Your child comes home from school and tells you his teacher is “mean.” Should you believe him and blame the teacher? Not so fast. Teachers establish rules and provide consequences so students can learn in an orderly environment. With direct involvement in your child’s education, you can observe and understand the teacher’s classroom management or discipline plan firsthand. Students with involved parents do better in academic achievement and attendance. They also have better social skills and behavior, according to Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.
Most teachers welcome an extra pair of eyes and ears in the classroom. If you volunteer in your child’s classroom, it’s important to be consistent, warns Christina Mullen, teacher and counseling intern at Lincoln-Edison Elementary School in North Las Vegas, Nevada. The teacher depends on you when you make a commitment to help in the classroom -- classroom management breaks down when there is a missing link. If the teacher is working with a small reading group, she might ask you to manage a handful of students who are completing an art project. You’ll help the class run smoothly; you’ll also get an up-close look at the teacher’s management style.
Even if you don’t have time to volunteer in your child’s classroom on a regular basis, you should visit occasionally. It’s best to let the teacher know you plan to observe in her classroom; however, many schools welcome drop-in parents who have proper identification. Take note of the discipline plan and the procedures the teacher follows when a child repeatedly breaks rules. A typical follow-through might include a warning, a time-out and a letter sent home to inform the parent.
Teachers usually send home information about classroom management at the beginning of the school year, Mullen says. Read and understand the discipline plan. Speak with your child about it. Ask questions if you don’t understand or agree with the teacher’s plan. When your child brings home a letter from the teacher informing you of inappropriate behavior, speak to your child and then set up a conference with the teacher. This sends the message to your child that you are working together with school personnel. Call or email the teacher before a situation gets out of hand. Teachers are typically required to respond to parents within 24 hours.
Parents should have a voice when teachers make decisions that affect children at school. Join school-improvement teams and the parent-teacher organization. If your child’s school doesn’t include parents on most committees, suggest to the administration that they change the policy, advises Mullen. Play an active role -- offer input and share in the decision-making process. When parents hold schools accountable, this can result in positive change.
Support at Home
Your child should understand that you are working as a team with his teachers to promote his best interest. Don’t criticize the teacher. Establish guidelines at home. Expect your child to behave. Make it clear that he has to accept responsibilities both at home and at school. If a child talks back to a parent at home, he will likely repeat that behavior in a school setting. Follow through with consequences at home, so that he learns to manage his behavior, and to exercise self-control.
- Christina Mullen; Teacher and Counseling Intern; Lincoln-Edison Elementary School; North Las Vegas, Nevada
- Association for Middle Level Education: What Research Says -- Varieties of Parent Involvement in Schooling
- U.S. Department of Education: Helping Your Child Succeed in School
- National Center for Education Statistics: Parent Involvement in Children's Education -- Efforts by Public Elementary Schools
- University of Northern Colorado: Classroom Management Guide
- PostBulletin.com: Dealing with Conflict in Your Child's Classroom
- Southwest Educational Development Laboratory: A New Wave of Evidence -- The Impact of School, Family and Coummunity Connections on Student Achievement
- American Psychological Association: Classroom Management
- Jupiterimages, Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images