Ruth Spivak: Kiducation


How to Build a Positive Parent-Teacher Relationship

If you're not treating the teacher like your dentist, you're doing something wrong. 5 rules to get it right.

Do you treat your child's teacher like a dentist or like a babysitter? (No offence to babysitters, who should also be treated with respect.) As a parent and former classroom teacher, I've seen very nice Moms and Dads yell, haggle, openly second-guess, and make ridiculous demands. Would they behave this way in a physician's office? Not a chance. Building a positive parent-teacher relationship isn't easy. Irrational emotions can blind us when it comes to our children. Some teachers are bad, and it's hard to stomach. It doesn't matter. Given the fact that a positive parent-teacher relationship is key to your child's success, you have to try extra hard not to mess up your part. If ever in doubt about what your part looks like, ask yourself this: "Would I say this or act this way with my dentist?"

Let's look at five practices you can borrow from the professional world to build a positive parent-teacher relationship.


Would you barge into a doctor's office unannounced, and start rambling about all your health concerns?  Of course not. Just because you ran into the teacher in the hallway or at the supermarket, does not mean it's the right time for you to talk about your concerns. Teachers are busy. You need to ask the teacher for an appointment, so that both you and the teacher can discuss your concerns in an organized and appropriate manner.


Would you go into a dentist appointment thinking, "This guy doesn't know what he's doing?" Yikes. I hope not. Teachers are university-trained professionals, who studied many topics in education. Teachers are practitioners, (some with years of experience,) who manage many aspects of learning in a variety of children. So when you (not an education expert) disagree with a teacher's approach to math, don't assume it's wrong and get in a huff. Schedule a time to discuss your concerns with the teacher. Chances are the teacher has made an informed decision about her approach, and would be happy to discuss this with you.


Would you ignore a physician's diagnosis and then throw the prescription in the garbage? Not if you want to get better. If a teacher points out a weak area in your child, try to not react negatively. Instead, listen to the teacher's insight and recommendations. Ask questions respectfully if you don't understand. If the teacher recommends your child practice more reading or math at home, do whatever you can to follow through. If finding time is an issue, talk with the teacher about coming up with a plan that's right for you, the teacher, and your child.


Would you wait until there was an emergency to see your dentist? Don't wait until there's a problem to communicate with the teacher. By checking in regularly, you are better informed about your child's education and better able to prevent escalation of academic and behaviour problems. You don't want to be a nag; after all, your child is not your teacher's only student. Send a quick email every so often to ask how your kid is doing in class. Volunteering and attending school events are also good ways to keep informed.


Would you blame your accountant if your tax return turned out to be less than expected? Sometimes professionals make mistakes, and sometimes clients make mistakes. It's good practice to politely clarify problems and misunderstandings. If your child  tells you about something that happened in the classroom that concerns you, don't be quick to blame the teacher. Instead, speak with the teacher. Award-winning teacher Ron Clark suggests approaching the situation in this manner: "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me." If you aren't happy with the outcome, check your school's policy to determine your next recourse.

Bottom line: Treat teachers with the same respect you treat other professionals.  It could mean the difference between your child's success and failure at school.