When your child begins school, you begin a new commitment, too. Not only are you invested in this crucial time of your child’s early development, you are committing to a school that you trust to make the best choices for the teachers, parents, students and greater community. The relationship you share with your child’s school is an important one!
You may even nurture this investment by attending parent education talks, listening to podcasts, following blogs, and reading articles. It’s a lot of work, but you understand the importance and you are committed.
The closest ally and friend you will have on this journey is your child’s teacher. Here are five tips to show your child’s teacher that you are her partner, that you respect her, and that you value your school community.
1. Always reply individually to email threads. Teachers are very busy and their email communication often happens outside of the classroom on their own time. By writing a separate, private email with a clear and logical subject line, your teacher can give you her full attention without the added stress and work of wading through a thread. Email threads are announcements from the teacher, not invitations for a group conversation.
- A separate email says, I know you are very busy and I want to make sure you saw my email; it’s important and I value this communication with you.
2. Calendars. Put laundry days, snack week, parent ed., volunteer days, and other important commitments to your child’s class in your phone or computer calendar, and set a reminder. Teachers do their best to send reminders but when parents take responsibility for their commitments and show up without the need for a reminder, it allows the teacher to use that space for more important work like attending to the materials, record keeping, deep cleaning, purchasing, planning, professional development, and rest rejuvenation.
- Prioritizing your commitments, and coming through for your child’s teacher without the need for a reminder says, we are in this together and I’m invested in the children’s success and your success. I appreciate you and all you do.
3. Start with the punchline. In email communication, start with the main idea and keep it concise. If you feel like a 1,500 word email is the only way you can communicate all of your thoughts, it might be time for a one-on-one meeting to discuss in person. In an email, starting with the punchline allows a teacher to immediately tune into the issue at hand, and begin the important work of supporting you.
- A careful and brief email that starts with the punchline, and lays out your needs/ ideas/goals, says, I am here to be involved in a way that supports you; this is me diving in as your partner, we are in this together.
4. Assume positive intent. Despite the challenges faced by the best of Montessori schools and the frustrations that come with imperfections, we must allow our teachers to be human and learn from their mistakes. Offer your child’s teacher the same patience and respect that you want as a parent. We all make mistakes and we are all always growing, always learning, always striving to do better. Montessorians are among the most committed adults you are will ever meet and rest assured, if you are frustrated, your child’s teacher is consumed with the issue. A kind word of encouragement, a friendly smile, and an offer to support will go a long way.
- Being kind and respectful at all times is a basic principle of Montessori education. Seek first to understand the whole picture before you give feedback, and remember that you both have the child’s best interest at heart.
5. Be true to your school. If something is on your mind, make sure your teacher knows you’d like to talk. By keeping open lines of communication between you and your child’s teacher, you’ll foster a healthy personal relationship and a healthy school community. Avoid speaking to other parents about your concerns, and instead ask for an open door policy, community meetings, or schedule a parent-teacher conference to make your thoughts known.
- The rule of thumb here is, if the person you are talking about is not in the room, it’s not time for that subject to come up. Give the teacher a chance to do right by you.
When we adhere to grace and courtesy norms in our Montessori community, we become parent leaders in that community. When we commit to creating lasting, healthy relationships with the adults that your children love the most outside of their family, we strengthen the fabric of the whole school, and in turn, the whole community.
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