We are human, our children are human (well, most of the time), and our children’s teachers are human too. And fundamentally, as humans, we thrive on relationships. The brutal truth is that the relationships our children form with their teachers can make or break a year at school.
Now that I’ve got your attention, I want to share with you some things I do to get educators on our side. I need to declare a vested interest here as I am a teacher. I have taught from kindergarten to the end of high school. I know what works and how to foster a good relationship between you, your child’s teacher, and your child. Your kid is central to this equation, and you want the teacher to know that you value their work and want to support them in bringing out the best in your child.
How to get your child on the teacher’s good side
At the start of each school year, apart from the obligatory “Hi, nice to meet you” stuff, I always send each of my children’s teachers a direct email. I call it my “connecting email” and basically cover three things:
- what my child is good at
- what they struggle with
- how I look forward to supporting them throughout the year
This allows the teacher to see that I’m not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses; rather, I’m aware of my kid’s strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, I want to work with them.
Gratitude (referred to as bribery by many) is powerful—if you think it doesn’t work, you are mistaken. Chocolates on a Friday after a riotous art class can do wonders for a teacher’s broken spirit. At the end of each semester, why not make (or buy) morning coffee for your child’s teaching community with a card thanking them for all their work? I know it sounds like bribery, but actually, it is gratitude, and it is these small things that really count.
When dealing with conflict, either to do with your child’s learning, progress, or a social/emotional issue, remember that the teacher has feelings, too. Watch the use of pronouns. “You” can be very accusatory and push them off. Using phrases like “I feel” takes the sting out of difficult conversations and should have the teacher wanting to work with you as opposed to feeling like they need to defend themselves.
If you suffer the misfortune of having one of those rare but truly dreadful teachers (yes, I have had one), try to refrain from whining about them in front of your child. You know as well as I do that news travels fast within schools, and teachers aren’t the sort to be messing with.
Finally, stop panicking. Teachers generally like children. Hey, that’s why they teach. They are human, and like all of us, they have good and bad days. In my experience, when handled with care, they really are amazing people. They have a wealth of knowledge, generous hearts, and the privilege to impact children’s lives daily in a positive and meaningful manner.