Working Together with Your Child's Teacher

No matter how old your child is, it's still possible for parents to be helpful from home, express any concerns, and make the most of those times when they do see the teacher. Here's how.

Get Off to a Good Start

"Writing a brief note to the teacher at the beginning of the year sets a positive tone," says Robert Brooks, Ph.D., coauthor of Raising Resilient Children (NTC/Contemporary Publishing). "Tell a bit about your child's strengths, weaknesses, and interests." Include contact numbers at home and at work, including an e-mail address if you have one, and invite the teacher to share any concerns with you.

During the first few weeks, the most important thing you can do is carefully read all the handouts from the teacher. These will be the key to understanding classroom rules and routines. Open-school night will probably be your first formal introduction to the teacher. When you visit the classroom and hear about the curriculum, pay attention to the teacher's expectations for parents. For instance, if your child will be learning to read, the teacher may talk about how to be a good reading mentor and keep a daily reading log. Find out how she prefers to be contacted. Open-school night is not the best time, however, to have an in-depth discussion about your child.

On open-school night, teachers ask for volunteers. "Parents should get involved as much as they can," advises Melanie Bowden of San Mateo, California, a former teacher now at home with her two daughters. "If you can't come in during the day, you can still take the guinea pig home for the weekend or make phone calls to other parents to organize a class trip." Most teachers understand if you aren't able to volunteer. (After all, teachers are never free to volunteer in their own kids' classrooms.)

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