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Encouraging positive parent-teacher relationship

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THE function of a good parent-teacher relationship is much more than just a vehicle for status reports from teacher to parents on a child’s performance or behavior. It is really a partnership providing two-way information flow from the teacher to the parents about the child’s classroom achievements and from the parent to the teacher about the complementary elements in the home environment. It provides the mechanism for the teacher to support the parents’ active participation in the child’s education in the home environment. It can provide the link between classroom learning activities and home learning activities.

In general, parents or other prime care-givers have the best first hand knowledge of the child. It is in the best interest of children that the teacher takes full advantage of that information as an aid in understanding and assessing a child. Knowing how children behave at home and other contexts away from school can help teachers make well-balanced assessments of their students. This is especially important when a child presents behaviors or conditions that may indicate special needs.

Communication with parents is of paramount importance. Teachers need to be prepared to work with a diversity of parents, from working parents to nannies or relatives. Communicating with the prime caregiver is often complex. Our lives are impacted by a very fast paced world and children are caught in the middle. Although they are surprisingly resilient and can roll with the punches, the fast pace takes its toll on them, their parents, and their teachers.

In an early childhood setting, a teacher usually sees some parents more than others, but all parents need and want to know what is going on with their children.

Partnering with parents in early childhood education allows children to see the important people in their lives working together. When children see positive interactions between parents and educators, they begin to understand the importance of building healthy relationships. Children feel safer with teachers and staff who are visibly respected and trusted by their parents, and this allows them to feel comfortable and focus on learning.

“Easier said than done,” you may be thinking. After all, there are teachers your child will love and teachers your child may not love. There are teachers you’ll like and dislike as well. There are teachers who may adore your child, and those who just don’t understand him/her. But whatever the case may be, your child’s teacher is the second most important person in your child’s life (after the parents, of course). You can help make their relationship a strong and rewarding one.

A positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school; it demonstrates to your child that he can trust his teacher, because you do. This positive relationship makes a child feel like the important people in his life are working together.”

Positive partnerships also benefit parents and teachers. Through increased participation, parents become more comfortable with educators and caregivers. When parents feel confident and supported, they worry less and experience better health and mental wellbeing. Parents/teacher partnership increases children’s home learning activities. Active and consistent learning increases cognitive development in children and brings families closer together.

For the teacher, it is important to respect the fact that parents are taking a leap of faith when they place their children in your care. A positive partnership helps parents feel valued and respected by you as an educator. When parents feel valued, respected, and confident in your ability to teach their child, it’s easier for their children to grow and learn. When teachers feel respected and trusted by parents, they can better focus on nurturing the children in their care.

Commenting on the importance of the issue, Mrs Irene Njoku, a mother of three and a retired teacher said “I am a parent, and I have also previously been a classroom teacher. I know that the struggle to have a good working relationship between parents and teachers is real. I also know that having a good working relationship between teachers and parents is an extremely important part of a student’s academic success and reading ability”.

“There have been times in my own relationship with my children’s teachers that I have not been involved. They have had teachers whom I knew well, and there were teachers whom I wouldn’t recognize if I see them on the road. If I switched roles and put on my teacher hat, I could say the same thing about those relationships. There have been parents I’ve known well, and there were parents I wouldn’t have recognized if I ran into them. I could try to put the blame on parents or on teachers, but I would rather make a few observations and suggestions as to how to make the parent-teacher relationship better. I want to focus on three main things: expectations and communication”.

“First, when it comes to expectations, both parents and teachers have them for each other. They expect certain things to happen. Parents expect teachers to instruct their students and to guide their learning so they can have success. Teachers expect parents to support the instruction and learning that happens in school, at home. They also each have expectations for the child/student they share in common. They have expectations for their student’s academic performance, attendance, and behavior both in school and out of school. If these expectations are the same and they are communicated, a synergy will happen, and their relationship can have a powerful effect on the student’s reading ability and learning outcomes. The operative word in all this is communication. When expectations are clearly communicated, both parents and teachers will have a better understanding of their roles in the parent-teacher relationship. They will then know how best to be a supportive part of that relationship”.

“Have you ever heard that communication is a two-way street? What does communication have to do with the success of your child’s reading? How often would you like feedback about your child? What kind of feedback do you wish you would get from your child’s teacher? Whose job is it to see that information is given? Are you, as parent, waiting for your child’s teacher to initiate communication? Are you, as the teacher, waiting for the parent to initiate communication? Why wait? Be the one to make the first step. Aren’t you both trying to achieve the same thing? Communication is a key factor for making this relationship work. The parents need information about what and how their child is learning, and the teacher needs important feedback from the parents about the child’s at-home learning and social development. That mutual respect and interdependence of home, school, and the community are essential to children’s academic success and overall development”.

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