4 Expert Tips: The School-Home Connection

School starts tomorrow in my locale, as well as in areas across the country.  Naturally, many parents wonder how they can increase the odds to help their child have the best academic outcomes possible.  Maria Chelsey Fisk, PhD, provides four easy tips to make it happen in today's guest post:
What Parents Can Do to Achieve Success-boosting Parent-Teacher Communication

By Maria Chesley Fisk, PhD
Most students who do well in school have parents who hold high expectations for school achievement and maintain a pro-academic atmosphere at home. Connecting with what your child is learning at school helps you hold high, realistic expectations and build on school learning during conversations and activities at home. In short, we parents are far better equipped to help our children be successful in school if we know what is being studied and how our children are progressing. This is a big reason why communication with your child’s teacher is so important.

Below are recommendations, gleaned from years as an elementary teacher and parent, for promoting success-boosting communication with your child’s teacher:

1. Share your goals for your child’s learning and your hopes for parent-teacher communication.
When parents and teachers communicate about kids' school lives and learning, each of these influential adults gets a fuller picture of the child they are guiding. They also get hints about how they can work together for the good of the child. Share what you see as your child’s strengths (such as kindness and creative problem-solving) and areas for growth (such as reading more advanced books or completing homework independently). Share the goals you or your child have for the year and talk about any the teacher recommends. As children get older, they can participate and even lead this conversation. The first parent-teacher-student conference can be a great time to discuss goals. It is also a great time to ask how the teacher will keep you informed about topics of study so you can be on the lookout for books, activities, and museum exhibits you can pursue at home. Let the teacher know you talk about school with your child and appreciate suggestions about what to talk about.

2. Nurture a positive, open relationship with your child’s teachers.
The strength of parent-teacher communication is tied to the quality of the relationships involved. Nurture an honest, friendly and warm relationship with the professional educators who have an important role in your child's life. Assume good intentions and be thoughtful about teachers’ time and their need to divide their care and focus among so many children. Smile and share positives. Did your daughter really engage with that homework project? Did she talk up a storm about that field trip? The teacher would love to know. And do your part to keep the conversation going. For example, if the teacher suggested you try something at home, take the lead and let her know what you did and how it is working.

3. Volunteer as you are able.
Giving your time to school obviously helps the school, but very importantly, it also shows your child that school is valuable to you. Many schools offer a variety of opportunities so you can find one that fits your schedule: bring in something from a wish list of materials, help in the classroom, or prepare for a lesson or school activity at home.

4. Appreciate and respond to routine and special communications.
Give some positive feedback to those teachers, parent leaders and school administrators who keep you informed about what's going on at school! ParentSquare, a private online communication system for school and families, includes an "appreciate button" so parents can very easily thank teachers and leaders for posting messages. However you do it, people appreciate knowing that their messages are read and that they influence what happens at home -- so be sure to let them know!

You can, while encouraging appropriate independence, help your child do well in school. Positive, learner-focused, productive communication with your child’s teachers and school staff helps you support your child’s success at school. Here’s to a great school year!

Maria Chesley Fisk, Ph.D. is an educator with a passion for parent engagement and co-founder of ParentSquare. ParentSquare is an easy-to-use, private online system communication for school and families. Designed for the adults who are important to students’ learning lives - parents, teachers, principals, staff and parent leaders, ParentSquare provides news sharing, automated email alerts, school and class directories and calendars, volunteer scheduling and wish lists, and tools for committees and other groups at school. ParentSquare also offers to be a revenue generator for schools through business listings by parents and an online fund drive. For more, visit www.ParentSquare.com or email Maria.Fisk@ParentSquare.com.
This post is sponsored by Mommy Perks:
Find out how you can become a sponsor here.


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