Effective parent-teacher partnerships are essential to fostering a child’s social-emotional success in school. Forming a partnership with your child’s teacher is an opportunity to model behavior that exemplifies the benefits of a relationship based on mutual cooperation with an interest in achieving goals. Ultimately, your child learns to be their own advocate by observing your behavior.
Most information that you find on this subject is directed toward teachers. In this post, I will outline five strategies for building effective partnerships based on your child’s needs from the parents’ perspective. They include:
- Communicate Directly
- Don’t Play the Blame Game
- Be Proactive
- Meet Social Emotional Needs
- Keep the Focus on Your Child
One of the most important factors in building an effective parent-teacher partnership is to communicate directly. Relaying information should not be delegated to your child unless it is absolutely necessary. Parents and teachers need to find which method works best for both parties and then use it consistently. Digital forms of communication provide a permanent and accurate record of information for later use.
It is never too early to begin the conversation. In the elementary years, it is a good idea to open the lines of communication at the end of a school year with the next year’s teacher. Start each new year with a fresh determination to make it the best one possible. Then, remember to keep the communication ongoing throughout the school year.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
Do not play the blame game or make discussions about your child’s education personal. It’s not about you and it’s not about the teacher. Parents of gifted children often have intense personalities which can impede parent-teacher relations. Finding common ground is a positive approach that will benefit everyone involved.
Be respectful toward your child’s teacher and other school personnel. Effective communication cannot be fostered when negative feelings are allowed to prevail. At times, this may require the parent to step back and keep emotions in check. Try to understand the teacher’s point of view and realize that they rarely have the final word on many aspects of what is expected from students. Remember, you can always address concerns with an administrator if issues arise that can’t be resolved with the teacher.
"Do not play the blame game or make discussions about your child’s education personal. It’s not about you and it’s not about the teacher."
Talk to your child every single day and be aware of any situations which might be hindering their progress; either academically or emotionally. If your child suddenly becomes reticent in sharing with you about his or her school day, explore the reasons ‘why’ through further conversation. Keep in mind that gifted children are very adept at manipulation. They understand the importance their point of view brings to the table even at a very young age. Parents should not assume everything their child tells them is an accurate portrayal of an event. Once you have heard their side of the story, contact their teacher to discuss the matter.
Know your options – learn about regulations concerning gifted education in your local area. (See links below.) Educate yourself about gifted education by reading books on the topic, reading blogs, and attending gifted education conferences at the state and regional level. Take time to talk to other parents about your school’s culture relating to gifted education.
Know who makes the decision for your child’s placement and who is responsible for implementing their education plan; teacher, gifted coordinator, principal. In most states, no decision will ever be made without an LEA (local education administrator) present. Know who your school’s LEA is before agreeing to any plan of action.
Whenever possible, seek out teachers who are certified in gifted education or have a reputation for working well with gifted students. This practice may be discouraged by your child’s school administrators, but this should not deter you from doing what is best for your child.
Meet Social-Emotional Needs
Do not minimize the importance of taking into account the meeting of social-emotional needs of your child. Gifted children often must deal with situations that classmates will never encounter such as bullying based on their intellectual capacity, asynchronous development that places them at odds with their teachers and other school personnel, anxiety born out of frustration in dealing with perfectionism, and boredom which can result in underachievement due to lack of challenge.
Many gifted children may also be twice-exceptional; dealing with one or more learning challenges such as ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, or a myriad of other possibilities. These children require additional support by parents, teachers and support personnel.
"Parents often view their child’s education through the prism of the parent’s own childhood experiences in school. For better or worse, the educational experience of a child in today’s classroom is vastly different from what you experienced."
Keep the Focus on Your Child
Parents often view their child’s education through the prism of the parent’s own childhood experiences in school. For better or worse, the educational experience of a child in today’s classroom is vastly different from what you experienced. Full inclusion of all ability levels in one classroom, the quest for data based on standardized test results, the introduction of technology at break-neck speed and reliance on teachers to ‘figure it out’ on their own have all led to a malaise in expectations in today’s classroom.
Including your child in the decision-making process is essential and should coincide with their maturity level. All the advocacy and partnering in the world will achieve little if your child is not on board. Do not loose site of your goal to provide an appropriate education for your child. Professionals such as guidance counselors, principals, gifted coordinators, OT specialists and social workers should be consulted when necessary.
Parent-teacher relationships do not need to be adversarial. Keep all conversations on a professional level. Get in the habit of sharing good news rather than waiting till problems arise. By adopting a team mindset, everyone becomes invested in your child’s success!
Remember that your child has unique educational needs that may not be able to be met in a regular classroom despite the best efforts of their teacher or school. A flexible approach may include creative scheduling, blended learning (using multiple approaches such as acceleration, online instruction/distance learning, outside mentoring, homeschooling), or project-based learning; the possibilities are endless. Look for evidence-based research to support any request you may make.
"Remember that your child has unique educational needs that may not be able to be met in a regular classroom despite the best efforts of their teacher or school."
Below I have included resources that will start you on the journey to build an effective partnership with your child’s teacher. Take time to look over them and share them with teachers with whom you’ll be partnering. Consider sharing this post with your child’s teacher as well.
What strategies have worked for you? Please share in the comments below.
Links:Department of Educations by State
Photo courtesy of Flickr CC By- NC 2.0