What is a “partnership mindset”? It means that you strive to be an advocate for your school-going children without being an adversary of their teachers or school administrators. It is a commitment to developing a relationship with these influential professionals based on trust, a shared vision, and mutual respect.
It is the most important thing you can do to ensure your children’s success in school.
5 Strategies for Developing a Partnership Mindset
1. Talk to teachers and administrators early… and as often as necessary.
If your child has any special needs, learning differences, or simply a personality trait that could impact their school experience adversely, share it with his or her teacher within the first week or two of school. Don’t worry about poisoning the teacher’s expectations of your child. Remember the adage, “Forewarned is forearmed.” Giving teachers and administrators a heads-up about any possible issues actually gives your child an advantage.
If a teacher loses sight of your child’s particular needs? Don’t be shocked or upset; they have many kids to pay attention to and are bound to occasionally forget something important. If an issue arises, simply remind the teacher in a respectful manner.
2. Establish your expertise… and respect theirs.
No matter what field you have a degree in that is NOT the expertise you should lead with when meeting your children’s teachers. You should instead lead with being their parent. You are a bona fide expert on your kids, no one else knows your children as well as you do. Make sure to establish yourself as the go-to person for what makes your child tick.
Conversely, even if you are a teacher or educator, you are not your child’s teacher. These professionals are well trained, have had a lot of education, and have your child’s best interest in mind. Make sure to respect that.
3. Do your part… and ensure your kids do theirs.
Be sure the teachers and administrators know – by your words and actions – that you are a family that cares about and is involved in your children’s school experience. Studies have shown that children do better across a variety of metrics when their families are involved in their kids’ education. Parents need to provide plenty of support until their kids are able to internalize good study skills as well as the desire to succeed academically.
What can this look like?
- Provide prompts, guides, and structure
- Dedicated place to study
- Carts stocked with school and art supplies
- Laminated lists that outline effective study techniques
- A solid Wi-Fi connection
- Model good performance and analytical thinking by doing it out loud
- Have your more advanced math son or daughter tutor a younger sibling
- Recognize your child’s growth moments
- Reframe self-defeating comments with self-promoting ones
- Make children accountable for study or instrument-practice time
4. Be respectful and grateful in every teacher interaction… remember, they’re “people” first
Teaching is a very demanding profession with less-than-stellar remuneration; and like every other human on the planet, teachers have bad days.
Communication is key, especially when there are missteps from either the teacher, your child, or yourself. Here are some guidelines to communicate with the teacher effectively:
- Begin every conversation by expressing your gratitude and respect for the work that the teacher does for their students
- Don’t be one of those parents that teachers dread hearing from
- Recognize that teachers are fallible – and give them a break when they deserve one
- Don’t be defensive or accusing; teachers try, but they don’t always get it right
- Use non-threatening language when talking to teachers; and encourage your kids to do the same
- Close by reaffirming your support and confidence in the teacher
5. Be accountable for your kids
If a teacher or administrator contacts you about a serious problem – an abrupt behavior change, bullying, suspected drug use, etc. – you should respond CALMLY.
Even if, and especially when, you are internally screaming, “Not my kid!” Let’s face it, even “good” and “perfect” kids can be disrespectful or make poor choices on occasion and with the right trigger.
The teacher is undoubtedly as concerned for your child as you are. Instead of being defensive, understand that the teacher may be able to offer insights into this behavior that you haven’t observed at home. Try asking, “What do you think is going on that is causing my child to express themselves that way?” You may be surprised at how much they can help.
Ultimately, parents, teachers, and administrators are all working towards a common goal. Make sure to not lose sight of that goal, so that everyone is able to help serve your children better.