Before you hit “delete” on that email desperately seeking volunteers to chaperone your child’s class field trip or crumple up the flier about the informational meeting for potential room-parents, think again. Research shows that teachers have a much more favorable opinion of involved parents than absentee parents. Research also shows that students are more likely to succeed if teachers have a positive perception of their parents.
Researchers at the University of Missouri enlisted more than 100 teachers to participate in a professional development program. One aspect of the program was for participants to complete surveys at the beginning and end of the school year about the 1,800-plus parents and students they worked with. Teachers were asked to rate the quantity and quality of their relationships with parents, how involved parents were in their kids’ education, and student behavior and academic performance.
After reviewing teacher feedback and student performance data, the researchers identified a clear pattern. Students with parents who were rated positively by teachers behaved and performed better in school, leading to higher student success rates. “It’s clear from years of research that teacher perceptions, even perceptions of which they are not aware, can greatly impact student success,” noted University of Missouri Professor Keith Herman. “If a teacher has a good relationship with a student’s parents or perceives that those parents are positively engaged in their child’s education, that teacher may be more likely to give extra attention or go the extra mile for that student.
Even though teachers may not consciously realize it, their “negative perceptions often bring out negative behaviors,” Herman said. It’s simply human nature: We’re all drawn to people whom we admire and who treat us well. The opposite holds true for people we have a negative opinion of. Teachers are naturally inclined to go the extra mile for students whose parents they perceive as engaged, involved, helpful, and respectful.
How to Create A Good Teacher–Parent Relationship
Teachers play an important role in shaping kids’ futures. It’s in your child’s best interest for you to take time to get to know them, to make a positive impression, and to be sure they understand your child.
Show up but don’t hover. Arguably the most important thing you can do to foster a positive relationship with your kids’ teachers is to show up to the parent–teacher conferences, performances, ceremonies, and celebrations that parents are encouraged to attend. Attending such events shows you’re an involved parent, and it also shows your children that you value them and consider education a priority.
Additionally, most teachers appreciate parental help on occasion. Whenever you’re able, volunteer to help out in the classroom or at extracurricular events when teachers are seeking assistance. Understand that your role as a volunteer is appreciated and important. However, also understand that your role as a volunteer is a supporting role. You’re there to help the teacher not to overshadow or undermine them, and be careful about being a helicopter parent.
Treat teachers like you expect to be treated. Kindness, appreciation, and respect go a long way in any interaction, including with your kids’ teachers. Be mindful of your tone and demeanor when interacting with your child’s teachers. Be careful not to sound condescending, unappreciative, or angry.
Realize that your children are not perfect—no one is! Sometimes your kids’ teachers may need to discuss things with you that are difficult to hear. You child may be struggling academically or socially, bullying or being bullied, caught cheating, or caught saying or participating in something inappropriate. Resist the urge to become defensive. Listen and absorb what you’re hearing before responding. Most teachers sincerely want their students to succeed.
When you make an effort to get to know your child’s teachers and take a sincere interest in their education, teachers will think more highly of you but your kids will be the real winners.