5 Things Teachers Need to Know about Parents

I am the ESTAT chair in my school (that's a fancy name for RtI).  Teachers come to the team when students are struggling and we provide intervention strategies to help students.  After we suggest interventions, we set a date 4-6 weeks out to review the data and decide if the student needs more interventions.  Let me tell you what I don't want to hear..."they are struggling because their parents don't help them at home."  UGH!  I HATE that excuse.

Here are 5 things I think all teachers should know about parents.

1.  Parents don't have a degree in teaching.  

I know this seems too easy, but it's true.  Parents may know their child, but they don't always know how to help their child.  They need you.  Parents need to understand how they can help their child.  Part of our job is teaching them to help their child.  Make sure anything sent home is explained thoroughly. Don't leave this up to the student, they may not have been paying attention.  If you notice a parent is helping "the wrong way," take the time to explain what their child needs.  Make sure it's about their child...not about you!

Teaching Tip:  Include a tutorial of new skills in your newsletter.  Make sure this isn't perceived as demeaning.  Keep in mind your tone and vocabulary.  I had a parent volunteer who would read my "teaching tips" for parents.  She read it as a parent...not a teacher.  We want parents to be empowered to help their child not demeaned in the process.

2.  Parents have a lot on their plate.

Sometimes life gets in the way of school.  It's sad to say, but sometimes parents are stressed, worried, and maybe even panicked about getting food on the table or a roof over their head they need you to take care of their child for 7 hours a day.  Knowing their child is safe and fed may be all they can think about for that day.  They don't have the time or energy to do a lot of homework or reading.  It's the imperfect way of our world today.  As teachers, we need to work with parents and students to help find options for homework or time for completing these tasks.  We also must be very specific and critical of our homework and at-home requirements.

Teaching Tip:  My Open House always includes ideas for practicing skills in the car.  Use a cookie sheet and magnets to practice word wall words.  Use a travel soap container to keep crayons available in the car.  Letter Hunts, Vowel Hunts, Blends/Digraphs Hunt and Word Hunts using menus at a restaurant.

3.  Parents care.

Even when you think they don't, they do.  No one wants their child to suffer or struggle, but some parents are powerless to help.  They are embarrassed they can't help with homework, or can't provide an adequate lunch or snack, or that their own education is limited and they don't know how to help. Some parents had such poor experiences with their own schooling, they are "afraid" or automatically defensive about school.  Help them show they care.  Help them participate.  Help them figure it out.  If you do, everyone benefits.

Teaching Tips:  At the Fall Open House, ask parents to sign 8 notes to their student encouraging good behavior and work habits.  You can be the mailman and deliver the notes to kids every month.  If you can't get the parents in to sign the mail, ask if you can sign their name on these notes.
Are parents a complete mystery to you? Why would they ask that? Why would they skip homework? Why don't they understand what I'm doing? This blog post gives teachers a look from the parent's view.

4.  Some parents see their children less than you do.

We see kids for 7 hours a day.  Believe it or not, that could be more they see their child.  Think about this scenario:  Up and 7, pop-tart for breakfast on the way to the bus at 7:30.  School is out at 3:00 and now their child is off to "daycare" until 6.  After drive-thru dinner, the family heads to soccer or baseball for an hour. I know this isn't a priority over reading, but participating in sports can develop worthwhile skills, too.  Parents can interact with their child positively on the soccer pitch or baseball diamond. I'm not excusing "no homework," I just think we shouldn't judge the parent. After soccer or baseball, it's late...bedtime.  The students are tired, the parents are tired, and none of it adds up to a good time for homework.  The students are off to bed at 8:30.  The sad reality is the parent above has seen their child 3 or 4 hours that day.  You are the one making the most positive connection with that student.  Make it count.

Teaching Tip:  My newsletter contains a "Ask me a Question" section.  Give the parents 2 great questions to ask their child about what they are learning.  (Make sure you include the answers the parents might hear, so the parents can encourage conversation.)
Are parents a complete mystery to you? Why would they ask that? Why would they skip homework? Why don't they understand what I'm doing? This blog post gives teachers a look from the parent's view.

5.  Parents want better for their child.

When the parent argues over every grade, they just want better.  When the parent writes notes every day, they just want better.  When the parent tells you their child is "gifted" and you can't find evidence of that, they just want better.  You need to find a way to make that parent a part of the process.  A partnership is the only way to make the most of a challenging situation.  Make sure you are picking your battles and the battles are worthy of your time and energy.

Teaching Tip: Sometimes the best way to make it through to a parent is having them visit the classroom regularly.  I have always had parent volunteers during center time.  I provide an after-school training for my parents.  I make sure I am clear with my expectations and goals of parent volunteers.  
Are parents a complete mystery to you? Why would they ask that? Why would they skip homework? Why don't they understand what I'm doing? This blog post gives teachers a look from the parent's view.

No excuses...just understanding.

I'm not giving parents an out...and I'm not making excuses.  BUT, if teachers can understand where parents are a bridge can be built more easily.  The most successful students are supported, encouraged, and helped by their teachers and parents.  The partnership is invaluable.

CLICK HERE for resources talked about in this post.

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