Educators know that the level of success a child shows during a school year is enhanced by the level of cooperation between parents and the teacher. The Church’s vision of the parent’s role in educating their child/children is put forth in the following passage from the Declaration on Christian Education, Vatican Council II: “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.”
This strong vision only supports that there must be collaboration between teachers and parents in the forming of their children.
Teachers and parents must become partners where communication and cooperation exists for the best interest of the child. It is important that the teacher’s expectation is clearly communicated to the parents in a non-confrontational manner.
Because parents are entrusting their child to someone whom the parents do not know personally, there must be a connection between parent and teacher to develop trust.
One way to enhance trust is for the teacher to communicate to the parent on a regular basis how their child is progressing in their development in the classroom. It is also important for the parents to share with the teacher the child’s interests, skills and history to build a complete picture of the child emotionally, mentally or physically. Communication is imperative if the child has unique challenges or there have been changes in the family structure at home such as a divorce or death.
Communication is not just telling, but more importantly listening and asking.
Building trust and collaboration begins from the moment a child enters a classroom on the first day of school. It is important that the first contact with a parent be of a positive nature rather than a “negative” reason. Parents need to feel they can make an appointment with a teacher to receive input about their child.
It is not productive to try to talk to a teacher the first thing in the morning when dropping off the child. The teacher has many things to handle as children enter the classroom in the morning. The teacher will be able to give a parent more time and attention to the individual child’s need in a conversation that has been scheduled. Parents should not hesitate to send a note and request an informal “how’s my child doing”.
In a Catholic News Service article Pope Francis gave a speech to Italian educators Jan. 5, in which he strongly encourages teachers and schools to build a strong alliance with families that supports and strengthens each other. Teachers and parents cannot see each other as opposing forces, he said, but rather, they must put themselves “in the other’s shoes, understanding the real difficulties both sides face today in education, and thus creating greater solidarity…”
Teachers are the people parents entrust with the most precious people in their lives — the people who inspire the strongest emotions (and fear) within us. Therefore, it makes sense to communicate and collaborate with the parents. Teachers and parents are working toward the same end: forming and facilitating the development of the child. In our Catholic schools this means developing the child spiritually, socially, intellectually and physically.
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