The first day of school is approaching and teacher assignments will soon be placed in our hot little hands—or inboxes, as it were. Hopefully, your child's classroom is a magical learning space in which he or she feels safe and supported. Fortunately, this is typically the case. On the other hand, when it's not the case, parents and teachers alike are placed in an awkward position.
As parents, we don't want to offend educators. But we can't stand idly by and watch our children struggle. Thankfully, there are ways to effectively—and respectfully—address this difficult circumstance.
Go with your gut.
Intuition is worth its weight in gold. If, while attending parent night, your internal warning bells are chiming, listen to them. Those bells aren't saying "Get angry," they're saying, "Get involved!" Demonstrate your interest in your child's education right off the bat, and show the teacher that you want to lend support.
Don't just say you'll volunteer, actually do it.
Volunteer time allows you to better understand your child's classroom environment—and most teachers truly appreciate an extra set of hands! Teachers who don't encourage volunteers make me anxious, but they don't dissuade me from showing up.
Volunteer outside the classroom.
Busy work schedules make volunteering a difficult feat. Additionally, older children may feel self-conscious having mom or dad at their school. There's a solution: Ask the teacher, "What can I do from home that will help you in the classroom?" When you help with prep work, teachers have more time to focus on their students.
Talk to your child.
Most young children don't want to say anything negative about their teacher. They don't want to upset you. They don't want to get anyone "in trouble." They don't want to be alienated in class. Our kids need to understand that they must tell us when they aren't comfortable at school. How can we help, if we don't know they're frustrated?
Contact the teacher.
If you're not comfortable with a face-to-face conversation, it's e-mail to the rescue! When addressing a concern via e-mail, try not to be confrontational. Succinctly state what you're worried about. Sometimes these concerns are a surprise to the teacher and sometimes they strike a nerve.
Work with the teacher to create an action plan.
If homework is coming home unchecked, you and the teacher need to discuss this and find a solution.
If your son or daughter doesn't feel safe, you need to discuss this and find a solution.
If your child isn't being challenged, you need to discuss this and find a solution.
If all else fails, talk to the principal.
Undoubtedly, the principal will want to know that you've worked with your child's teacher and attempted to remedy the situation. While it's typically preferable to start with the teacher before contacting an administrator, exceptions do apply.
Have a solution in mind.
In my opinion, a problem—absent a potential solution—is merely a complaint. When talking to teachers and administrators, tell them how you think the situation can be improved upon and how you plan to help.
Plain and simple. And always recognize improvement!
Educators want their students to succeed, and parents want their children to excel. Working as a team, we can make this happen.
Lisa Stickler is a contributing writer for West Michigan Woman magazine, a mother and a staunch supporter of education.