I just experienced one of the craziest rituals of the year. The back to school open house. Students swarmed the hallways and their excited but nervous voices echoed through a building that had been dormant for months. It warmed my heart to see old faces and to shake the hands of those I will guide through 6th grade for the next nine months.
But it’s not the students that make my heart skip a beat and my hands quiver slightly, it’s the parents. No matter how many years I teach, my adrenaline is always pumping when I meet new families. I want them to hear me, really hear me, and not just with their ears. I want them to know my heart, know my desires for their children and understand my perspective on education. I want a partnership with them, one built on trust and on a common goal; educating their child.
As a parent longing for camaraderie with my children’s teachers and as a veteran teacher myself, here’s a few great ways to build a strong bond with your child’s teacher.
1. Pray for your child’s teacher!
Teaching is by far the toughest job I’ve ever had! It’s a(n) demanding, exhausting, heartbreaking, exhilarating experience rolled into an 8 hour work day. Then I go home, start the mountains of paper work, surf Pinterest for creative ideas and e-mail parents. There’s not enough hours of the day when school is in session and often that’s when the evil one attacks me spiritually, emotionally and professionally. I covet the prayers of my student’s parents, and know teachers everywhere that would agree. We need prayers in all aspects of life: our families, our health, our finances, our relationships with students, our relationships with parents, for our creative heart, and for strength/endurance. Covering a teacher in prayer is simple and can be done anywhere at anytime. While it may seem like a silent strategy for building a strong bond, it will change YOUR heart and the rest of these tips will become second nature.
2. Be respectful.
Teachers come in all shapes and sizes, with varied personalities and strengths. I’ve been the beloved teacher that students were thrilled to get. I’ve been on the opposite end of the spectrum, where students were less than happy to have me as their teacher. I’ve had school years with strong connections to parents and little conflict. I’ve had years where I struggled with a few families on my roster. Whatever your position is on whom your child has been assigned, always be respectful. If an issue arises, question gently and with respect. Even if doesn’t seem like it, teachers DO want the best for students and when shown respect, will be eager to help you come to a mutual understanding. Keep in mind, your child may not be matched with a “favorite” teacher every year. But, your child has something to learn from every teacher, including the valuable life skill of treating everyone with the love of Jesus.
3. Be understanding.
Sometimes teachers are glorified messengers, meaning the curriculum (the message) has been given to us by a higher authority. We often do not get to choose what or how we teach. Sometimes we may even disagree with what we are teaching, but the curriculum was provided and we are to follow its flow. When you see a unit, project or test that was not something you would choose for your child, remember your teacher might not have chosen it either.
Be understanding of the teacher’s personal time outside of school. We have families and lives that are often put on the back burner August – May. Please extend kindness and grace by respecting the boundaries of our personal time. As a teacher, I am always thankful for a family that is involved, attentive, but also gives me room to breathe and does not demand attention 24/7.
4. Put an end to gossip.
I never knew schools were such gossip mills until I started working in one. Rumors spread like wildfire, and often teachers are given an undeserving reputation. Teachers can be made to sound like ogres, when in reality, the job description calls us to speak words of correction, truth and honesty, even when it is not popular or accepted well by students. So when the rumor mill is ablaze with words of destruction, help extinguish them with words of truth, of grace, and by not spreading those harmful rumors.
5. Be encouraging.
There are families that I will always cherish simply because of their words of encouragement. Maybe the message came in the form of a hand written note or an e-mail full of thanks. Regardless of the method, the teacher heart loves to know it is making a difference. We do what we do to impact the lives of students and when you let us know our diligence is paying off, that spurs us on to teach another day.
Thank you to the students and families I have loved and taught over the years! It’s an honor to see students grown and know I had a small part in shaping who they are today.
How have you fostered a bond between teachers and parents? Are there methods your family has used for handling sticky situations? I treasure your feedback!