Growing up, I knew every teacher in my school either by name or by face. And they all knew me. Every single teacher I ever had was able to access my full academic history from kindergarten through senior year.
That’s because I grew up in a small town. Like 110 students in my graduating class small. Having this level of recognition was also because I lived in that small town my whole life. My parents could easily create amazing parent-teacher relationships because of these factors.
Military families don’t have this luxury. We move every two to three years and need to start all over with every new school.
There isn’t that long history to fall back on. This year’s teacher can’t always just run down the hall to get insights or trips. Instead, military families need to reintroduce their children to every teacher and at every school.
One way to make school easier for military families is to create an amazing parent-teacher relationship.
The first step to building your home and school team is to get everything out in the open right off the bat. When your child arrives at school on the first day (or now, if you haven’t done this already), bring an All About Me letter.
This is where your child gets to share the important details of their life. They could share where your family just moved from, their likes or dislikes, and favorite hobbies or school subjects.
You should also share parent info as well. For all parents, it’s vital to share contact information and a little bit of background details about your child. Note whether there were any trouble spots with academics or behavior. Explain any concerns that you have for this year.
If your child has additional education needs, like special or gifted education, it can be helpful to share copies of your files or create an introduction document explaining your child’s needs.
Why: Approaching the new teacher or school as an equal and providing them with helpful information shows a willingness to play ball. You’re setting yourself up as a resource for your child’s educational history. The teacher will now see you as a team player. Everyone will be ready to work together to help your child succeed.
Advocating for More
If your child has extra needs, it’s important to make yourself heard early in the process. How you approach the situation is equally important, too. It can be easy to send an email demanding more enrichment or extra help. You could call the teacher’s judgement or methods into question in a meeting.
There is a better and more effective way. Parents should send courteous email and keep meetings cordial. The old say that “you get more flies with honey than vinegar” is very true!
Keep your emails formal and the tone neutral in person or in writing. Offer thanks to the teacher for seeing your need or being willing to help you. State your case plainly, without emotion. Close the meeting or email with another “thank you” and offer an opportunity to continue the conversation.
Why: Approaching your child’s education calmly, logically, and without pointing fingers helps create a team feeling. Teachers and schools are more likely to help parents who help to foster trust and mutual respect. Feeling attacked or blamed doesn’t create an atmosphere where everyone is working together, equally. Instead, this creates a place where the parents and school are at war. In these situations, no one wins. Asking for extra help, special education services, or enrichment with respect and courtesy gives teachers incentive to help. And this will benefit your child in the long run.
Dealing with Concerns
You hope it never happens, but the odds are not in your favor. Many parents will experience at least one negative email, phone call, or meeting during their child’s K-12 journey. How you handle these situations can make or break your child’s year.
When you get those surprise calls with bad news, take a deep breath. Then ask for the details. Try to remain calm and keep emotion out of it as much as possible. Your child’s behavior or academics are not a reflection on you as a parent or a person.
Once you know everything, ask about next steps. How can you work with the teacher or school to address your child’s grades? What are the recommended consequences for your child’s actions? Make a plan with the teacher or school. Then follow up on the plan often to check for progress and improvements.
Why: Low grades or poor behavior often trigger emotional responses. When you stay calm and willing to work with the school, the teachers and administrators may be more willing to meet you halfway or offer more supports.
One of the best ways to help your child in school is through parent-teacher relationships. When parents and teachers work together, your child will have a unified team approach to their education. You will understand what is happening at school. The teacher will feel supported and willing to go that extra mile. Everyone will win!
Talk to the Teacher by Meg Flanagan, M.Ed, draws on years of experience and education working in the K-12 world. Meg has taught in public and private schools, as well as working directly with families as a tutor and advocate. Meg is the owner of MilKids Ed, an education advocacy and coaching service focused on military families and serving children with special education needs.
By Meg Flanagan