You want your child to be successful in school. You see how relentless teaching is. But still, you’re not quite sure how to support your child’s teacher.
When I taught in downtown Los Angeles, I had a classroom full of 35 fifth graders. They were all English Language Learners and many had significant academic and behavioral challenges. Their parents were almost exclusively Mexican immigrants who were working day and night to keep a roof over their heads. And yet, they really supported me in dozens of small ways.
I returned to my hometown a few years later and taught second grade in more affluent schools and still felt incredibly supported by parents. These parents had the resources to do things like bring me coffee or work with reading groups weekly. Mostly, their tone that they wanted to work together made me feel supported.
Now as a stay-at-home-mom turned work-from-home special needs mama, I have had the opportunity to find additional manageable ways I can support my children’s teachers. Here are several practical ways that you can support your child’s teacher.
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Talk to your child’s teacher about concerns
One of the most important ways you can support your child’s teacher is through communication. You are THE expert in your child. You might not know about curriculum and instructional practices and evidence-based classroom management. However, you have knowledge and insights about your child and his or her concerns that is extremely helpful to the teacher.
Communicate about your child
“All this communication has been really helpful,” said my daughter’s special education teacher in kindergarten. I’d already sent what felt like a dozen emails prior to school and during the first week. But the transition to kindergarten was proving to be rough for everyone.
I had some suggestions from my daughter’s therapists and from our routines at home. So I email the teacher with some ideas for the problems. Each time I pressed send on my phone, I wondering if it was overkill. But the teacher found it helpful.
I get it, you don’t want to bug the teacher. You’re afraid of being the annoying, helicopter parent, too. But as a former teacher, I always asked for communication. This is one of the best things you can do to support your child’s teacher.
Communicate your concerns proactively and positively
At Back-to-School Night, I’d tell my classroom full of adults sitting in tiny chairs at little tables, “Please err on the side of TOO much communication. I cannot help your child if I do not know there is a problem.”
The vast majority of teachers want to help their students and they want to partner with parents to get those problems solved.
Also, I have heard teachers say, “I promise I won’t believe everything your child tells me about your home life, if you’ll extend me the same benefit.”
What teachers mean is give them the benefit of the doubt, and ask in a curious manner rather than being accusatory. Your child’s perspective can be very different from an adult’s perspective. You know this from home.
When you have a concern, you absolutely should voice it to the teacher but make sure to use the appropriate tone.
Work together with your child’s teacher
Teaching is hard. Elementary school teachers have to deal with 20-30 little people all day long. Middle and high school teachers have hundreds of students. There are the academic expectations, the limited budgets and resources, and the demands of meeting various student needs ALL. DAY. LONG.
Working together with your child’s teacher makes your child’s teacher feel supported.
Volunteer at your child’s school
Teachers will ask for parent helpers for in class activities like reading groups, math centers or holiday parties. They might need chaperones on field trips or parents to help at events like Field Day. Some schools have programs like Art Parents or Art Literacy. If you enjoy being in the classroom with the children, these are great ways to participate.
But teachers also have to do tons of preparation to make their classrooms run well. Here’s some examples of prep work help teachers need:
- collating Scholastic book orders into packets
- making photocopies of worksheets or booklets
- cutting out laminated flashcards, game pieces, or other learning materials
- filing correct paperwork
- stuffing folders to go home
All these activities are time-consuming yet necessary for teachers. Ultimately they can take away time from figuring out strategies to help students learn better.
For many families, going into school to volunteer will be out of reach. Some parents lack a flexible work schedule or the transportation to get to the school in the first place. And teachers understand this.
If you’d still like to do preparation work at home, ask the teacher. When I taught, often I’d send home laminated materials that parents could cut out at home (while watching Netflix!)
Also, if you aren’t a PTA-mom, if that’s just not your jam, that’s okay, too. There are other ways to help and support your child’s teacher.
Send in extra supplies
Until my toddler was old enough for drop-in childcare last year, there was no way I could get into the kindergarten classroom and volunteer. We didn’t have family to leave my son with and he had too much anxiety to do a child-care swap with one of my friends.
But I still wanted to support my child’s teacher so I donated supplies. I ordered supplies for the classroom on Subscribe and Save from Amazon and would drop them off with the teacher when I went to pick up my daughter from school.
If you don’t already use Subscribe & Save, I highly recommend it. It was so nice to have things shipped to my door instead of trying to remember when I went to Target.
There are my favorite (and probably your teacher’s most requested) supplies:
- Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, 320ct (Pack of 4)
Kids are gross and classrooms are germ-factories.
- EXPO Low Odor Dry Erase Markers, Chisel Tip, Assorted Colors, 12 Count
These get all dried out part way through the year.
- Elmer’s All Purpose School Glue Sticks, Washable, 30 Count
If your child is in elementary school, your teacher will love these. All the caps go missing by February!
- Goldfish crackers
It helps the teacher to have extra snacks in the classroom closet for when students forget their lunches.
- Hand sanitizer
See Lysol wipes above: classrooms are germ factories.
This a must during cold season once the teacher’s stash of Kleenex has run out.
Attend Parent Meetings
Going to meetings sure doesn’t seem like a way you can support your child’s teacher – but it does support them.
When parents have all the information they need from the teacher, they can help their children at home. In turn, that supports teachers. Plus, teachers work hard to prepare materials and presentations to inform parents of what’s going on at school. When only a few parents show up, it can be a poor use of the teacher’s limited time.
Make sure you schedule events like Back to School or Curriculum Night in your calendar at the beginning of the year. Arrange child care if it’s at all possible for you: if you don’t have family or a babysitter, try a childcare swap with a friend who has children at another school.
It’s the same with parent-teacher conferences. You can best support the teacher when you have the face-to-face meetings.
Show your appreciation for the teachers
It’s really important to show our appreciation for teachers.
Teacher Appreciation Gifts
I created a printable for My Teacher’s Favorites. If you are interested in giving your teacher gifts or small tokens of appreciation, this printable can provide guidance for busy families and remove that mental labor of “what do they like” and “what should I get?”
Another thing I like to do is simply go to Starbucks and get a variety of drinks. Sometimes I email ahead of time to ask for requests but usually I’m not that organized! So I show up with a tray of iced teas and coffees or various bottled beverages from the Starbucks cold case.
Teachers know a lot of families are on tight budget or struggling to make ends meet. So if you don’t have financial resources, or if gift giving is barred by policy at your child’s school or district, don’t underestimate the power of words of appreciation. A simple card from your child a handwritten note from you, or an email to the principal where you cc the teacher are all free and cost you nothing but time and thought.
Appreciate the whole faculty
Another great idea is to show appreciation for the whole faculty and staff. Snacks and drinks are appreciated in the faculty room. Again, I order things through Amazon Subscribe & Save and just drop it off at the school office.
- K-Cup Variety Packs
Check and see if your school has a K-Cup machine.
- Starbucks drinks
Teachers, like parents, can always use more caffeine!
- Sparkling water
A healthier alternative to soda for the post-lunch slump.
- Pita Chips
I chose individually portioned bags so the teachers can take them back to their classroom as they work.
- Nut-free granola bars
A lot of schools are nut-free for allergies.
Recapping How You Can Support Your Child’s Teacher
Here’s the recap for all you busy parents:
- Communicate about your concerns for your child to your child’s teacher.
- Make sure to keep your tone positive when you inquire about a problem.
- Teachers can only help your child if they know there is a concern.
- Volunteer at the school as you are able.
- Use a Teacher’s Favorite printable to guide your appreciation gifts if your family chooses to do that.
- Make it a priority to attend all the parent meetings and conferences.
Supporting your child’s teacher can be pretty simple. Make sure to communicate, work together, and show your appreciation. Get your free Teacher’s Favorite printable today!