Thoughts on Approaching Your Child's Teachers

<p>Pelicandad asked me to speak to this question on a different thread, but I hoped that some veteran parents could weigh in with their successes and new parents can add their questions. (it's my first thread!)</p>

<p>*@Albion: so..any thoughts on how a parent should best approach their kid's BS teachers? On the one hand, the whole point of BS is that my kid needs to learn to adapt to the expectations of adults who are NOT his parents; on the other, I've had a great dialogical relationship with a lot of DC's day school teachers. In the BS world, is it considered crazy or helicopter parenting to be in touch with your kid's teachers? I'm looking for the balance so the teacher knows his/her role is supported by the folks at home, without getting overbearing so that the teacher is always looking at my child but thinking, "Oh yeah, crazy spawn..." In earnest, here...I'd love to hear your perspective on what makes a "good" BS parent, for the child and the teachers/staff alike. *</p>

<p>@Pelicandad: Anyone who asks that question is already clearly an excellent parent. I don't start hearing the whirring of the helicopter blades until I'm being told how to do my job, usually accompanied by phrases like "Clearly, you should just..." or "Why don't you simply..."
To get my job at an elite boarding school I had to beat out 100 other strong applicants and be interviewed by 15 or more different school personnel, so the worst thing a parent can do is treat me like the Help, or like some none-too-bright sad-sack who couldn't get a "real" job. (Do you see how extreme you have to be to be a parent that teachers grumble about?) What you wrote in your post immediately put me at ease. If you lead with friendly enthusiasm, teachers will almost always respond in kind.</p>

<p>In boarding school, all questions and contact are typically funneled through your kid's Advisor, so you will need to start there. Don't be afraid to pro-actively email after the first two weeks with one specific question: "is s/he making friends on the dorm?" "How's the soccer team working out?" etc. Advisor now has to pay enough attention to answer that one quick question, and the relationship is off and running. I respond best to parents who are informal, friendly, and funny. Personally, I'm also happy to help in any long-standing parent missions along the lines of "eat more vegetables" or "extra vocab practice." I'm not a magical wand fairy, but I will cheerfully give it a go (and make it seem like I never heard it from you.) </p>

<p>I know that many parents worry that teachers will treat a kid differently because of how the parent treats the teacher. This phenomenon is something that my teacher friends and I always marvel at. The kid is a separate person. We don't have to love the parents to love the kid. I've had great relationships with kids whose parents who were extremely rude to me. </p>

<p>Caveat: I can only report what is true for me, and I do not know the extent to which my feelings are typical. I've taught at boarding and day schools for 14 years, for what that's worth.</p>

<p>Albion thanks for sharing. :)</p>

<p>You sound like an angel. Most teachers aren’t angels. :D</p>

<p>Pelicandad, great question. </p>

<p>Albion, I will be a new BS parent this fall, and D will be a good distance away. D was at a small private K-8 school with a very tight-knit community. There was great access to the teachers with strong teacher/parent relationships. This was with most parents, not just my experience. I always knew what was going on whether I inquired or not. I liked the feeling of being in the loop, so next year is going to be challenging for me. </p>

<p>From your experience, how well does a typical advisor want to “get to know” the parents? Is this important for them, or (honestly) is it usually the kind of atmosphere where they feel they only need to talk to a parent if there is a problem/concern? I know the advisors have a full plate of responsibilities. </p>

<p>Let’s say D is adjusting well. I inquire after the first couple of weeks and get a glowing report. Then what? I guess I am not sure what kind of contact I should be having with the advisor. When you give us your perspective, can you also tell us whether that is typical of the expectations of advisors you have known over your 14 years.</p>

<p>Most of our contact with the school has been through the form deans and dorm advisor (who also serves as the academic adviser). They both called at the two week mark to give an update on the kid’s adjustment to school (school policy), and they were always available for concerns. Contact with the teachers was limited to a parent conference in the fall, and very detailed reports three times a year. Any questions or concerns went through the form dean and advisor, who then talked with the teacher. We did have close contact also with the college counselor.</p>

<p>Albion, thanks, this is great! I’m coming from a situation like Ranabona describes, and have really felt a sense of partnership with my child and his teachers in the education process…I can’t help but feel that’s going to change now. I like the discrete-response email approach…I’ll give that a try this fall, after I get a sense of the lay of the land. Although DC is bright and capable, I just <em>know</em> the transition to BS academic standards is going to be a major surprise to him!</p>

<p>@ BSR, I think our kids attend the same school <<most of=“” our=“” contact=“” with=“” the=“” school=“” has=“” been=“” through=“” form=“” deans=“” and=“” dorm=“” advisor=“” (who=“” also=“” serves=“” as=“” academic=“” adviser).=“”>> yep</most></p>

<p><<they both=“” called=“” at=“” the=“” two=“” week=“” mark=“” to=“” give=“” an=“” update=“” on=“” kid’s=“” adjustment=“” school=“” (school=“” policy),=“”>> Wow times have changed. We had a third former this past year, but only got one call all year from the academic advisor after two weeks, nothing from the dean. </they></p>

<p><<contact with=“” the=“” teachers=“” was=“” limited=“” to=“” a=“” parent=“” conference=“” in=“” fall,=“”>> nope, nothing like that.</contact></p>

<p><< and very detailed reports three times a year. >> We didn’t receive any reports detailed or otherwise. Whom should we contact about this?</p>

<p>RBGG- you don’t get the term reports? This is the first year that they have not been mailed to the house, they are only available online. Login to the parent portal, click on “term reports” on the left hand side. Spring 2011 is not available yet, Winter 2011 and Fall 2011 (I think that’s what they call it) should be there. They start with a paragraph from the form dean, very specific to your child. The next report is from your child’s advisor, which sums up the school’s overall impression of your student. Then, a detailed report from each teacher. Finally, a paragraph from whatever coach your child had this season. I print them out and file them. Each term’s report runs about three pages single spaced. Did you go to parents’ weekend on Halloween weekend? That’s when they had all of the parent conferences, in the big gym. You had to sign up for those online as well.</p>

<p>Thanks Baystate. No, did not know any of this. Thank goodness for CC! :)</p>

<p>Oh my. No wonder you think it’s a terrible school! :wink: Sometimes I wonder if this move to putting EVERYTHING online leaves a lot of us behind. I was really bummed out when they switched from paper to online only, because the paper was thick and creamy and had the school seal on it and looked…important! Nothing like that comes out of my printer. I also worry about the people who don’t have good internet service. Here’s another suggestion- do you get those monthly emails from the parent coordinator? She’s a very nice person, forget her name but you can look it up. There are links all over that email that send you to the right place to get information. Like, click on this link to learn how to sign up for parent conferences in October, or, this month’s news from the college office, or click here to see the video of last week’s special program. Hope that helps!</p>

<p>@Ranabona: I’ve only ever worked at smaller schools (fewer than 500.) The most popular schools on this website are much bigger than that, so odds are my answer may not help. I actually turned down a job offer at one of those “Acronym” schools this year because it was too big for me. I like getting to know almost all of the kids, not just those that are in my classes and sport/activity. I got the sense that at the “sink or swim” schools teachers get to know only the kids they interact with in an official capacity. At both boarding schools I’ve worked at, we wrote detailed written comments 4 times a year, and my contact with my advisees’ parents depended on what they asked for. In some cases, I got used to emailing back and forth every other week or more, while others never contacted me so I (and I think this is typical of many teachers) was not very proactive unless there was a problem. The best BS parent relationship started when the parents found me on Day 1 and confessed that they were very nervous about leaving their beloved son, but knew it was the right step for him. It gave me a clear sense of the level of contact they were hoping for, and I pushed to find more time to contact them. Plus they were so kind and cheerful! Ask for what you need. My friends and I will happily respond to the parent who contacts us (and specific questions or inquiries are really useful-so after the first glowing report, write again with another querry.) </p>

<p>Teachers get caught up in the boarding school “bubble” as much as the kids do, and our schedules are constantly in flux. We are not as good at communicating with parents as day school teachers because our day doesn’t end, but my friends and I always welcome friendly inquiries and requests. Some teachers are more crotchety, but I stay away from them. But schools do talk to their faculties about including parents more, and it’s reasonable to ask for what you want. You may not get 100%, but if you wait to hear from the school, you almost certainly will not get the amount of contact you’d like.</p>

<p>This was a little all over the place–let me know what I can clarify!</p>

<p>Just finished my 6th year as a BS parent. I have always found email a great way to communicate with teachers and administration. It lets everyone respond on their own schedule. The few times I have had to telephone I have always found teachers to be very responsive. Also, it is apparent from the progress reports that each teacher knew my DDs well and were very perceptive about their needs, academic progress and even emotional well-being.</p>

<p>For those used to a small day school with lots of contact with teachers, it will be a shock, we found. But, you can lean on the advisor to talk to the teachers and get consistent feedback. Set expectations with the advisor in the beginning of the year or you will likely get one lame fall report from the advisor (which they are required to do) and not much else. We had some issues with S and ended up talking to advisor every other week–and still were amazed how quickly S fell off his radar, if there wasn’t a parent call/email update coming up. This was a well-intentioned, organized and caring advisor, but he was busy and had many other commitments. Yes, teachers also know S in class, but there’s a lot more going on in a teen’s life than 80 minutes of Science lab. Unless there was an immediate need, frankly, S was floating around without much adult interaction or supervision. Get comfortable with that notion or keep your D/S closer to home at a nice, supportive day school.</p>

<p>Albion, thanks for the insight. I believe I will be able to get a feel for being inquiring without being annoying. </p>

<p>Grinzing, I have prepared myself for the fact that the environment in which my D is leaving is completely different from where she is going. I THINK I’m ready to cut the apron strings…we’ll see.</p>