Back to School

An Apple for the Teacher

What do you have to gain by developing a positive relationship with your child’s teachers? A lot more than you might have thought!

One year, when I was a classroom teacher, I had been transferred to a new school. The day before school started, I was setting up my classroom when a woman and her son peeked in…Debbie and Logan. Logan would be in my class that year and they stopped by to warmly welcome me to their school; Somehow I knew then that Debbie was going to be a fun parent to work with.

Sure enough, during the first week of school, Debbie sent in brownies and a note thanking me for the Parent Handbook I had distributed. Debbie was a teacher in another district and she had empathy for the amount of time it took to prepare them.

About once a month, Debbie continued to do small things that simply communicated, “I appreciate your effort.” Sometimes she sent in a goodie bag of her latest homemade treats or would jot a short note on Logan’s homework to tell me how much he learned from our latest science experiment. Naturally, I ended up giving Logan some specialized attention because I knew my efforts were being recognized.

This does NOT mean I was ‘playing favorites.’ I simply honed in on Logan more quickly than other children because his mother gave me feedback about what was helpful to her and her son.

Logan was a bright student, but had difficulty learning how to read. He was good at math, but reading -with all of the ‘exceptions to the rules’ that are characteristic of the English language- was not registering very easily in Logan’s logical mind.

Over time, I was able to personalize his instruction. For example, I found books that were interesting to Logan: math-based stories, books about designing automobiles, and how to do origami. His interest in these topics provided important background to help him understand what he was reading and, more importantly, motivated him to read. His mother credits this as the major turning point for him learning how to read and she was even more grateful than ever before!

I have to admit, however, I felt guilty accepting her praise. It is human nature to gravitate and respond to positive feedback. As a teacher, Debbie was simply being the kind of parent that she would have wanted in her class. What she did not realize is that her efforts inspired me to tune into her son and be more effective as his teacher. She also inspired me to be a better parent, myself.

My two-year-old son goes to daycare part-time and his teachers have made our lives wonderful. Their compassion and professionalism give me great confidence and allow my son to love ‘school.’ Debbie inspired me to share my appreciation with his teachers by sending in little gifts or short notes describing something nice my son has said about them. As a result, I learned another great benefit about being a positive parent; when I have a problem or concern, his teachers respond right away and graciously work with me because they know I respect them.

*** Action Plan ***

Regardless of your child’s age –preschool or high school- you can show support for teachers. Keep in mind that middle and high school students will not want to take in a plate of cookies for each of their teachers. However, even if your child is older and has several teachers, you can do simple things to touch base:

- Send an email to say “thank you” for a progress report or to tell the teacher something nice your child said about him/her.

- Drop a candy bar in the teachers’ mail boxes with a note attached (i.e. “Some fuel for the first day of school. Welcome back and thanks for all you do!”)

- Around the holidays, consider sending in a small value gift certificate to a local coffee shop or deli.

These are just a few examples of the countless small and inexpensive ways to show appreciation.

One note of caution: Always be genuine! Never say something you do not mean or teachers will be wary. Do not be too flowery or you will turn them off. Short notes, kind words, and small tokens of appreciation are all you need to make a teacher’s day.

*** In Conclusion… ***

Share your appreciation with your child’s teachers and you will:

- Give a much needed morale boost to teachers.

- Naturally encourage them to pay greater attention to your child, which will make his/her education more effective. -and- – Promote greater cooperation from teachers when you have to address a problem or concern.

It is never too late to let teachers know that you value their contribution to your child’s life. You and your child will reap great returns from your efforts!

-Susan Kruger

(Google+)

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