Your child’s very first primary-school teacher is a key figure in their life – and yours. And it’s natural to want to establish a good parent-teacher relationship right from the start: it’ll help you and your child as you get settled in to the routine of the Reception or P1 school year, and it will definitely help the teacher, too.
“It is important to work in partnership with your child’s class teacher,” says Simon Brownhill, Senior Teaching Associate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge.
After all, you and the teacher have the same goal: happy, confident child who is eager to learn.
But what’s the best way to get this partnership going? What can you do to help your child’s teacher get to know you and your child better? And how (and when) should you approach them if you have specific worries or concerns?
What can I do to help my child’s teacher?
Teachers need your co-operation to ensure their work is effective. And that includes everything from making sure your child gets to to school on time every day and talking to your child about what they’ve been doing in class to helping your child with afterschool reading or homework (if there is any) and coming to parents’ evenings.
Try to make a point of checking your child’s school bag every day after school, in case the teacher has sent any notes home. And, if the school has a ‘parentmail’ system, make sure you’re up to date with the mails you’re sent – and have responded to the ones asking for a reply.
As the first school year progresses, you could offer to help out in class if you’re able to. But don’t be offended if, for the first term or so, teachers decline your offer, as it can be distracting for children to have parents in the class until they are more settled.
What if I have specific questions or concerns?
“Meetings, informal discussions and notes are all very effective for this,” says Simon. “And it’s definitely best to ask, rather then simply leave things for the teacher to ‘fix’.”
For a quick question, put it in your child’s home-school diary or contact book or, if you’d rather keep it strictly between you and the teacher, write a note and ask your child to hand it in to the teacher at the start of the day.
For longer or more complex questions and concerns, use the note system to ask the teacher for a specific time when the two of you could speak – either in person or on the phone.
When’s the best time to talk to my child’s teacher?
If you’ve got a minor question or some information to pass on to your child’s teacher, your might prefer just to grab them for a chat. But when exactly is the best time to do this? At school drop-off or pick-up? Or should always book a meeting?
We asked mums in our Facebook community, and got some great responses from women who are both mums and teachers.
Charlie F, who teaches at her children’s school, tells us:
“I am also happy to talk at the school gate too while dropping my own children off,” she adds, “but I feel this should be general chat, not ‘work’: I like to think I’m friendly and approachable but I do like to separate my mum duties from my school duties.”
Former deputy head teacher Anne M agrees:
“I would always be there for parents to answer minor questions before and after school. If it was something more serious, I used to get them to book an appointment. But now that I am a parent, I understand it from both sides, and if parent of a child in my class was really upset about something, I would give them more time (within reason as the class is waiting!).
“These little people are your world. I’d be a lot more empathetic now. “
Should I tell my child’s teacher if something’s happening at home?
Teacher Emma P our Facebook community is adamant that, if there’s something going on at home that could be affecting your child, it really does help to keep the teacher informed – even if it’s only a brief outline of the situation.
“I always have time for parents when they need it and would always meet with parents.
“We appreciate that parents may want to keep family issues to themselves but we can offer so much support to both the children and to the families if something is happening at home, particularly when related to mental health. Early support can really help.”