Every Monday, the first thing I see when I arrive at my Headstart placement location is parents. Parents bringing their students to the classroom, kissing them goodbye and sending them on their way. One thing that I have been intrigued by each day is the close relationship my co-op seems to have with each parent. I have seen her converse with each parent, and even some grandparents, for lengthy amounts of time. She speaks with them about anything from their child to current events to her personal life. I have found myself become engrossed into the conversations simply because it surprises me. I have been placed in so many classrooms throughout my college education thus far from pre-school to fourth grade and I have yet to see such strong relationships between parents and teachers, which saddens me. My question is: why are parent-teacher relationships so important?
As I researched this question, I found that stronger parent-teacher relationships have a strong correlation to improved student behavior. According to a study done in 2014 by Kathleen Mink, “Teachers in congruent, nonpositive, or incongruent relationships gave significantly higher ratings of child behavior problems than teachers in congruent, positive relationships.” This tells us that when parents-teachers don’t see eye to eye or have a good relationship, their child is much more likely to act out in class or display poor behavior.
When parents have a relationship with their child’s teacher that goes beyond a “hi” and “bye” each day, they develop a trusting relationship that benefits the child in so many ways. When a parent trusts their child’s teacher, they are likely to engage in conversations about the child and find out things that they might not have known otherwise. This helps the teacher gain a better understanding of that child, their home life and what their family dynamic is like. This will help them understand student behavior and academic strengths and weaknesses. If a child is acting out at school, teachers may benefit from knowing details about what the child may be doing or going through at home so that they know where to go to help them. If a child is acting out at home, maybe the teacher has some insight on why this is occurring. Parents and teachers can help eachother so much in these situations.
One parent-teacher relationship that really stood out to be was between my current co-op and one of the female students in my class, Suzy. I had heard a lot about Suzy’s mom from my co-op and wondered about the kind of parent she was. She had a rough start to parenthood, relied heavily on her own mother to take care of her child, and moved around a lot. However, Suzy doesn’t seem to be phased by this. She’s a great student who is kind to others, listens to instructions and is proficient in her academics. I have noticed my co-op and Suzy’s mom talking a lot more so than other parents. I overheard them talking about Suzy, but also sharing a heart-to-heart about their current relationships. I thought this was really cool. It is amazing to me that they found a friend in eachother, with sweet Suzy in the center of it. You can tell that Suzy, in turn, trusts her teacher. She loads her up with hugs, love and kindness. She often whispers in her ear and follows her around the room. Suzy shared with my co-op, “I don’t like math, it’s too hard.” I can’t help but think that their close relationship is related to the close-knit relationship between her mother and her teacher.
If a child doesn’t trust their teacher, they cannot learn from them. If they do not feel safe, cared for and valued, they cannot learn from them. So when a child sees that their parent trusts their teacher, they are much more likely to do the same. This will cause them to be much more open about their needs in school. That way, the teacher can reach the child on deeper levels and help them in areas of weakness. They can help students reach their full potential if that trust is there. If a child knows their teachers wants them to succeed and believes they can do so, they will want to succeed too.
To find out more:
Minke, K., Sheridan, S., Kim, E., Ryoo, J., & Koziol, N. (2014). Congruence in Parent-Teacher Relationships: The Role of Shared Perceptions. The Elementary School Journal, 114(4), 527-546. doi:10.1086/675637
Iruka, I., Winn, D., Kingsley, S., & Orthodoxou, Y. (2011). Links Between Parent-Teacher Relationships and Kindergartners’ Social Skills: Do Child Ethnicity and Family Income Matter? The Elementary School Journal, 111(3), 387-408. doi:10.1086/657652