July 18, 2013
Research shows that one of the most important factors affecting a child’s performance in school is how involved their parents are in their education. How can you be sure that your child is receiving the quality education they deserve? Get involved and be their advocate!
Developing a healthy parent-teacher relationship is a great way to improve your child’s performance in school.
What is an advocate?
An advocate is someone who argues for a cause. In the case of your children and their education, being an advocate means supporting and standing up for them as they make their way through the education system. Parents are natural advocates for their children!
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. You have great knowledge about their strengths, weaknesses and experiences. You are their FIRST teacher and their GREATEST supporter.
Advocate with your Child
- Prepare your child for school everyday. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and breakfast before you send them to school. Also be sure they arrive on time!
- Stay tuned to your child’s experiences. Ask your child every day what were the best and worst parts of his or her day at school.
- Help your children learn to advocate for themselves. Help your child practice how to tell a teacher they did not receive a handout or do not understand a grade.
Advocate with the School
- Get involved with the school. Join the PTA or another volunteer parent groups at the school, and attend open houses or other school-sponsored events.
- Keep good records. Your child will receive important papers, permission slips, and other important documents. Also, instead of tossing school newsletters, read them and keep them in a binder somewhere safe.
- Get to know your child’s teachers, administrators and staff. Make a list of the names of people who will be involved in your child’s education on a daily basis, and do not hesitate to meet with each of them at the beginning of the school year to ask questions.
Advocate with your Child’s Teacher
Getting to know your child’s teachers will not only benefit you, it will greatly improve your child’s chance of success in school. Establishing a strong parent-teacher relationship can be difficult or even intimidating, but there are some great tips to make the process easier:
- Contact your child’s teacher during the first week of school. This gives you the opportunity to meet one another when neither has any complaints.
- Parent-teacher communication should be focused on the best interests of the child. It is essential to your child’s success in school.
- As a parent, you know your child better than the teacher. By giving your child’s teacher insight into his or her character, strengths, interests, needs and areas of concern, it will be much easier for the teacher to establish a relationship with your child.
- Mutual disclosure is another important aspect of the parent-teacher communication process. A parent must be willing to reveal information about struggles at home that might affect the child’s ability to get along with others or properly learn.
- Establish a regular means of parent-teacher communication. Whether communicating by phone, email, or in person, be proactive and work with the teacher in order to solve any problems.
- Another great tip is to send a note of appreciation to your child’s teacher for all that he or she does. Teachers often hear from parents only when there are complaints or conflicts. Acknowledge and inspire teachers with your recognition and support.
- Finally, create a strong parent-teacher relationship by volunteering. Helping out in the classroom is a great way to support your child’s teacher.
Guidelines to help you communicate effectively during Parent-Teacher Conferences
- Identify the purpose of the conference and communicate it with the teacher. When you identify and communicate the purpose of the meeting with your child’s teacher, in addition to being more prepared, it helps to alleviate any imagined fears the teacher may have about your request to hold a conference.
- Arrange the conference at the teacher’s convenience. The teacher then has sufficient time to plan and have the necessary information at the conference.
- Plan for the conference. Write out the areas and questions you want the conference to cover. Clarify and prioritize questions so the teacher will be able to give you a clear and precise answer.
- Display a positive attitude and remain open and supportive during the conference. Be aware of what you say, your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movements, because all of these reflect your attitude. In addition, strive for cooperation so you and your child’s teacher can work together to solve any problems your child may be experiencing.
- Clarify and summarize each important point as discussed. By reviewing important concepts throughout the conference, it will eliminate any misconceptions, and both you and your child’s teacher will be able to develop a mutual understanding and agreement.
- Make sure you understand the information the teacher is supplying. Often times, teachers use educational jargon, and do not realize that parents may not understand. Do not be afraid to ask for an explanation or definition. Also, when the conference ends, make sure you have understood all the information discussed.
- Keep conferences short. Any conference that lasts more than 40 minutes can be tiresome. If you have not accomplished all that has been planned, ask for another conference. Also, by scheduling a future conference, you will have the opportunity to follow up on previous agreements and revise them if necessary.
Potential questions to ask at a school conference:
Asking questions is the best way to stay involved and actively participate in the relationship between your child and the school. Never be afraid to ask questions or request more information, because you have every right to ask about any aspect of your child’s education.
If your child is in kindergarten and 1st grade, the following questions may be the most appropriate:
- Is my child able to get along with others?
- Can my child participate well in group activities?
- What can I do to encourage or help my child learn to read?
- Can you describe my child’s reading program?
If your child is in the 2nd and 3rd grade, you may want to ask these additional questions:
- Is my child experiencing difficulty with any specific skills? If so, what are they and how can we help him or her with these skills?
- Is my child experiencing any difficulty that may hinder him or her in the future?
If your child is in 4th grade and on, some examples of important questions to ask your child’s teacher include:
- Is my child performing above, below or at grade level in basic skills?
- Does my child interact well with other students in the class?
- What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses in major subject areas?
- Does my child need special help in any academic subject?
- Has my child regularly completed assigned homework?
- What achievement, intelligence, or vocational aptitude tests have been given to my child in the past year?
- Have you observed any changes in learning progress? Has learning improved or declined during the year?
When there’s a problem:
Whether it’s bullying on the playground or a drop in grades, advocating for your child can be very important!
- Sit down and talk with your child. Ask your child to explain the problem from his or her perspective so that you can support them as you work through the issue.
- Request a meeting. Make an appointment with your child’s teacher to discuss the problem. A great tip is to bring along someone else for support if needed.
- Keep a positive attitude! Always remember that you and the teacher are working together to help your child.
- Remember that you are an expert when it comes to your child.You know your child better than anyone else.
- Ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions or request more information! You have every right to ask about any aspect of your child’s education.
It takes a village to raise a child who is healthy, caring and responsible. In school, this village starts with the network formed by parents, teachers and administrators who understand that their job is to work together to support and guide the development of your child. Be an advocate for your child, because a strong parent- teacher relationship is paramount to your child’s success at school.
And remember, all aspects of parenting can be tough, but asking for help doesn’t have to be. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!