Having a son with ADHD really reinforced the importance of my building a good working relationship with his teachers. Being married to a teacher didn't hurt, either. It reminded me to look at things from that perspective, too.
While we all know that relationships are critical to success in life, we sometimes overlook the importance of the relationship with our child's teacher. When we really stop and think about it, next to parents, teachers are often some of the most influential people in your child's life.
So, what can you do as a parent to support this relationship?
Here are 20 ideas -- from both my personal and professional perspectives – for you to try:
- Try to get a great match with the teacher's personality/style and your child. While schools won't just give you the teacher you want, they are open to making “good matches.”
- Be supportive of your teachers. Let them know you understand that they have many other children in the classroom and limited resources. Empathy and understanding goes a long way.
- Give them positive feedback if things they are doing are going well. Teachers most likely came into the field to help kids learn. They are primarily helpers at heart and appreciate being noticed for being helpful.
- Be reasonable in your requests. Ask only for what you really need and let them know why you need it.
- Have limited time frames around what you need- i.e., “For the next 2 weeks, I need info about whether he can remain focused.”
- As a parent, initiate the responses needed, keep it short, and automate as much as possible. Teachers have many students they need to keep track of. It is often easier for them to respond, rather than be expected to initiate.
- Don't wait until teacher conferences. Ask to connect earlier. If problems surface- act quickly.
- Gift cards, especially for books, are generally more appreciated than candy and sweets.
- Use email to update rather than phone as much as possible (unless they request otherwise).
- Ask the teacher what you can be doing on your end to help provide support for your son or daughter.
- Know how much time your child should be spending on homework and how much help you should be giving. A general rule of thumb is spending a total of 10 minutes for each grade level. If your child is spending significantly more time and/or needing significantly more support, it may be time to speak with your teacher and health care provider team.
- It often helps to let the teacher know what you are doing on your end- i.e. counseling, coaching, meds, tutoring, physical activities, etc.
- As much as possible, don't rescue your child from consequences. It may mask the difficulties that need to be addressed and/or managed.
- Help your child develop strategies, structures and supports to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to remembering items, doing homework, etc.
- You may need a formal 504 plan/IEP plan. Even if this teacher is great, the next year's teacher may not be. You also may be boxed out of accommodations if strategies haven't been formally in place. Educate yourself as to what is available. Consider bringing in an advocate if it's not working.
- Teach your children to be respectful and appreciative of their teachers.
- Thank the teacher in writing, and send copies to administration for extra special support or at the end of the year.
- Share strategies that have been successful or that you think may be successful.
- Encourage your child to be part of the academic team- including 504/IEP meetings and decisions on how to manage challenges.
- Self-advocacy is a critical success factor for your child to develop.
Do you have additional strategies to share? Please pass them along. Tried any of the above? Please share how it went. Wishing you all the best for your child's academic success.