Do you wonder how to build a good relationship with your child’s preschool teacher? Many parents feel unsure of how to go about it.
Teachers are focused on children, but they also want to have good interactions with parents and other family members. Family-school relations should be partnerships, with the family and the program working together to support children’s learning and development. Teachers know that children benefit when families have good relationships with their schools. You have a very important role to play in that.
My experience in early childhood classrooms showed me that strong relationships between teachers and families are built on good communication, but people can have different definitions of “good communication.”
For your family, it may happen best with the teacher at your kitchen table during a home visit. You get to know them, and they get to know you, over coffee or tea. Or you may feel that “teacher knows best,” which can make the idea of teacher-parent “partnerships” seem odd. Or maybe you simply prefer to talk to the teacher only at school, and only about what directly concerns your child.
No matter what your preference, there’s still one constant. Teachers want to hear from you about things that help them better understand your child. Why? Because that understanding helps them be more effective at teaching and guiding your child in school.
In this blog, I share some of the words I appreciated hearing from parents back in my days in the classroom—words that helped strengthen our partnerships.
“Here’s how to get in touch with me.”
Teachers and school staff count on being able to reach a child’s parent or caregiver about anything important or urgent. Does your schedule change a lot? Does your employer object when you take calls at work? Does your partner avoid their phone and their email during the day because they need to sleep before their next shift? Some parents don’t like to share such personal details, especially if a situation is only temporary. But make sure the teacher or the office can ALWAYS get in touch with you directly, or with someone who will quickly get a message to you.
“I appreciate that you do ___ with my child (or with the class).”
Did you see the teacher interact with your child in a wonderful way? Do you feel good about a certain part of the program? Take time to say so, in a note, email, or in person. This helps the teacher know you and your child a little better. And just like anyone else, teachers also like to hear when something they do works well!
“I want to ask you something. When could we touch base about it?”
Getting and giving information is essential in any partnership. It can be tempting to try to talk with the teacher when you drop off or pick up your child, but right before school and right after are often hectic times for teachers. It’s best to set another time for a longer conversation.
“I’d like to understand your policy about ___ better.”
It’s important to read the school’s parent manual and check the parent message board and your child’s backpack for notes from the school. School manuals can seem overwhelming with all the rules, all the do’s and don’ts! If you don’t understand a policy, be sure to ask. No one wants parents to be mystified or confused. Even if you don’t agree with the reason behind it, at least the expectations can be clearer for you.
“Our family is going through a change. My child might mention it. Should I call you or email to tell you a little more about it?”
Teachers don’t expect to know everything about your home life, but it helps when they know about a family situation that might make your child seem extra tired, worried, or happy. (And there’s always a chance that your child will mention what’s going on in a way that puzzles or worries the teacher.) Teachers will want to preserve your privacy and have time to respond to what you say.
“I want to observe my child in class. How can I do that?”
You may wonder what your child’s typical school day looks like. Maybe your child is having some difficulty, and you want to see them in action. Teachers appreciate when family members are curious about what school is like for their child. Tell the teacher or the office that you’d like to observe. They may have a specific place for you to sit and want you to come at a time that fits the class schedule. (It’s better to observe story time or outdoor play, rather than the class restroom break!)
“I’d like to help out in some way, but I don’t have much spare time.”
Preschools usually have many ways for family members to be more involved in their children’s school. These may range from reading aloud to small groups, to joining the parent-teacher organization, to cutting out shapes for math and art activities. Teachers appreciate knowing that family members will help when they can.
Those are just some basic suggestions. I urge you to not wait until conference time to interact with your child’s teachers. They will appreciate your efforts to create a partnership with them to help your child learn and grow, right now!