Several educators from my local school district helped us compile the “Classroom-Treatment Connection” chapter of our step-by-step guide Family Road Map. Among other things, they suggested this list for parents to keep in mind as school starts. Understanding a teacher’s perspective can help you work more smoothly with the education team for the good of your child and youth.
1. Most teachers aren’t experts in education law.
A classroom teacher may not always understand your child’s rights under IDEA 2004 or be aware of all the services your child can receive. Start by assuming they want to help, then help them figure out how to do it.
2. Teachers work for the school system.
Like any other employees, they must follow the school rules and carry out the decisions of their superiors.
3. Teachers want your child to learn and be successful.
Sometimes a teacher may not understand what your child needs. Ask if the teacher would like an article or fact sheet that describes your child’s disability or offers classroom ideas.
4. Teachers want you to be involved.
They need you to help them understand your child’s behavior. They need you to participate in carrying out behavior plans and solving problems. Show up for school meetings and volunteer to help, even in small ways.
5. You will get better attention by respecting the teacher’s time.
Find out how and when the teacher likes to be contacted. Schedule meetings in advance and show up on time. If possible, let the teacher know what the issues are ahead of time so he or she can be prepared.
6. Like everybody, teachers can be nervous about change.
A teacher may resist a new method because he or she can’t see how it fits into the routine. Encourage your IEP team to include any necessary teacher training in your child’s plan. IDEA 2004 permits this service.
7. Teachers want to hear from you before a small problem becomes a big problem.
Often, a problem can be easy to fix. Send a note or an email. Be polite. Assume the teacher doesn’t want trouble and would rather keep parents happy.
8. Teachers make mistakes.
However, they don’t appreciate being embarrassed in front of their bosses. Be tactful. Talk to the teacher first before going to a higher-up. The blame-and-shame game cuts two ways but rarely solves a problem.
9. Teachers like to be kept up to date.
Let them know about medication changes and events at home that might affect behavior at school.
10. Teachers like to be praised for their efforts.
Write thank-you notes often. Send holiday cards. Tell the principal or supervisor about the teacher’s good work. (Whenever I was particularly impressed with a teacher’s work, I dropped a note to the superintendent of our 50,000-student system. The people at the top need to know when something’s working–so they are encouraged to make sure it keeps happening.)
Have you found other helpful Parent-Teacher relationship strategies as you prep to go back to school? I would love to hear about your family-tested strategies and share them with our readers.