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Optimal Parent-Teacher Partnerships

Optimal Parent-Teacher Partnerships

This post was written by Melanie Brooks, a Bright Horizons education expert, mom of two:

Ruth, a fellow education expert, and I co-hosted a webinar about parent-teacher relationships, during which we discussed the idea of having optimal parent-teacher partnerships. We talked a lot on the webinar about what that means from the parent’s perspective, and even got some interesting insights from webinar attendees on why establishing strong partnerships is so important to them.

But parents often wonder about the teacher’s perspective. As a former teacher, I can tell you that there are key elements of the parent/teacher partnership that, for teachers, define what it means to have an optimal partnership with you as they support your child’s learning and development.

What makes an optimal partnership for teachers? It is one where:

Teachers feel respected and appreciated. Both the job of a parent and a teacher can be extremely challenging and often feel like “thankless” jobs. This is one of the many things these two roles have in common. As we know, teachers are not highly paid for the work they do in relation to other types of jobs, so teachers may look for validation of their work in other ways—and that includes from parents. Especially in the field of early childhood education, teachers do not want to be considered “babysitters” because they know their role as educators is so much more important than that. Some in the field even dislike the term “daycare” because they know they are not “taking care of the day,” but in fact are fostering the development and education of children during a critical period in the child’s life. When parents acknowledge that the teacher’s work is important, and even appreciate that it can be challenging, then that can help to foster an optimal partnership. This works both ways!

Parents are actively involved. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the parent has to physically be in the classroom helping to build gingerbread houses or attending every field trip. But instead it does mean that the parent is actively involved in supporting the work the teacher is doing with their child, whether that is working on particular skills at home, ensuring homework is completed, or attending conferences to set goals together for the child. An optimal partnership for a teacher is one where they feel the parent is working with them to support the child’s learning and development and not feeling like it’s solely the teacher’s responsibility.

Open and respectful communication and dialogue exists. Teachers often have to communicate difficult information. They know that parents would prefer not to hear anything negative or concerning about their child. An optimal partnership for a teacher is one where they can share difficult information when needed and feel as though the parent is open to hearing what is being shared in the best interest of the child. Teachers may wish that they can talk about any problems or challenges and that the parent does not respond in a defensive or disrespectful manner. As a parent, I know it can be hard not to feel defensive, especially when it comes to your child. As a teacher, it can also be hard not to feel defensive if parents are not open to hearing what you are saying. Having open and respectful communication is key for both parties when it comes to an optimal partnership. Remembering that you are on the same team and you both want the child to be successful can help minimize the urge for either of you to get defensive and can foster some really great dialogue.

Much of what teachers want is the same as what parents want in building an optimal partnership. Having a relationship built on mutual respect, appreciation, participation, and open communication and dialogue will ultimately contribute to the overall success of your child’s learning and development.

What does an optimal partnership mean to you as a parent? Leave a comment below!

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