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Creating an Effective Partnership with Your Child’s School

It’s that time of year again, and school conferences are upon us. I have the advantage of being a parent, as well as, the school counselor so I’m privy to information from teachers, as well as, other parents. Consequently, I’ve been reflecting on this process from both perspectives.

Parents typically go into conferences looking forward to hearing about what their children are doing well and sometimes cringe when they hear about children’s missteps. What I’ve learned is it’s very difficult for teachers to deliver less-than-optimal news to parents, especially if they worry about parents’ reactions. However, when they don’t deliver the news or soften the blow by minimizing the information they’re often doing students a great disservice. Teachers have unique perspectives of students. The reality is that children may behave very differently at school than at home. The dynamics in a classroom are incomparable to one’s home environment due to the sheer number of bodies bumbling around a given space, inability of a teacher to give every student one on one attention at all times, and the numerous relationships students are navigating all while trying to learn. It’s no wonder some children have difficulty focusing on an assignment or making the right choices.

In trying to protect children it’s not uncommon for parents to become defensive or look for someone else to blame when receiving less than optimal news. I’ve heard parents accuse teachers of failing to motivate children enough or other kids for being too distracting. I’ve heard parents tell teachers if the teachers could address problems with another child then their child could focus, be less anxious, be kinder, fill in the blank. The truth is that there are two sides to every story and all children have areas of growth. So my recommendation is to ask teachers what you can do to help even if you’d rather run away screaming. That may be a preferable short-term reaction but won’t help in the long run. Teachers are encouraged to give honest feedback about children, and that feedback may not always be positive. However, it’s important to learn to accept constructive criticism with grace and understand you’re all working toward the same goal, which is hopefully to help your child reach his or her potential.

Taking the high road is not always easy, but here are some helpful tips.
Don’t take your children’s missteps too personally. Yes, they are your offspring, but the truth is that all kids will make mistakes or struggle in some area from time to time. Your children’s actions are not your actions.

The longer you deny there’s a problem the worse it will become. Avoidance is rarely an effective solution.

Put yourself in the teacher’s shoes. Imagine what it would be like to deliver difficult news and respond in the way you would want to be responded to.

Dr. Carmen Anderson is a School Counselor at St. Mary’s School, a private International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, located in south Orange County, dedicated to providing the best education possible for Preschool, Elementary and Middle School students. Carmen Anderson earned her B.S. degree in Psychology from Santa Clara University and later her M.A./Psy.D in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. For more information about St. Mary’s School, visit www.smaa.org.

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