Aug 13, 2013

5 ways parents can make a good first impression

It's the first week of school around these parts and my kids both got the "new teachers" at the school, which is stressful for the kids, stressful for the parents and very stressful for the teacher starting again at a new school.   Both of my kids' teachers survived the first two days of school, and both seem relaxed and like great additions to the school community.

My kids seem to genuinely enjoy their new teachers and its been a great start to a new year!

First impressions are hugely important.  Kids have it easy, all they have to do is dress nice and act normal and they are good-to-go.  As a parent, there is a careful balance each year with a new teacher, you want to seem involved, but not over-bearing, interested without being nosy, willing to help without seeming a little TOO willing to help... it's not as easy as putting on a nice new dress, wearing your hair in pigtails and smiling sweetly.

 Here are my tips for PARENTS to make a good first impression at school on the first day:

1. Show up on time.
It says a lot to a teacher if you show up late on the first day of school.  I know that sometimes you have to drop kids off at more than one school, and in those cases, just apologize and they will understand, but if you just show up late and throw your kid at the door... you won't make a good impression... on anyone.

2. Introduce yourself to the teacher.
Tell them your name, tell them who your off-spring is, make eye-contact, offer a nice handshake and smile.  I watched parent after parent dropping off kids smile at the teacher, but not introduce themselves.  I watched parents introduce themselves by their child ("I'm Dominic's mom"), but not give their name.  I watched parents not look at the teacher at all.   Sure, the teacher will eventually learn your name (maybe), but you will make a good impression if you take the time to give them the honor of a handshake, your name and some good eye-contact.

3. Offer help, without telling them what to do
Some teachers really aren't interested or comfortable with parent volunteers.  Some wish they had some, but aren't very good at asking for help.  Some are just waiting for you to ask.  This is a good way to say it: "I'm willing to help in the classroom, in any way you need, just wanted you to know."  It's clear without being demanding or bossy.  If they say they would like that and offer ideas of when and how you can help, ask if you can email them confirming what you talked about, this way they have your contact information and will remember that you talked.

4. Show up to back to school night (if possible)
Again, with today's busy schedules, it's often really difficult to get everything on your calendar, if you can't be there, make sure you take the time to touch base with the teacher and ask for what he/she is going to discuss before the day, offering your excuses for why you can't be there.  If you just don't show up, it may communicate a lack of interest or involvement with your child's education, which is NOT what you want to communicate.

5.  Try to withhold judgment
Every teacher is different, and their classroom management styles are different.  Coming back to school with a new class throws everything up in the air.  If your child comes home with horror stories, try to give the TEACHER the benefit of the doubt.   If (heaven forbid) your child gets in trouble in the first couple of weeks of school, do your best to not come to the school all gang-busters, blaming the teacher or freaking out about the disaster that her class is.  Try to not criticize her at home in front of your wee ones, because who knows what they will say at school.  If you have a real concern, talk calmly and rationally (and privately) with the teacher, ask a lot of questions and if need be, ask if you can observe the class.  

Why does it matter what the teacher thinks about you, as the parent?

Your child's teacher is the person who will have the most influence over your child for more than half their days during the school year.  If you are not on the same team, and have trust and a healthy rapport built up, what do you have?

Studies show that parents who are more involved with their children's education, have children who are more successful in school, including higher test scores and overall grades.   Teachers are far more communicative with parents who they know and trust, which impacts how aware you are of potential issues with your child's behavior or academic standing (before the parent-teacher conference or report card comes home).

The more you know and trust their teacher, the better you can know and understand your child.  If you are on the same team and have formed a partnership, regardless if your child is a straight A, perfectly behaved child or if they struggle academically and have serious behavior issues, you will get more accomplished working with your teacher as opposed to working against them.

So what about you?  What do you do to build a positive relationship with your child's teacher?  

Good luck, prayers you have a fabulous beginning to your child's new school year!

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