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Working With Your Child's Teacher

by Emily Cullen
Cartoon by Emmanuel Chaunu

A friend recently shared with me a comic that contains two panels about the teacher-parent relationship. The panel captioned “1969” shows parents angrily addressing their child about his bad grades while the teacher looks on smugly. The other panel captioned “today” shows parents angrily addressing the teacher about their child’s bad grades while the child looks on smugly. At the bottom is the caption “see the problem?”

Though I will admit that I got a bit of a chuckle from this cartoon, it left me thinking about the fact that it is illustrating two problematic relationships; one where the parents blame and make the student feel badly for not achieving a desired grade, and the other where the parents blame and chastise the teacher for not giving the student a desired grade. While these scenarios can and do happen, neither is helpful for the student.

Ideally, education is a collaborative experience. It is silly to pretend that learning only occurs in the classroom as parents play a huge role in educating their children. Because of this, parents and teachers need to work together to get the best outcomes for students. Although there may be conflicts between teachers and parents, it is important to remember that we are all on the same team and working towards the same goal—the success of students. The main difference is that as teachers, we are thinking about how to find success for a larger group of students, which at times, can leave us more rushed, spread more thinly, and less able to give all the time we want to each individual on a daily basis. However, parents are in a position to extend and reinforce the learning on a more individual basis at home. By working together to achieve the same end goal, we can ease parent-teacher tensions and focus on providing the best learning experience for the student.

As a teacher at Lutherwood, I work in a specialized environment where we work with children learning to cope with mental health struggles. By working very closely with families and guardians to help increase their children’s school successes, I have learned some lessons that are easily transferable to parent-teacher relationships in community schools.

  1. Communicate — Take the time to meet your child’s teacher early in the school year, particularly parent teacher nights if you can attend. Tell them a bit more about your child, learn about what’s going on in the classroom, and leave the door open to future discussions that might be needed as the school year progresses.
  2. Take Time to Listen — Kids behave differently in different environments. Sometimes a teacher sees things at school that are not seen at home. For example, sometimes we notice a child acting out in class and discover that it is because they can’t see the board and needs glasses. Or a child constantly complains of feeling unwell, only to discover they are having relationship difficulties with peers. Even though it can be hard to hear less than glowing reviews of your child’s behaviour, discussing concerns with the teacher allows us to better support your child and help them be more successful.
  3. Assume the Best — When a teacher gives constructive feedback, it is only natural to want to defend your child. In fact, I catch myself wanting to defend my students whenever another teacher gives me negative feedback about one of them! However, if we assume that the feedback (even if it is a less than ideal grade) is coming from a place of caring and a desire to encourage growth, we can avoid negative conflicts and foster the sort of collaboration that will allow your child to grow and be more successful.

Ultimately, while the cartoon takes a humorous approach to shifting the blame of poor performance from students to teachers, it is helpful to think about how parents, teachers and students can avoid placing blame and work together to support the unique social, emotional and learning needs of the child to help them find success at school and in life.

Source: Chaunu, Emmanuel. "Parent-Teacher Relationship" Cartoon. www.chaunu.fr Emmanuel (This cartoon has been modified)