Strategies for Parents and the Community
- Take an active interest in the school's program of events and activities. Talk to your children and/or their teachers to decide which activities to participate in - especially those that support their learning needs and interests.
- Share your own interests, knowledge and skills with the school and discuss with your children's teachers how these could be drawn on to support learning in the classroom or across the school.
- Volunteer to help out with school learning experiences, school events and extracurricular activities.
- Participate respectfully and constructively in discussions with other parents, in informal settings such as the school gate or through formal spaces that the school provides.
- Participate in school activities in ways that are appropriate for your children's ages and stages of development. For example:
Offer your expertise of parents and community members to support emerging areas of student interest and need (e.g. literacy, numeracy, science, health and physical education).
Offer to work with student leaders on ways to promote more widespread and sustained parent and community participation.
Volunteer to assist in school operations (e.g. sports days, tuckshop/uniform/resource centre) and enlist other parents to help.
Talk to your children about ways you can participate in their school life that are meaningful but respectful of their growing need and desire for independence. Discuss these with the school.
Offer to support specialised school activities such as school plays, science expos, sports days, etc.
Offer to assist school/community collaborative programs that support students in school-work transitions such as internships, work experience and professional mentoring.
Participating in Your Child’s Education – How to Communicate with the School and Teachers
Good participation involves meeting with the teacher, being a positive and courteous partner in your child’s learning, and keeping the lines of communication open in various ways throughout the year.
- Meet the teacher. Go to your child’s school open evening event. Even though time may be short, a few simple steps can show your interest and support:
Introduce yourself and your child.
Collect any information provided; and provide any insights about your child that will help the teacher.
- Go to parent-teacher interviews. Make sure that you schedule a interview if:
Your child has special needs and your teacher needs to know this early in the year.
Your child’s grades drop suddenly.
You suspect that your child is having difficulty understanding her or his schoolwork.
Your child is upset about something that happened in school—with peers, or with the teacher.
Your child does not seem to have any homework.
Something changes at home that may affect the student’s learning (e.g., new baby, parental illness, divorce, or upcoming move).
1. Be prepared. Before meeting the teacher, think about what you want to know and understand about your child's school experience. Review the report card and write down key questions you want to ask.
2. Ask yourself questions. Focus on what you want to get out of your parent/teacher meeting by asking yourself questions. For example, "What methods are being used to teach my child?" or "What can I do to get involved in my child's learning?"
3. Talk to your child before the interview. Ask your children what they think they are good at and what needs improving. Let them tell you how they feel about school, the teacher and getting along with others.
4. Relax and feel confident. You know your child best and want what's best for them. Remember, the teacher also wants your child to be successful.
5. Be clear about what's being said. If you need clarification or have concerns about an answer the teacher gives, ask the teacher to explain it further. Don't be satisfied until you fully understand.
6. Think about what was discussed. Take some time to think about what you and the teacher talked about. If you are still unclear about something or want to ask more questions, contact the teacher to talk further.
7. Follow-up at home. Talk with your child after you have met with the teacher. Discuss what was talked about in the meeting, focusing on the positive and how to achieve the goals that you set.
8. Keep a log or journal. Write down the actions you take and any observations about your child. This is important information that can be shared with the teacher at the next meeting.
9. Arrange the next meeting. Set a date when you will call the teacher for an update on your child's progress or to arrange another meeting.
- Find the right time to talk to the teacher. If you are at school, you may run in to teachers and be tempted to ask about how your child is doing.
At school, ask the teacher if it is a good time to talk or when is most convenient for him or her. Just before or after school may not be the best times.
If you run into a teacher around town, simply exchange pleasantries. This is not the time for a parent-teacher conference.
- Write short notes and follow up. If you want a quick response to a question:
Send a brief written note or an email message to the teacher with your question clearly stated.
Include your phone number and/or email address.
If you don’t hear back in a few days, follow up with a phone message to the school.
- Follow email etiquette. Email is often a convenient and helpful way to communicate with your child’s teacher, but should follow the same guidelines for any professional communication.
Be aware that teachers get many email messages—and have many other responsibilities during their day--and may not be able to respond immediately to yours.
Identify your child and sign your name. Include a phone number where you can be contacted.
Be diplomatic. You can’t take back an email message and email can be easily forwarded. Be calm, choose your words carefully and avoid criticizing the teacher. Don’t write and send an email when you are angry.
Be brief and stick to the point. Don’t include animations, pictures, and graphics.
Use upper and lower case, not all caps (that’s considered shouting).
Stick to school-related matters. Don’t forward chain mail, jokes, or frivolous information.
Don’t forward someone else’s email, including a teacher’s, unless you have their permission.
Watch out for viruses and spam—don’t spread these around.
- Be positive and courteous. Many teachers are overworked and underappreciated. Speaking in positive ways opens up the lines of communication so you can work together to help your child succeed in school.
Open up communication with phrases such as “Can we talk about…?” Avoid criticizing and blaming the teacher with comments such as “You should have…” or “You must be mistaken.”
Make respectful requests, such as “Could you send home the information about…?” Avoid giving orders to the teacher by saying, “You have to….” or “You need to….”
Use kind words rather than fighting phrases. For example, “Please, could you…” and “Thank you for all you did,” go a long way in building a good relationship.
- Accept differences. Sometimes you may really “click” with a teacher and other times it may seem a struggle to keep the lines of communication open.
Listen to the teacher to get a sense of who she or he is.
Hear what the teacher has to say about his or her expectations, classroom, and your student.
Don’t argue with or criticize the teacher in front of your child.
Don’t send email messages written in anger.
Try to work things out with the teacher before going to the principal.
If you have conflicts with the teacher, remain calm. Listen, be positive, and talk things out.
- Be a partner with the teacher to support your child’s learning. Thirty years of research shows that children do better in school when their parents are involved. Some of the most important things you can do are to:
Help with homework as needed and appropriate.
Help your child learn the skills needed to manage time and stay on task.
Ask teachers for clarification on instructions and assignments as needed.
Talk about school matters with your student at home.
Ask teachers what you can do to help your child at home. At the same time, as your children get older, teachers expect them to be able to take on more responsibility and to function independently. Your child will likely want more and more autonomy as well. Help them build these skills while also continuing to be supportive.
- Keep the lines of communication open all year.
Send a note of appreciation to the teacher when something goes well in her/his class, and mention this to the principal.
Give the teacher your phone number and email if they change.
Check the school newsletters and website to keep up with what is going on, in and out of the classroom.