, or even a very concerned and sharing enrichment teacher like our own Mrs. Kapp.