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Building Partnerships: Teachers & Parents Working Together
By Carolyn Tomlin

As a teacher, you want parents who are supportive of your teaching techniques; who extend classroom activities and learning opportunities at home; and who volunteer when needed. As a parent, you want the best education possible for your young child. You want a loving, caring teacher who shows your child respect; who is knowledgeable about child growth and development; and who demonstrates a professional attitude in the classroom.

 

Regardless of “needs” and “wants” by both parents and teachers, one thing is certain: You both want what is best for the child. For this to happen, parents and teachers must build a working partnership that will make a wonderful child care experience for the child. The following questions and answers are collected from years of experience and tackle many of the questions parents ask of teachers.

 

Question: Due to a large enrollment of five-year-olds, several new teachers were hired. I’m sure that all the teachers are capable, but I have a special friend who I wanted to teach my child this year. My child was placed with another teacher in another room. What should I do?

 

Answer: When a similar situation happened to a colleague, she was deter-mined to convince the mother that her child would be happy and have a positive experience in her classroom. While the teacher didn’t immediately develop the mother’s trust, the relationship grew over time and on Valentine’s Day, the mother sent a box of chocolate candy along with a note of appreciation for her “child’s great teacher.” If all teachers have been carefully screened and interviewed, trust the judgment of the administration. Think positive and expect the best. In addition, try to avoid discussing the situation in front of your child. You don’t want your child to think that something is “wrong” with her teacher. In addition, ask to meet with the new staff member and volunteer your services. By being active in the classroom, you will know how the teacher plans activities, guides children’s behavior, and interacts with the children and the other teachers.

 

Question: Each morning, I walk my child to the door of his child care program. He leaves home happy, but by the time we get out of the car and down the sidewalk, he begins to cry. I just can’t walk away with him crying. What can I do to help my child make an easy transition from home to school?

 

Answer: Meeting Joey and his mother each morning by the door, I would hear comments such as: “Now Joey, if you don’t feel good, we’ll just go back home.” This behavior continued for a couple of weeks until Joey’s father brought him to school. There were no tears and no crying. In fact, Joey had a big smile on his face. His father walked in and said, “I think it’s time for Joey to stay at school.” Letting go is difficult for some parents. For some, it’s more difficult when the oldest child begins school; for others it’s more difficult because the youngest child is beginning school. Joey was the youngest of four children, and his mother wasn’t quite ready to let him grow up. Joey sensed this and he reacted in ways to please his mother. Part of successful parenting is allowing a child to become an independent person. Robert Havighurst, in Child Growth and Development advises parents to know what kind of work each age and maturity level is capable of performing. Encourage children to try new things and be there to guide them in discovering their world and how it works. Invite your child to perform simple chores and activities. As these are completed, move into more complicated duties while praising the child for his accomplishments.

 

Question: As a parent, I believe that my child should always bring home excellent progress reports. Our other children always made an “A” in every subject; there’s no excuse for not excelling.

 

Answer: When I was teaching, a five-year-old boy tried his best to print his name. For this child and others like him, his fine motor muscles had not developed enough to hold a pencil or use crayons successfully. Frustration and failure were etched on his small face each time he tried to write. Over and over, he tried, ripped out the sheet of paper from his tablet, and tossed it in the trashcan. When discussing this behavior with his parents, his mom said, “We only accept the best. That’s our family’s motto.” Children, like adults, have different strengths and talents. How boring it would be if the world were made up of people who were all alike. As a parent, it is important to recognize each child as an individual with his own strengths and weaknesses. As a teacher, it is important to help parents understand what is developmentally appropriate for their child and suggest activities that will nurture their child’s development.

 

Question: Our family has competed in athletic events for years. All our children have participated in soccer, softball, and swimming, and as parents, we’ve tried to set an example for an active lifestyle. Our youngest child doesn’t appear to have any interest in sports. She would rather find a book and beg someone to read. She can’t wait until she can read by herself. What can we do to encourage her to be more athletic?

 

Answer: Wanting your child to participate in activities you enjoy, such as sports, is understandable. And exercise has an added bonus of promoting healthy bodies. Maybe you could you work with your child to identify an activity she would enjoy? Instead of being a part of an organized event, provide times for her to play with other children. Find a playground nearby, invite friends over, or plan family walks. Since your child enjoys reading, set aside a special time each day for the two of you to read a book. See your child as an individual with interests of her own that can be embraced.

 

Question: I’ve heard other parents talk about what their child needs to know before starting school. I want my child to be well prepared for that important first day. What should I be doing to ensure that my child will have a positive school experience?

 

Answer: Parents who spend time talking, reading, and listening help their children grow and develop. Let your child see you read for pleasure, and as soon as your child is old enough, request a library card in his name. Encourage extended family members to give books for gifts. In addition, practicing and mastering the following skills will make those first few days of kindergarten easier for your child.

 

  • Walk in a line.
  • Cut with scissors.
  • Hold a pencil or crayon correctly.
  • Understand that both reading and writing begin on the left side of the page and go to the right.
  • Can repeat name, address, telephone number and parent’s name.
  • Carry a lunch tray.
  • Open a carton of milk.
  • Put on and remove a coat or sweater.
  • Ensure your child can be away from you for several hours. Before school begins, allow the child to stay with family members or a trusted friend for brief periods.
  • Listen to and repeat instructions.

 

It’s important to note that not all children mature at the same rates. Your child may not be ready at age five to attend a formal education program. You know your child better than anyone else, and you should work with your child’s teacher and school administrators to determine what is best for your child.

 

Question: In my child’s class, a few youngsters appear to be in need of clothing, shoes, and basic school supplies. How can I help these children without embarrassing their family?

 

Answer: Wanting to help those less fortunate is a way of giving back to your community while teaching your child to care for and help others. If you’d like to help a family in your child’s class, first speak with the program administrator or head teacher to learn more about the family’s needs. Depending on the program, it might be more appropriate to make an anonymous contribution. Children, without meaning to, can sometimes embarrass the child in need. If making a donation to someone at the school is not appropriate, there are many organizations within your community that accept charitable contributions.

 

Question: My child is vision and hearing impaired. Our family doctor has made suggestions that will help our child succeed in school. For example, he has suggested large print books, positioning our child closer to the teacher when working in small groups, and audio tapes and other materials that make learning fun instead of a difficult challenge she is unable to master. How can I make sure these suggestions are incorporated into the daily curriculum?

 

Answer: If your child is mainstreamed into a regular classroom, you have the right to meet with personnel and discuss any special needs, testing, or change in schedule. Prior to the beginning of school schedule a visit with your child’s teacher to discuss your concerns. Later, take your child on a walk through the building, reassuring her that the teacher will always be present. In addition, volunteer in the classroom and encourage your child to make friends by scheduling play dates and other activities.

 

Carolyn Ross Tomlin has a background in early childhood education, teaching preschoolers and working with university students at Union University, Jackson, TN. She contributes to numerous education publications.

 

Recommended Resources for Parents

Allman, B. (2003). Getting ready for kindergarten: Tracing skills. New York: McGraw-Hill.

 

Allman, B. (2002). Getting ready for kindergarten: Listening skills. New York: McGraw-Hill.

 

Golant, S.K., & Golant, M. (1999). Kindergarten: It isn’t what it used to be: Getting your child ready for the positive experience of education. (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Contemporary.

 

Schultz, D. (2002). Getting ready for kindergarten: Home workbooks. Charlotte, NC: Carson-Dellosa.