Building good rapport with your child’s teachers will go a long way in helping you to monitor and improve your child’s performance. Here, we share with you some useful tips gleaned from teachers as well as parents on how to build an effective partnership.
Your child will get new teachers each year and chances are, you may have heard various things about different teachers e.g. one gives more homework than others, another one is short-tempered etc. Treat each teacher objectively based on how you see your child treated. Teaching and managing individual students is not a one-size-fits all exercise – keep an open mind when you listen to the opinions of parents of other children in the class.
2. Let the teacher get to know your child
Bearing in mind that each teacher has to handle at least 20-45 children in class at any one time, it helps a lot to know a little bit more about your child so that the teacher will be able to understand him or her better. This is especially important if you have a child who is particularly shy, has health or learning issues. You can write a short note or email at the beginning of the term/year. Class assignments that involve writing a self-introduction composition are a good way for your child to tell the teacher about himself or herself.
Different teachers have different preferences – some will provide their cell phone numbers for parents to contact them after lesson hours, others prefer to communicate via the child’s homework diary and/or email, or by face-to-face appointment. Your child’s form teacher will probably inform the class of the best way for their parents to contact him or her for any matters. If you don’t have this information, write a query in your child’s homework diary or forward a note to the teacher through your child.
4. Know the different teachers who work with your child
Although the form teacher is usually the first and most frequent point of contact for you, it helps to know the names, emails and contact numbers of the different subject teachers so that you can check directly with the right teacher on subject-specific queries.
Besides imparting knowledge, many teachers are also ‘walking banks’ and ‘stationery counters’ – they lend pocket money to children who have forgotten to bring their allowance, or extend a pen or pencil to those who forget their to bring their stationery. Make the teacher’s life a little easier by ensuring that your child is not tawdry when it comes to his or her personal belongings.
6. Get your child’s school circulars and notes in order
Teachers often spend a lot of time settling ‘admin’ matters such as collecting parent’s consent forms, collating programme sign-up details and answering parents’ queries on school events and ad-hoc matters. Check daily with your child (especially if he or she is in lower primary) on whether he or she has received circulars or forms from the school, and take action where required in a timely manner. If you think you may have missed a circular or misplaced a form, let the teacher know as soon as possible.
7. Offer schoolwork-related feedback and queries in a constructive manner
If you have queries about schoolwork e.g. the marking of a certain test paper or the workings of a Math problem, phrase your queries clearly and give the teacher time to get back to you. For example, if you are concerned that a certain question was not marked correctly or you would like to check if another approach to solving a problem would be accepted, write all these clearly, giving examples, so that the teacher understands where exactly your concern lies. This also applies if your query is about an event or incident in school. Be objective and give the teachers a fair chance to investigate and address your queries.
School usually have two types of briefings for parents – a group briefing session to familiarize parents with issues like syllabus changes or format for tests and exams, and one-to-one sessions where teachers will speak to parents individually about their child’s performance. Save questions pertaining to your child for the one-to-one sessions and be on time for your appointment. If you think you will have a lot of issues to clarify, you may wish to forward a note to the teacher with your concerns a day or two before. This will help the teacher to zoom in on these issues immediately and make productive use of your discussion slot, bearing in mind that there are many parents who would be waiting their turn.
Teachers are often deluged with flowers, chocolates and other presents on Teacher’s Day, but a simpler heart-felt note or sms may have more impact. Flowers wilt and chocolate gets eaten, but many teachers will treasure for years the handmade cards and letters they receive. You need not make this a once-a-year affair – If your child has been enjoying school and the teacher’s lessons, do let the teacher know this during parent-teacher meetings or through a brief note/sms once in a while.
Unless there is an emergency, don’t turn up in school without making an appointment. Due to security and health issues, schools screen visitors and discourage parents from going to school to do things such as pass a forgotten pencil case or PE T-shirt to their child. If you must speak to the teacher but are unable to fix an appointment despite earlier attempts, you could try to approach the general office after lesson hours and seek the help of the staff to locate the teacher. Turning up at the classroom during lesson hours will only disrupt the flow of teaching, which affects your child and the rest of the students.