Although the end of school year is fast approaching it’s never too late to learn some tips on how to support your child’s classroom teacher without being a “helicopter parent.” Especially, in today’s political climate when threats of education cuts, protests and looming strikes are dominating the news. As a teacher and a parent of three children (including two school-aged children), I want to remind folks that it’s never too late to offer support to your child’s teacher in a variety of ways.
1. Volunteer your time.
The majority of teachers LOVE extra help in the classroom. We can almost always use a set of extra hands especially in the younger grades. Volunteers on field trips, during presentations by an outside organization and during hands on activities which require extra assistance are almost always appreciated. We also love parents who come in “just because” and help us with our bulletin boards, art prep and even our photocopying. Each school board has different screening requirements for volunteers so check with your classroom teacher before you are due to volunteer.
2. Volunteer your skills.
Our parents come with a plethora of skills and for the most part we’d love to have your expertise in a certain area if we can make it work within our curriculum. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a children’s author, paramedic, bio chemist and a professional dancer come into my classroom and treat my students to mini presentations.
3. Volunteer your money.
If volunteering your time isn’t plausible, we are always in need of classroom resources and supplies. Classroom teachers are given a very small amount each year to set up their classrooms and with this money we are expected to buy all classroom supplies and essentials (pencils, notebooks, art supplies and even paper towels, and tissue). One parent I know sends her two school-aged children to school the first week with a box full of classroom essentials as a gift to their teacher: a brilliant idea!
4. Never jump to conclusions.
As a parent I know how easy it is to have our “parental claws” out when our little ones come home from school stating they were kept in at recess, or weren’t allowed to take a library book out that day. More often than not there is always a perfectly valid reason for the teacher’s decision (they missed the first 5 minutes of recess because they had to stay in to put their art materials away or the librarian was absent that day). Take the time to reach out to the teacher in whichever way you and your child’s teacher communicate regularly and get their side of the story. Our little ones often make mountains out of mole hills.
5. Remember teachers are humans too with lives outside the classroom.
As much as we love our jobs and are often seen before and after school coaching school sports teams, running French club, making sets for the school musical, teachers do have lives outside the classroom. Teachers are humans that experience the same life path that we all do — our loved ones die, some of us will go off on maternity or paternity leave, most of us get sick more often than the average person. Being treated as you would want to be treated is a good thing to remember.
6. Small acts of kindness go a long way.
I remember being asked during a parent teacher interview I had with a student’s mother, “What can my son and I do to make your year go smoothly?” I was gobsmacked and it took me a good few minutes to come up with an answer because I’d never been asked that before. It also really makes a teacher’s day or week when a student brings you an apple or flowers from their garden, or a parent asks how your day went at school pick up. Even a simple “thank you” goes a long way.
7. Teach your child to appreciate and respect their teachers.
Now that I’m on the “other side of the fence” and get to pick my two children up from school this year, I’ve become privy to the parent conversations that happen at the school gates before and after the school bell goes. Most of the time the conversations are jovial enough but sometimes they can turn sour. And a lot of the time the “nit picking” about this teacher and that teacher is taking place in front of their children. How can you expect your child to appreciate and respect their teachers if they don’t hear you doing it? The best compliment I received from my son’s teacher was when she asked me the second week of school if my husband or I were teachers. When I responded yes and asked her if my son had told her, she said, “No, I can tell by the way he speaks to me, with respect and admiration,” What a compliment!
8. Take the onus for your child’s education.
As much as we ARE responsible for a lot of your child’s wonderful milestones in life (learning to read and write, learning appropriate social skills, behavioral skills), we cannot be expected to raise your children for you. Parents need to take responsibility for some of their child’s learning and actions. Simply, leaving it all up to the teacher is not only inequitable but completely impractical.
9. Stand up for teacher’s rights.
When the political climate turns sour towards teachers (which it always does when our contracts are due to expire) stay informed on what educators are actually fighting for. The majority of the time it’s NOT a pay rise but cuts that directly affect your children (increase in class sizes, cuts to special programs, etc.). Do your research and find out what political action you can take (attending certain marches, writing to your local representatives, voting for certain candidates who support education).
10. Remember that our common interest is the interest of your child.
As sad as it sounds, the reality is your child’s classroom teacher spends more time with your child than you do, so striving for a safe, inclusive classroom that supports quality education and supporting the educators that teach within it should be a shared goal to ensure that our common interests (your children) are the ones who benefit.