Recently, I had to send a letter to parents at my school about how they should act when they are in the building visiting their scholars. We have an open-door policy that allows parents to come and visit their scholar’s class anytime as long as they stop by the front office and sign in. Their visit to the classroom does not allow them to interrupt the teacher or ask a question regarding their scholar’s grades or behavior. Over the last couple of weeks, we had a few parents who forgot this portion of the rule and decided they would try to have impromptu meetings with the teacher. During these meetings, the parents became rude and disrespected the teachers. After those incidents, I sent out a straightforward letter. The letter will be followed up by a workshop to educate parents on how to advocate for their students correctly.
As of six months ago, I became a parent. I have quickly developed those parent protective genes. I understand how hard it is to leave your child and let them go because you probably see them the same way I see mine every day, as a baby. But when your children enter school, they are older, and they have to learn. Parents must also learn it is alright to check in on their children, but they must do it a proper way.
As an educator and parent, allow me to offer these tips on how parents should advocate for their children to their children’s teachers.
Tip 1: Find out the teachers preferred method of communication
Having taught both at the high school and middle level, my communication preference was different than it is now as an elementary principal. As a teacher, my communication preference was either email or the school phone. Now, as a principal, I have given out my cell phone number to parents. There are a variety of factors that lead me to this preferred method of communication: the age of my students, my position in the school, and the needs of the school community I work in. If the school has set a universal form of communication, then it will be teacher preference. As a parent, you should find out what the preferred method of the teacher and follow and respect their requests even if you do not agree with it.
Tip 2: Understand boundaries
Sometimes parents forget that teachers have a life outside of school. Even though teachers work crazy hours and work weekends, they need time away from focusing on their students. There are boundaries between parents and teachers. I know parents want answers about their scholar, but they must respect the fact that once teachers leave school, even though they are working on lesson plans or grading papers, they do not want to be on the phone or answering emails. As far as during the school day, teachers are limited on time because they are teaching your child. Even during their prep, they spend that time working on lesson plans and preparing for class.
Tip 3: Know what you want from your child’s teacher
Before you take the time to meet with your child’s teacher, figure out what you want. It will make the conversation so much easier if parents know exactly what they want from their child’s teacher. Teachers have 25 or more students they are responsible to teach. It will be hard for them to address your concerns if you do not know precisely what you need. If you are concerned with letter sounds or counting, then say that. The clearer you are about what you need, the better the teacher will be at assisting. If you come in and say, your child needs help that does not help the teacher in providing the proper assistance.
Parents, I hope these tips help you to advocate for your child. Remember, we want parents in the school and want parents to advocate, but there are limits and there are boundaries.