I have spent nearly 5 years in education. Before that I worked for a non-profit working with students encouraging them to pursue a career in the medical field. Since graduating from college, I have been committed to seeing the success of children. I have worked in three different school settings and seen a wide variety of students. As a result, I have also had my encounters with a wide variety of parents.
My goal when I became a teacher was to ensure my students would not only graduate but also to equip parents with the resources they needed to continue the education from school at home. Many of my students had parents who were absent or disengaged by the school or, like me, had active parents that did not know anything about college. Even as a new teacher I was never afraid to ask my students' parents questions because I know and value the importance of hearing about my students from the people who know them best. Their parents. And my best chance of supporting and helping my students the way they need and deserve depends on me having extra information about each child to guide my decisions.
We as teachers often worry about parents being involved in their child’s education. Sometimes we even bemoan how disengaged they seem. But far too often, we fail to ask them even a single question about their child before we teach them, everyday, for an entire school year.
Here are the 3 questions that every teacher should consider asking parents about the students in their class. These questions are not specific to any particular grade, age, or ethnicity and they are equally effective regardless of school model.
What does your child aspire to be? This was an important question when I wanted to know how to motivate my students. And while it isn't the most original query, knowing the answer can really make things a lot easier for a teacher. One the first thing that successful teachers do with their students is connect with them. The easiest way to connect with your students is to know what is it that they want to be. You can motivate a student to learn by tying in their interest and passion into what they are learning.
How often are you available to meet about your child? This is the question that affirms to everyone that this child’s education is a team effort. The parents who hear this question know right right out of the gate that I want to support them in making sure their students is successful. This question tells the teacher that I know I can count on the parent to support me in educating the student. And perhaps more importantly, this question gives the student the confidence to be able to say, "my teacher and my parent are on the same page and they both want to see me succeed."
Does your child like to read? If so what is his/her favorite book? As a teacher I pushed reading for two reasons: one, I was an English teacher and reading was the majority of my classroom instruction. And two, most students struggle with reading or do not like to read. I have this underlying goal to teach my students the joys of reading and the importance of reading regardless of their reading interest before meeting them. I believe there is a correlation to students that enjoy reading and those that eventually become successful. If the parent answers yes to the question, then I have to continue fostering that love for reading in pushing them to tackle complex reading materials. If the answer is no, then I know I must figure a way to help this student see the joys in reading and overcome their dislike or lack of reading.
I promise that knowing more about your students from the start will make all the difference later, not only in the relationships you are able to build with students, but also in the relationships and trust you are able to establish with parents.
And that trust, along with a love of reading, are total game changers.
David McGuire is an elementary teacher in Indianapolis, IN. He blogs at Indy Ed.