I participated in two discussions on the Bam Radio Show about building or understanding the parent/teacher relationship. Each conversation had a completely different spin on the topic. You can listen to each show by clicking on the photos below…

Yup! Today's Parents Are Different: What Teachers Need to Know to Survive Rae Pica with Lenore Skenazy, Suzanne Tingley & Deborah J. Stewart

(Or click here and scroll down the wall to find the title of each radio show) 

Understanding the Teacher/Parent Communications Gap Rae Pica with Jennifer Prior, Laurie Linblad & Deborah Stewart

I will let you go and take a listen to the two shows so you can draw your own conclusions on the perspectives that are shared.

Deborah’s thoughts on building parent/teacher relationships

After I went back and listened to both of these radio shows I was reminded of some of my own experiences as both a parent and as a teacher that I thought I would share with you…

As a parent

About a week before school was to start, I took my daughter to visit her new school – she was entering the first grade. We wondered around the school and found her locker, her classrooms, and the cafeteria. We didn’t dress in school clothes for the visit, instead we wore shorts and t-shirts. As we were preparing to leave the school, a teacher saw us from down the hall and called out to get our attention – there was no one else in the building. My daughter and I looked down the hallway at a teacher standing there with not-so-friendly body language. The teacher proceeded to give us a lecture on how shorts were not allowed in school and walked away.

I was left standing there and I could feel my guard shoot straight up. I didn’t like being spoken to like a child. I didn’t like having another adult think that she had the right to tell me what we could or could not do. I didn’t like feeling like someone else believed she trumped me as a parent. I didn’t like having a perfect stranger bossing me and my daughter around. I didn’t like feeling disrespected. I didn’t like not having a chance to tell her that we were aware of the rules but just taking a quick tour. As of that moment, I didn’t like the teacher and I wasn’t so sure I liked the school either.

As a teacher

When I first started teaching, I had a child in my four year old class who constantly picked on others. On one particular afternoon, this little boy threw a toy and it hit another child in the head. Needless to say, it left a nice little bump. I wrote up an incident report, put some ice on the bump, gave out hugs, gave stern looks for misbehavior, and had a long serious talk about how we must play safely with our toys. It was handled the best way possible and we all went on with our day without any further incidents.

When dad came to pick up his son (the boy with the bump) he read the incident report and then his temper went off. I had never had a parent yell at me before so I was completely caught off guard. Actually, I don’t think I have had a parent yell at me since. The father was angry about his son being hurt, angry that I let it happen, angry that I didn’t call him, angry that this little boy was allowed to continue going to school there, and the list went on. I just stood and listened to the father as he berated me for being such a failure as a teacher – I didn’t know what to say. The next day, his wife came in and apologized for father’s behavior and it made me cry. The mom said, “When he told me what he had said, I knew it must have hurt your feelings. He was just having a bad day and took it out on you.”  I was thankful for her thoughtful words and thankful that she believed I was a good teacher who cared about her son.

The parent/teacher relationship

The parent/teacher relationship can be complex, simple, unpredictable, inspiring, stressful, rewarding, delightful and painful. Entire books are written on the subject and it is often a topic of discussion – even on radio shows. This is because parent/teacher relationships are important. Both parents and teachers have to figure out how to work together and overcome obstacles that get in the way. Not every parent will understand how to do be a partner in their child’s education and not every teacher will feel confident in the process either. So my advice is to keep trying so you will grow and learn how to build the parent/teacher relationship. Don’t let one angry father make you a bitter teacher and don’t let one bossy teacher make you a bitter parent.

Building the parent/teacher relationship

In the radio show, “Understanding the Teacher/Parent Communications,” the following tips are shared…

Teacher’s can help build the parent/teacher relationship by…

  • Offering parents opportunities to get involved in the classroom experience
  • View parents as an important part of the process in educating their child
  • Have conversations with parents rather than just give reports to parents about their child
  • Don’t think you have all the answers – parents have much to contribute about their children’s lives too that may help you understand how best to teach their child.
  • Be genuine and approachable.

Parents should…

  • Understand that children have greater student achievement when parents work as partners in their child’s education.
  • Early childhood is a critical time in a child’s education and learn to understand the ages and stages of a child’s development.
  • Know what things that you can do at home to promote academic development.
  • Get connected with others – don’t isolate yourself.
  • Be supportive and get involved in your child’s learning experiences or classroom in whatever way you can.
See these wonderful tips for “How to Involve Parents in Your Class” from Educational Creativity