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Today's Family Magazine

Banish the back-to-school blues

Aug 01, 2016 12:00AM ● By Today's Family
By Christina Katz
Teacher-student cooperation is an important alliance that starts at home and affects a child's entire academic career.  Having positive relationships with teachers throughout twelve years of school can make the difference between a child who adores school and all it encompasses and a child who dreads school and struggles on a daily basis.

By the time school starts each fall, teachers have already invested years of education, practice, and preparation into getting the school year off to a great start.  Most parents want their children to succeed in school, but sometimes students and parents inadvertently get off on the wrong foot with teachers.  How can parents encourage kids to meet educational professionals halfway?  Here are ten tips for helping your child cultivate positive, supportive, and mutually respectful relationships with teachers from the first day of school forward.

1. Attend meet-the-teacher activities.  No matter what the age of your child, don't miss an opportunity to get to know the teacher as both an educator and a person.  It's always appropriate for teachers and students to share things about their lives with each other as a way of bonding and getting to know each other.

2. Set positive expectations about teachers with your child.  Even if the teacher your child was assigned is new or not the current parent favorite, express enthusiasm to your child about learning with the teacher she will have.

3. Communicate your child's needs.  If you can, send an email to the teacher a week before school starts, that's good timing.  But it's never too late to keep your child's teacher up to date on your child's specific challenges, especially those that will affect his ability to learn.

4. Let the teacher do the teaching.  Once the year kicks off, assume a supporting role.  Express interest in your child's academic work and school activities, but try to let her tackle challenges like homework and projects herself.

5. See how well your child can meet standards on his own.  Schools set up checkpoints like teacher conferences to assess student progress.  Use these opportunities to find out how well your child is doing in school.  Be relaxed and open-minded about any reports, especially if they are not what you were hoping to hear.

6. Coach from the backseat.  No parent likes to see a child falter.  But facing struggles can be helpful in building character and teaching him lessons about himself.  Don't do your child's work for him.  Take on a cheerleading stance instead.

7. Get more structured support as needed.  If the year is at the halfway point and your child is not making solid academic progress, and you have exhausted the school's resources, consider a private tutor or a tutoring service like Lake Tutoring Services (see ad below).  Try to find a private tutor with reasonable rates using an online tutor-finder like

8. Participate.  Three common commitments are parent-teacher meetings, school events, and parent volunteering.  But don't be at the school 24/7.  If your child gets the sense that you are appropriately committed and engaged in the spirit of the school without hovering, she can relax, participate, and focus on doing her best.

9. Don't pressure.  Meet your student wherever he is.  There is no point in projecting your prior academic success onto your child or pressing him to achieve more than he is reasonably capable of accomplishing.  Love and appreciate your child as a whole person, not just a grade at the end of the year, and he will feel secure and motivated.

10. Express gratitude.  Offer teachers an inexpensive card or gift at holiday time and the end of the year.  But don't write the thank-you note for your child.  Help her write it herself instead until she is old enough to take over the job.