Classroom Confidential: Insider Tips from School Staffers

We asked teachers and other school staff what they talk about behind closed doors -- what they really wish they could tell parents to do to help kids excel. Use their candid answers to make sure your child has the best year yet.

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Watch Your Words
"Refrain from saying negative things about the school or the people who work there in front of your kids. In many cases, school wasn't a good experience for the parents, so they tend to speak about teachers in a way that's inappropriate, which can poison their kids' outlook." --Illinois school superintendent

Unplug Your Child
"Increased screen time means that kids read less. Book time should be a daily activity, and TV should happen mainly on weekends." --Florida fourth-grade teacher

Encourage Writing at Home
"Don't limit your child's writing to assignments and essays. Have her write birthday thank-you notes, and check to make sure she's added details so it's more than just, 'Thank you for the game. I like it.' You could also have her write monthly letters to your parents or in-laws, which will boost her basic writing skills." --Virginia third-grade teacher

Stop Being a Homework Enabler
"It's a good idea to look over your child's assignment, but don't make the mistake of hovering over her while she's doing a math equation or correct all of her spelling mistakes. It causes problems down the road, because your kid becomes afraid to take tests or solve problems on her own." --Ohio fourth-grade teacher

Show Up for Events
"It's crucial for parents to come to 'back-to-school night,' conferences, and other events so that you're on board with what your child is learning. This year, out of a class of 24 students, only one mom attended a classroom event. It was a shame, because the kids had put in a tremendous effort to prepare for it." --Georgia third- to fifth-grade teacher

Obey School Hours
"I'll get at least a few kids who are habitually dropped off late and another three or four who are picked up 15 minutes early. That may not seem like a lot of time, but we've got less than seven hours to fit in a whole lot of learning. Every minute of the school day really counts." --New York first-grade teacher

If He's Sick, Keep Him Home
"A child who is ill has no business being in school. I get students who come directly from their parent's car or the school bus to my office saying, 'My mother told me if I didn't feel good to go to the nurse.' If your child has a fever, don't give him a dose of Tylenol in the morning and then send him to school sick so you can go to work. Instead, make alternative arrangements. Also don't send your kid if he's vomiting or has diarrhea." --Pennsylvania elementary-school nurse

Avoid Rushing to Judgment
"If a kid is having behavior problems and gets in trouble, a lot of parents take the offensive. They tend to believe their kid rather than the teacher. They'll say, 'How could you do this to my child?' instead of waiting to hear the whole story. The truth is, I don't want your child to be miserable. But if he's being disruptive in class, then he needs consequences." --Ohio fourth-grade teacher

Make an Effort to Volunteer
"Parental involvement in the classroom goes a long way toward building a bond with us. Even if you work full-time, you can still help out by taking home a project to prep for the teacher or bringing in a special craft or some school supplies once in a while." --Montana preschool teacher

Integrate Learning Into Everyday Activities
"I love when my students' parents tell me that they practiced a counting lesson by following a dinner recipe together and then reviewed it again by sitting outside and counting the cars that passed by. It helps to drive home our classroom lessons." --Kentucky special-education teacher

Insist on Respect
"I'm amazed at the number of kids who talk back to their parents or throw their book bag at them as though their mom was their servant. Kids who think it's okay to be disrespectful to their parents won't respect their teachers or their friends either." --New York first-grade teacher

Don't Raise a Disrupter
"At school, your kid must learn to coexist in a classroom of 25 kids. It's difficult to teach a class when one child continually acts out to get the attention of the other students." --North Carolina first-grade teacher

Go the Extra Mile for Me
"I love it when a mom e-mails to tell me that her child enjoyed a lesson at school or to explain what they talked about to further the discussion at home. Positive feedback is wonderful: In my purse I keep a complimentary note that a mom wrote me. I use it as motivation to get me through the bad days." --Georgia kindergarten teacher

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