Having a successful start of the school year can likely set the tone for you as the parent, your child, and the teacher. While first impressions aren’t everything, they can affect your child’s comfort level in a new classroom as well as your own.
As an elementary teacher on hiatus, I have seen the situation from both sides and believe it takes hard work from the teacher and the family to work together to build a strong relationship. It’s not something that will happen over night, but with these few simple tips, you can get the year started on the right foot (and earn some brownie points!).
Meet the Teacher Night – This will most likely be your first interaction with your new teacher, and unfortunately, about 30 other students as well. Use this evening to get familiar with the classroom, pick up paperwork, and scout out the school. Your teacher is eager to get to know your kiddo, however, Meet the Teacher Night is not the night to tell your new teacher everything about your student. He/She will be meeting over a hundred people that night and as overwhelming it is for you, it’s even more so for the teacher. Try setting up a day to stop by before school starts if you have serious concerns, or fill out and return your classroom paperwork. There will most likely be “getting to know you” papers and the teachers really do read them!
Return paperwork – I don’t know how many times my first conversation with a parent was to call and remind them their beginning of year packet was due a week ago. This is uncomfortable all around. My advice is to make sure you set the tone by returning your paperwork early. This gives the teacher time to read packets as they come in and not feel rushed. Trust me…they appreciate the time you take to fill them out, especially when you have multiple children. Maybe even stick a post-it note on top thanking them for being your child’s teacher this coming year.
Email regularly – A great way to get to know your teacher is to send them a quick email the first week of school to show them some appreciation. Give him/her some feedback about the week and how excited your kiddo is to be in their class. As a teacher, I always strived to send at least one email a month to each family, however, as the year went on, it became more and more sporadic. To be honest, by mid-school year, I was mostly concentrating on the behavior issues and not sending positive feedback (my bad). If you don’t hear from your child’s teacher, send them a quick note and ask questions. You already set the positive tone at the beginning of the year, so your teacher should be more than willing to write you back throughout the year.
Make your presence known – Try to volunteer in the classroom. Even if you can’t, offer to take things home to help make the teacher’s load lighter. I always had a “copy” list of parents who were willing to come in and make hours upon hours of copies for me each week. I was able to spend more time with the kids and less time worrying how I was going to get it all done. If that isn’t a possibility for you, ask if you can take something home to help. Even if you can’t do that, make your presence known somehow. Stop by the classroom one morning or afternoon and just say “hi”. It builds trust and communication even through the tiniest gestures.
FOOD – I suppose there is a reason I am overweight now. My students knew I loved chocolate and they would bring it in weekly. This always brightened my day and got me started with a smile, even on those rough mornings. Find out your teachers favorite drink, snack, or treat and make an effort to send them a little something sweet each month so they know you appreciate what they do. Even if you don’t like your kiddos teacher, a little gift might bridge the gap and get the lines of communication rolling.