Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Parent-Teacher Partnerships Bridge Two Worlds

November 16, 2009

How would your child react to the following statements?

My school offers a quality education.

My community is proud of our school.

I feel I have good communications with my teachers.

I feel like I belong here. I feel safe and liked.

My parents are involved with my teachers and communicate with them.

When children have these attitudes, they have better grades, better school attendance and fewer behavior problems.

A teacher’s responsibility. It takes the gift of love and service to be a really good teacher. A good teacher deals with the individual's capabilities and not his or her own timetable. A good teacher has incredible patience. It is very important that a teacher not judge a student negatively but react to problems with an attitude of understanding and caring.

The incentive in teaching isn’t about money. It is about sacrifice. It’s about love - love of kids, love of subject matter, love for the people they work with, and love for the creative process of teaching. That love is manifest in extra hours, energized lesson plans, and most of all, one-to-one involvement and caring for students.

One comment or act on a bad day can stay with a learner for the rest of his or her life. Students are vulnerable. They are in the hands of the teacher. If the teacher is to teach, he or she must have the trust of the student. That trust is a precious commodity and is necessary for motivation and progress.

A parent’s responsibility. Parents teach their children to value education and respect teachers by honoring and valuing teachers and helping their children meet school challenges and expectations. By having good relationships with the teacher and the school, parents give permission for their children to like and have a good relationship with their teachers. Children learn better when they like their teachers.

One key task of parenting is to teach children respect for authority, both in the home and in society. The teacher and parent need to form a partnership in overcoming any school-based problems. When parents automatically side with their children in any school-based conflict, they undermine their child's ability to be responsible for his or her actions. It also teaches them to challenge adult authority.

Parental involvement. A key factor in greater student performance is parental involvement in school and parent/teacher interaction. The impact of parental involvement is even greater for lower income and minority children.

Parents and teachers form a team. They share the two worlds of a child. They share information and help each other out. Parents can do a few things at home that will help the child become a better learner at school. They

can be aware of homework demands and assist when necessary, help their child set appropriate time priorities and help with motivation.

Good communication with teachers reinforces school expectations and helps to address education problems actively within the home. Knowing what is going on in a child's life and participating in school activities is one way for parents to take their role as parents seriously and care about their child’s development.

When parents attend school events, programs, parent/teacher conferences and volunteer at school, their actions also give children a strong message: Your education really matters to us. Parents can work in local parent/teacher organizations to help improve the quality of education in their school and in the community. Schools welcome such involvement.

Concern brings attention. Parents are thrilled when a teacher knows and cares about their child. Parents respond well when a teacher notices and shares the child's personality, successes and is aware of weaknesses.

Teachers respond well when they feel they are working with a concerned parent who is interested in what is going on at school. If the parent is interested, the teacher becomes more interested.

It is not just the case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Sometimes the well-oiled wheel even gets more grease. Teachers will naturally focus on the children of parents who care and expect feedback.

It is rewarding for teachers to share the joy of progress of their students with parents who appreciate what is happening with their child. When these words of appreciation and recognition are expressed, they really mean a lot to teachers who are trying to make a difference in their students’ lives.

Overcoming problems. By sharing information about learning styles, motivation, peer group interactions, and concerns, parents and teachers help each other. Parents need to be brought into the picture quickly when school methods are failing. By comparing school and home environments, they can define problems and make expectations more realistic. This should be a team approach.

If teachers treat parents with dignity and respect, they can enlist them to play a key role in getting some needed changes to solve difficult problems. When parents and schools are at odds, then mutual solutions using the power of the home and parental expectations don't happen.

There are two sides to every story. Through the miracle of communication, parents and teachers can find common ground in working through difficulties. In select cases, children need strong parental advocacy to cause a change. Even in these situations, respectful communication and diplomacy will create an atmosphere where change is more likely.

When parents and teacher bridge the two worlds of the child, both worlds do better.