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How to communicate with your kids' teachers

©iStockphoto.com/Dean Mitchell Photography Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Dean Mitchell Photography

Family

How to communicate with your kids' teachers

When it comes to education, no one is a better partner in ensuring your child's success in the classroom than his or her teacher. However, the parent-teacher partnership can be underutilized, especially when you factor in a hectic lifestyle.

"Parents want what's best for their children, as do educators, and in order to achieve this, partnerships need to be formed," says Carmelo Nanfara, principal at Cedarvale Community School in Toronto. As a former teacher, Nanfara is well aware of the best ways to stay in the loop and keep up with your child's progress. Read on for his tips on how to make the most of the parent-teacher relationship.

1. Find a good balance of involvement
Many parents would like to dedicate more of their own time to their children's education, but how involved should you get? As much as teachers want and appreciate backup from the parents, the teacher and the student also need the opportunity to work together on any problems that may arise.

"There is a delicate balance between being involved, but also doing it in a productive way," says Nanfara. "I know as a principal and as a former teacher that there are varying degrees of involvement from parents," he says. "It's important for parents to voice any concerns about their child's education, but parents also have to give educators the opportunity to address any concerns that arise in a timely manner."

2. Be prepared and don't be shy to contribute to the dialogue
As with any meeting, it's always a good idea to come prepared for a parent-teacher conference. Use this opportunity to both gather important information on your child's progress and offer your own insights to the teacher. This can be incredibly useful for a teacher, as it's you, the parent, who really knows your child best.

"Discuss any concerns about your child's education, their attitude toward learning or personal or family information that may be useful for the teacher to know, such as medical information," says Nanfara. "It's also important for the parent to walk away with information from the teacher during the conference. It goes both ways."

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more great ways to communicate with your childrens' teachers on page 2
3. Build a trusting relationship with your child's teacher
In the event that your child's grades are slipping or his behaviour is proving to be difficult, remember that his teacher is your biggest ally. Joining forces with your child's teacher is your best bet when it comes to dealing with misbehaviour.

"If a concern arises, it's important for a parent to hear the school's perspective, as at times students do behave differently at home than they do at school," says Nanfara. "Parents and educators need to discuss what they both observed because their partnership is crucial to the student's success."

Keeping strategies consistent is also crucial, stresses Nanfara. "It's important to look at what's happening both at school and at home and that those strategies are consistent," he says.

4. Communication is an ongoing thing
As a busy parent, it may seem easiest to keep communication with your child's teacher limited to the parent-teacher conference. However, it is in the best interest of your child to check in on a more regular basis.

"Early and ongoing communication between the teacher and the parent is important," advises Nanfara. "I don't think parents should wait for a teacher conference for it to be the first time they communicate with the teacher," he says.

Even if you can't be there regularly in person, there are other ways to keep in the loop. Nanfara's school, for example, uses a combination of emails, phone calls, writing in the student's agenda and parent-teacher conferences to touch base.

5. Get involved – even if it's in a small way
Time is not always on a parent's side, and as much as you might like to be involved in field trips and bake sales, participating in these activities can be terribly difficult. Nanfara says any involvement, no matter how small, is a good thing – and offering up suggestions is a great idea.

"I always encourage parents to speak to teachers, the principal or school council members to find out ways they can become involved and contribute to the school, whether it's one day or on a regular basis."

You are your child's biggest advocate, and teachers are happy to team up with you to do the best they can for your child. The parent-teacher partnership is extremely beneficial when the lines of communication are kept open. "Students will learn best when they are comfortable in their learning environment, and the way I think they are the most comfortable is when they know there is a strong partnership between home and school," says Nanfara.

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How to communicate with your kids' teachers

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