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Connecting with your child's school, teacher and principal: some simple, helpful suggestions

Learning discipline and life skills together


By Rose Marie Garcia Fontana

Often, parents feel apprehensive, even intimidated, about approaching their child’s teacher or principal. The truth of the matter is that most educators welcome the opportunity to talk with parents. Rather than wait for you to be approached by the teachers, you would do well to take the initiative and reach out to them first.

I offer here some helpful suggestions for developing a closer relationship with your child’s teacher and principal. First, start out with the teacher:

  1. Send a friendly note to the teacher, with your child, introducing yourself, and letting the teacher know that you would like to meet with him/her, at a time that would be convenient. If your note is in a language other than English, ask someone you trust to translate the note for you, since most teachers speak only English.
  2. When you hear back from the teacher, about the date and time he/she is available, be sure to arrive on time, and perhaps bring a little gift like flowers or some home-baked cookies.
  3. At the meeting, explain that you would like to offer your email address, and personal cell phone number, so that the two of you can stay in touch. Be sure to emphasize that you want to be proactive, and would like to help the teacher in any way you can. Your goal is to help your child succeed in school by being connected with the teacher on a more personal basis. Make it clear that you want to be supportive for the sake of both your child and the teacher, and that you are interested in helping the other students as well.
  4. Offer some specific ways you can help: volunteering in the classroom, helping out with recess or lunch yard duty, reading with individual students, making craft projects, teaching a Spanish lesson to the students, or doing a cooking lesson, such as making tamales or cookies with the class. Teachers usually welcome some outside help, especially since their class sizes have increased, and many may feel overwhelmed with their many duties and tasks they have to complete.
  5. After your meeting, follow up with another handwritten note, thanking the teacher for their time and that you are very happy to have met him/her.
  6. If the teacher has accepted your offers of help, be sure to follow through, be on time, and be prepared. Your child will most likely be very excited about your participation in the classroom, and the other children will also take note.
  7. If the teacher doesn’t accept your offers of help, don’t take it personally, and simply follow through with other notes that will inform the teacher that you are a concerned and involved parent. For example, if your child has done an interesting homework assignment, you could attach a note to the homework, letting the teacher know that you appreciate his/her efforts in creating the assignment.
  8. At special holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day, try to send a little gift or card, expressing gratitude for the teacher’s efforts.

Suggestions for connecting with the school principal:

  1. Every school by law has to have a parent leadership component. Find out when the parent meetings are held, and be sure to attend.
  2. At the meeting, listen carefully for volunteer opportunities and either before or after the meeting, let the principal know that you are very interested in supporting the school and the school staff in any way that you can.
  3. Whenever there are school sponsored events, such as book fairs and read-a-thons, offer your services. If you work, and can’t attend the events, you can make yourself known through sending a note to the principal, letting him/her know that you are unable to be there in person, but you will provide some financial support.
  4. Let the principal know beforehand, by sending a note, that you interested in supporting the school, and for that reason you will be attending school board meetings as often as possible.
  5. Find out when the district school board meetings are held, and attend as many as you can. You will find out a great deal about how decisions are made in the school district. School districts are required to provide interpreting at meetings, so if you speak a language other than English, you will be able to understand the proceedings.
  6. At the school board meetings, there is usually an opportunity at the beginning of the meeting, for people in the audience to make statements. It would be very helpful if you can stand up at the meeting, and say a kind word or two about your child’s school, teacher, or principal. Your statement can be as simple as, “I am a parent with a child at ….School, and I would like to commend the school and the school staff for all their efforts in helping our children succeed. If there is anything that we parents can do to support the educators of this district, please know that we are very eager to do so.”
  7. After attending the school board meeting or a school PTA meeting, follow up with the principal, by sending a note, that you appreciated the opportunity to participate and that you will continue to do so.
  8. Whenever possible, be visible, be proactive, and always be positive. If a negative situation occurs with your child or with the school, remain calm and patient. Listen carefully to the principal and teacher, and bring your spouse or a trusted friend with you to any meetings. Follow up with any recommendations, and also offer your own suggestions.
  9. At special holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day, try to send a little gift or card to the principal, expressing gratitude for the principal’s efforts.

In conclusion, parents need to realize that schools serve as important transmitters of not only information, but of culture as well. The child’s home culture is also very important, and you as a parent have values and beliefs that you want your child to have. Therefore, educators and parents have the responsibility to provide a solid foundation for children, participating in both the mainstream culture and their own home culture.

The adults need to demonstrate to the child that they are working together, for the good of the child, and that the child also has a responsibility to do his/her best. When the child learns that he/she must perform to the very best of their ability, and that home and school are working together, then the message will be internalized by everybody-- everyone has a job to do.

The child’s job is to learn, the teacher’s job is to help each student achieve high standards, and the parent’s job is to be vigilant, supportive, and loving.

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