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.

By The Ryals' Wedding Party
June 11, 2015
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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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Treat Me as an Equal

"At parent-teacher conference time, I value parents who value my time and offer a compromise that works for both of us. It's annoying when parents expect me to accommodate their schedules without taking into consideration that I have a family and other responsibilities too. " --Ohio fourth-grade teacher

Send Lunch, Not Money

"Schools have been trying to make lunches healthier for years, but the truth is that most kids who buy theirs at school still aren't choosing stuff that's good for them. I see them go through the line, and they're not picking the nutritious offerings. If you pack your child a healthy lunch, you're taking control over what he eats. Even better, have him help you make it!" --New York first-grade teacher

Offer a Helping Hand

"One amazing parent texts me every week to see whether I need anything for the classroom and then brings in those things. When we broke the carving tool midway through making jack-o'-lanterns, another mom saved the day by driving over with a replacement." --Georgia kindergarten teacher

Follow Through with Consequences

"I have a mom who asks me at pickup if her child had a good day. On the two occasions when I told her that he had made bad choices, she took him aside, talked to him, and had him apologize to me. He is one of my best-behaved students. I believe that's because he knows there's a direct link between his school behavior and his home life." --Texas second-grade teacher

Think Before You Pack

"Some kids get teased because their lunches look and smell different. One girl brings the same lunch every day, and I know she would like to eat something else once in a while. In fact, she's the first one with her hand up if someone is giving something away." --New York cafeteria monitor

Feel Free to Question My Decisions

"I have no problem taking the time to explain the whys and hows of my approach -- as long as it's not in front of the kids. If a mom asks, 'Why can't my child come to you to solve her friendship problem at recess?' I'm happy to go through it: 'We've taught her how to handle disagreements all year. First I modeled it, then I helped her solve the problem standing next to her, and now I trust her to solve it on her own. It is important that she learns this skill now so she can get better at it as she gets older.'" --Georgia kindergarten teacher

Help Your Child Fit In

"I once had a second-grader whose mother sent her to school with a sippy cup every

day so she wouldn't stain her shirt -- even though her classmates called her a baby.

The parents of a first-grade boy with long, curly blond hair wouldn't let him get a haircut even after his classmates made fun of him and called him a girl. No student should be teased or bullied for any reason. But let's face it: Kids can be cruel. When children have friends and are part of a group, it makes the school day so much more enjoyable for them. So listen to your child. Ask him what's going on at school. And find out what you can do, within your power, to improve his school life." --New York phys-ed teacher

Driver Directions

Teach Proper Bus Behavior

"Your child needs to follow the rules of being a safe passenger, especially staying in her seat while the bus is moving. If I'm distracted, I may not react quickly enough to avoid an accident. I tell my kids, 'Put your seat on the seat, back to the back, and feet in front of you with your backpack on your lap. We ride safely like that.'" --Missouri school-bus driver

Let Her Ride

"If your child has a hard time saying goodbye, putting her on the bus helps to create a clear separation between home and school. If you must drive her, trust the teachers to redirect your child if she cries or has a tantrum. The key is to give her a kiss, say, 'Goodbye, see you later, honey,' and leave quickly. The more you linger, the harder it becomes." --New York assistant principal

Arrive at the Stop on Time

"When I have to hold the bus for a child, the ride becomes that much longer for all the kids and causes us to miss the beginning of school. The same goes for being there when I drop your child off in the afternoon. We get there on time. Shouldn't you too?" --Indiana school-bus driver

Display Good Manners

"Many parents don't teach their children to respect the school-bus driver as they would a teacher. A lot of kids don't reply to my 'Good morning,' and it comes across as rude. The same is true of parents. I have a few adults who thank me regularly, and it makes the day so much better. If you're shy, a smile works just as well." --Missouri school-bus driver

The Secret Language of Teachers

Every profession has its insider lingo, and teachers are no exception. Below

are a few expressions that commonly get tossed around in the break room.


When a school administrator spends an excessive amount of time making the morning announcements over the public-address system

Milk-carton photo

A student who is consistently absent or missing from class

Repeat customer

A child who has to stay in the same grade for another year


Another name for the cafeteria -- because that's where all the homework gets copied

Frequent flyer

A student who often winds up doing time in detention

Prayer meeting

When a parent requests a sit-down with a teacher to discuss her child's poor behavior

Choir practice

An after-school gathering of teachers and administrators, usually held in a place where alcohol is served

Wasted snow

A big storm that occurs on a weekend, so no one gets a snow day

Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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