5 Great Ways That Parents Can Partner with Teachers
In education rhetoric, there are two common narratives regarding parents and teachers. First, there is the idea that teachers spend most of their days “undoing” the damage done to students at home. The second narrative is that parents and teachers ought to be “partners” in their students’ education.
Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education, exemplified this second narrative when he spoke with USA Today, “Parents are always going to be our students’ first teachers. The most important thing I can do is to read to my children every night, to not have them watching TV and to really be a partner with that teacher. Parents have to step up.”
Clearly, parents and teachers would prefer to live in the world of the second narrative, where parents and teachers work together for the wellbeing of children everywhere. However, Frederick M. Hess, director of education-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that responsible parents – the type that readily partner with teachers – are often slighted by the modern educational system.
Are Responsible Parents Slighted by the Education System?
Hess uses two critical examples to advance his argument that the current educational system penalizes the responsible parents. First, Hess breaks down college financial aid. Responsible parents help their children save whatever they can to go to college or university. However, under current financial aid policies, students who have saved any money at all for college are entitled to less assistance, even if the parents are unable to contribute beyond the existing savings.
Hess contends that this situation will ultimately make it more difficult for children of responsible parents to succeed in college or university.
The second scenario Hess examines relates to elementary education. For the past several decades, elementary educators have focused on “differentiating education.” On one hand, this is a wonderful policy in theory. Teachers do what they can to ensure that each student’s unique needs and skills are addressed individually. In practice, differentiated education often means that children of responsible parents receive less educational attention than their less well-prepared peers.
Hess gives examples of better-prepared students being “encouraged to read books” and “being allowed to sit in other classrooms” as examples of differentiated educational methods that do not adequately address the needs of well-prepared students. (Less-prepared students often receive extensive one-on-one attention from teachers and support staff.)
How Parents Can Partner with Teachers for Better Education
Frederick M. Hess believes that the solution to this issue lies within the established partnership between parents and teachers. If you are a responsible parent who believes that your child may be receiving less attention than his or her peers, Hess recommends the follow five steps to promote a strong partnership with your child’s teachers.
1. Know exactly what your children are doing and how they feel about it.
Communicating with your children about what they are doing during the school day is incredibly important. Find out what your children are doing at school. Are they reading library books while their classmates do remedial work? Are they often sent out of the classroom to sit in on other grade levels?
Additionally, you should find out how your child feels about what is going on at school. Are they bored? Do they feel challenged? Are they concerned that their teachers do not like them as much as the other students?
2. Find out if your children are being “singled out” for this method.
You should also find out if your student is being “singled out” for educational activities. Your child may be bored reading library books, but if the entire class reads library books at a set time, it may be part of the curriculum and not a special thing.
3. Stay in touch with the teachers.
Responsible parents know that staying in touch with teachers is one of the best things a parent can do for their child’s education. This is especially important if you feel that your children are not receiving the attention you think they need.
When you talk to the teacher, be sure to ask any and all questions that you may have about his or her goals for your child. You may discover insights that your child was unable to explain to you.
4. Offer to volunteer in the classroom.
The reality of the situation is that many teachers lack the time and resources necessary to give completely individualized attention to every child in their classroom. However, you as a parent may be able to help in that respect. Parent volunteers are able to assist in a number of ways. Ask your child’s teacher if they need helping working with students who need a little remedial help in reading or math. This will help to free up the teacher’s time for students who need a little bit more of a challenge.
5. Consider your home options.
Another way that responsible parents can get more involved with their child’s education is to find out what they can do at home to further the teacher’s educational goals. It is as simple as shooting the teacher a quick email.
Dear Mr./Mrs. Jones,
I have noticed that my son/daughter spends much of his/her day working independently on various skills. I know that you are very busy, but I was wondering if there was anything that we could do at home to help him/her master these skills.
You may be surprised by the number of activities that the teacher can recommend for you to try at home with your student.