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courtesy imagechef
courtesy imagechef

As I walked out of my classroom, I saw a wiry, first grader take a couple of hops then run full tilt down the hall towards the wall 50 feet away. I hurried behind him. He was too fast to catch, and he appeared to be an accident waiting to happen. To my complete astonishment, he ran up the wall and did a flip through the air. His beautiful landing would have made any Olympic gymnast jealous.

I was just a few feet behind him when he touched down. “Hmmm! Donald, we don’t run up the walls at school.” I could hardly believe I was saying that.

“Oh, sowwy! I won’t do it again. I pwomise!” He knew I was a second grade teacher. I often teased the first graders by warning them I could be their future. They didn’t seem too worried.

A few days before school started the next fall, Donald’s mom made an appointment to speak to me for 15 minutes. “I wanted to give you some of Donald’s history. I was hoping we could make a plan how to help him stay on task.”

I laughingly told her about the wall flipping. She nodded. “That’s my boy, all right. He’s remarkably strong. He’s academically pretty secure but he was often in trouble for his behavior last year.”

We discussed what things I might try in the classroom. I asked if he had an ADHD diagnosis. He did not but he had other issues that had been identified. We agreed to keep in touch as time went on.

Mom kept her end of the bargain. She came to scheduled meetings on time or gave me notice if something came up. She checked in regularly, even if it was simply me giving her a thumbs up or down at dismissal.

As time went on, we were able to get Donald a 504, a plan for a child with a disability to get accommodations to help him be successful. The plan included the tricks I had up my sleeve that worked for him and that would follow him to third grade.

He was a fantastic boy, honest, funny, and oh, so dynamic. He had a great year in my class. That’s not to say he stayed out of trouble, but we were able to tap into his desire to do his best and work with it. In fact, I was usually able to just take a breath and laugh about his fiascos.

What worked that made this possible? First, was the way his mom approached me. She never assumed I could stop everything to talk to her. She scheduled times to meet before or after school. Sometimes, she sent a note but she also knew Donald was forgetful so we generally didn’t use that method. She was realistic about his behavior. She expected good manners, honesty and kindness from him. She also knew it was impossible for him to sit still, or be quiet all the time. She did, however, give him consequences for his behavior.

We had a great working relationship. If she felt I hadn’t been fair, she came to talk to me to find out what happened. I took the time to listen to her point of view because she always allowed me time to do that. We didn’t always agree but she was always respectful.

Here are some suggestions for parents on some of ways to build a working relationship with your child’s teacher. The best way for a child to learn is if the teacher and the parents work as a team. As a rule, remember you catch more flies with honey than vinegar:

Do schedule a time to talk to your child’s teacher.
Don’t drop in the room unannounced and plan to have a discussion. Anything more than a two sentence message is disruptive to the class and the teacher will not have the time to give you the attention you need.

Do follow through with your part of the plan. If it is not working for you, let the teacher know as soon as possible.
Don’t give up on a plan without letting the teacher know without trying it before deciding it does not work.

Do make a plan to communicate how things are going.
Don’t expect a detailed conversation or note daily. Remember your child is one of a couple dozen children.

Do ask the teacher what is her preferred way to be contacted. Then use that way. If it is the phone, call her. If it is a note, write the note. Phone calls rarely worked for me but other teacher’s prefer that method.
Don’t complain to the administration if you don’t hear back immediately. Touch base with teacher again. Unexpected things happen everyday in a classroom.

Do treat the teacher as a professional who knows her field. I taught second grade for thirteen years. I knew seven and eight year olds. If I said it was not unusual behavior, I meant it. If I said, I had never seen anyone do that before, I meant that too.
Don’t go in and scream, or give the teacher a piece of your mind with others around. This is embarrassing for everyone, especially your child. Teachers do not forget the parents who do this and it will not make for a good working relationship.

Do be realistic about your child’s behavior. You are, of course, expected to be your child’s advocate, but try to be open-minded to a situation.
Don’t assume the teacher is lying about your child’s behavior. Remember behavior in the classroom with twenty-some children is different from behavior at home. The dynamics and expectations are very different.

Do contact the administration if you have made several attempts to make things work and cannot seem to develop a working relationship with the teacher. Probably, they will convene a meeting with all parties concerned.
Don’t contact the administration until you have given the relationship with a teacher a chance to work.

If families and teachers worked together, wouldn’t it make for an easier year for everyone? What do you think?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu Lee-Ann Meredith is a second...

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