You drop your child off at school each day, exchanging a wave or a “Good morning” with a teacher you expect is giving your child the necessary foundation he needs to be successful in life. Your opinion of her is mostly based on what you hear at PTO meetings. She seems friendly, but do you really know her? Establishing a relationship with the teacher is essential to your child’s academic and social growth but can be difficult given the limited access you have to her. Like any other relationship, this is a blending of personalities. Are you a Type-A mom who wants everything done yesterday? Maybe your child’s teacher is a laid-back type whose feathers aren’t easily ruffled. You certainly can’t change her but you can communicate your priorities for your child and be an active part in building an open and ongoing relationship that will ultimately support your child’s educational experience.
Ask her preferred method of communication. Is it easiest for her to respond to email? Does she like to speak on the phone during her prep period or after school? Six hours a day seems like a lot of time, but you know the school day is jam-packed and establishing expectations of communication frequency and method creates a realistic timeline in which you can expect to hear back from the teacher.
Articulate your goals for your child. She is not a mind reader. She may not see behavior in the class you see at home so bring it to her attention. Be specific about areas in which you would like to see growth or skills that have been especially challenging. Teachers know these details are important to their work with your child and are appreciative of your insight.
Ask her questions about her educational philosophy. Does a homework assignment seem pointless to you? She likely has a reason for selecting it, so ask her! Teachers love to share their opinions and reasoning behind their work. One assignment may be part of a larger goal or initiative and though it may seem irrelevant or unnecessary to you, it likely has its purpose.
Have an issue? Go to her first. If you have a concern about your child’s teacher, address it directly with her. Going behind her back to the principal makes her feel betrayed, which is not going to benefit your relationship. Start by saying “I have a question about this” and give her a chance to answer before you make assumptions. Ask for a resolution or conclusion. “In the future can we (action)” creates the feeling of working together towards the common goal of your child’s success. Of course, if the issue is not resolved, ask to meet with her and the principal together, which sends the message you want a resolution and you want her to be a part of the process.
Thank her for her time, even if you disagree with her opinion. She has the needs of 20 children she is doing her best to attend to every minute of the day so appreciate her time spent with you. The basis of all relationships is respect and it must exist if communication is going to be open and consistent. As a teacher, I was always happy to hear from a parent with whom I knew I had a relationship based on respect, even if we didn’t always see eye to eye.
It’s OK to ask about her personal life but don’t pry. Chatting about non-school topics at the class holiday party is a nice way to get to know your child’s teacher. She may be happy to share some stories about her family or her favorite sports team, but please don’t ask her why she’s single, even if you’re trying to compliment her. There is a line that really shouldn’t be crossed. If you ask the teacher where she lives, and she responds with a general answer, don’t press. She doesn’t want to give you her home address. Respect means there are boundaries and though it’s nice to get to know her, she may not want to share too many personal details.  Getting to know your child’s teacher in one Back-to-School night and a twenty minute parent-teacher conference is nearly impossible. Establishing a relationship takes time and effort on the part of both parties and requires respect and honesty. Be an active part of your child’s education by making a point to create a connection between your family and the person who spends so much time guiding your child towards success.