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Tales from a Teacher: How to Play an Active Role in your Child's Education

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In my career and during college I have come across some of the worst teachers as well as some of the absolute best. During one of my internships, my mentor told me to never do anything other than what is in my job description or the school would take advantage of me. I could see her point, but it was a very depressing approach. It seemed as if she had given up on the young generation and as if teaching was a great burden (I got the impression she requested an intern so she could have a break). Educators have a very important role in the life of a child. Although some teachers are not able to stay after class to help students, there are still ways to reach out to students and help them reach their true potential.

The first, and most important, educator in your child's life is you. Parental involvement makes such a difference in a child's development, achievement, and morale. Schools and parents all have crucial roles to play and the impact is much greater when parents and schools work in partnership. Some teachers roll their eyes when they constantly deal with an "overbearing" parent, but don't shy away from asking questions and working with the teacher. Below, I have compiled a list of how parents can have the ideal relationship with the school without being overbearing or demanding.

Start at Home: Education extends beyond the classroom and starts once your child opens his eyes. Reading to or with your child is a great learning activity, especially when your child is young. If your child is older and you have time, grab two copies of the summer reading selection and discuss the chapters during dinner. The dinner table is also a great place to talk about your day and listen to your child. Help your child with organization throughout the day so that the skill carries to the classroom and after graduation. And finally, check homework. Do not do the homework, but make sure your child understands the assignment. If he or she does not understand or is having trouble something, try to explain it or bring it up to the teacher.

Help at School: There are so many ways to be involved or volunteer at your child's school, just don't volunteer to do everything. Remember, you are not being paid to help out, so don't put too many burdens upon yourself. Schools are usually looking for parents to tutor children during school hours or help in the classroom (depending on the grade). If your child's school has sports or clubs, you can usually attend games or performances for free if you volunteer at the snack or ticket booth. There are also plenty of opportunities to showcase your expertise. If you like to write, you can help schools write press releases or help design and decorate the hallway during the weekend. Volunteering at school is wonderful, but I know many parents are not able to do this because of work or other restrictions. Most schools understand this so don't feel pressured to join or volunteer for anything that would rob you of the small amount of free time you might have.

Involvement in the Classroom: Teachers love to see a parent who is active in the education of his or her child. While is it acceptable to make suggestions or voice concerns, it is not polite to make demands of the teacher. Parents have to remember, children are often different in an environment away from home. I would suggest the parent visits the child during school hours to observe how he behaves and interacts with others. It doesn't hurt to meet with your child's teacher and make an education plan. Ask the teacher what her goals are for the students at the end of the school year, write them down,and try to help your student meet these goals by the end of the year. See if your child's teacher has a classroom website or an email or phone number for parents. Just make sure you aren't constantly calling for homework assignments. If your child is repeatedly failing to write assignments, you may have to have the teacher (or each teacher for middle/ high school) sign the assignment pad at the end of the day or the end of each class.

Be Positive: Never speak poorly about your child's teacher or school. It is natural for a child to "hate" school but when a parent reinforces these feelings, the student loses respect for the teacher and develops a very bad attitude. If you feel as if the teacher is giving too much homework or treating your child unfairly, bring it up to the teacher in private. You can also talk to the administration if you fail to see changes, but do so discreetly.

Hear Both Sides of the Story: While punishments are often unfair, it seems as if parents jump to defend their child based on his story. Remember, your child is not just telling his side of the story, he is pleading his case and may leave out some very important details. Meet with the teacher or administration alone to discuss the incident. Ask if there were any eyewitnesses. If there were not, ask why they assume your child is at fault. Most schools have policies such as no-violence or no-cheating. Even if your child wasn't the first one to throw a punch or was pressured to help someone cheat, they may receive the same punishment. It's hard to tell your child to walk away from a bully and not fight back, but shrugging it off is the best way to avoid punishment. Most bullies are just looking for a reaction and will eventually move on if you try to ignore them. Often, the most embarrassing thing for a child is having a parent verbally defend him in front of his peers. I am not suggesting to ignore serious or ongoing problems, just discuss them in private with administration.

Every parent comes across a less than ideal teacher every now and then, It is a shame, but it doesn't mean your child is doomed. Try to develop a relationship with the teacher and stay involved. Most teachers went into education because they wanted to help children and make a difference. When parents show they care and share the same goals, it gives teachers hope. Some parents are unable to physically be there as much as they would like because of work or other obligations, but there are so many ways to support your child and be a part of his or her education.

VirginiaPeanuts posted Feb 13, 2012

Nice write up VirginiaP! I don't even have kids and I read it. I hope some parents out there read this and take it to heart. Thanks for the hard work and dedication :)

solowkoe (rep: 5.7k) posted Feb 13, 2012


I agree. Parents need to get as involved as they can in the very early stages of their child's development. It's hard sometimes because some parents are having kids as teenagers and they are still babies themselves. They don't have the proper education or knowledge to be parents.
Thank you for sharing this article, I applaud teachers all over their hard work and dedication.

gangstabarbie (rep: 21k) posted Feb 13, 2012


:) Thanks for the nice comments!

VirginiaPeanuts (rep: 12.4k) posted Feb 14, 2012



Cathy12 (rep: 6) posted Feb 16, 2012