Banish the Back-to-School Blues: 10 Ways to Build Better Student-Teacher Relationships

By Christina Katz

Teacher-student cooperation is an important alliance that starts at home and affects a child’s entire academic career. Having positive relationships with teachers throughout twelve years of school can make the difference between a child who adores school and all it encompasses and a child who dreads school and struggles on a daily basis.

By the time school starts each fall, teachers have already invested years of education, practice, and preparation into getting this school year off to a great start. Most parents want their children to succeed in school but sometimes students and parents inadvertently get off on the wrong foot with teachers. How can parents encourage kids to meet educational professionals halfway? Here are ten tips for helping your child cultivate positive, supportive, and mutually respectful relationships with teachers from the first day of school forward.

1. Attend meet-the-teacher activities. No matter what the age of your child, don’t miss an opportunity to get to know the teacher as a both an educator and a person. It’s always appropriate for teachers and students to share things about their lives with each other as a way of bonding and getting to know each other.

2. Set positive expectations about teachers with your child. Even if the teacher your child was assigned is new or not the current parent favorite, express enthusiasm to your child about learning with the teacher she will have.

3. Communicate your child’s needs. If you can send an email to the teacher a week before school starts, that’s good timing. But it’s never too late to keep your child’s teacher up to date on your child’s specific challenges, especially those that will affect his ability to learn.

4. Let the teacher do the teaching. Once the year kicks off, assume a supporting role. Express interest in your child’s academic work and school activities but try to let her tackle challenges like homework and projects herself.

5. See how well your child can meet standards on his own. Schools set up checkpoints like teacher conferences to assess student progress. Use these opportunities to find out how well your child is doing in school. Be relaxed and open-minded about any reports, especially if they are not what you were hoping to hear.

6. Coach from the backseat. No parent likes to see a child falter. But facing struggles can be helpful in building character and teaching him lessons about himself. Don’t do your child’s work for him. Take on a cheerleading stance instead.

7. Get more structured support as needed. If the year is at the halfway point and your child is not making solid academic progress, and you have exhausted the school’s resources, consider a private tutor, a learning service like Kumon or a tutoring service like Sylvan. Try to find a private tutor with reasonable rates using an online tutor-finder like

8. Participate. Three common commitments are parent-teacher meetings, school events, and parent volunteering. But don’t be at the school 24-7. If your child gets the sense that you are appropriately committed and engaged in the spirit of the school without hovering, she can relax, participate, and focus on doing her best.

9. Don’t pressure. Meet your student wherever he is. There is no point in projecting your prior academic success onto your child or pressing him to achieve more than he is reasonably capable of accomplishing. Love and appreciate your child as a whole person, not just a grade at the end of the year, and he will feel secure and motivated.

10. Express gratitude. Offer teachers an inexpensive card or gift at holiday time and the end of the year. But don’t write the thank-you note for your child. Help her write it herself instead until she is old enough to take over the job.

Reboot That Rocky Relationship: 5 Ways To Resolve Student-Teacher Conflicts

1. If you are not sure what to say, start sentences with the phrase, “I am concerned because…” Then ask, “Do you think there is anything that needs to be done to address this concern?”

2. Ask questions until you understand the situation and what your child can do better.

3. Convey to both the teacher and your child that you will do everything you can to help address the issue.

4. Check in with your child daily for a couple of weeks to insure teacher expectations are understood and heeded.

5. Follow-up with the teacher after two weeks to make sure there has been a noticeable improvement.

Don’t assume the situation will be resolved immediately just because you brought it up. And don’t believe it is resolved merely because the student says it is. Confirm a more harmonious relationship from the teacher’s point of view, as well. When harmony is achieved praise your child for making an effort and thank the teacher for his time and attention. If your child’s teacher brings up a challenge that needs to be addressed, follow the same steps.

Whatever You Do, Don’t…

• Don’t expect teachers to drop everything and get back to you immediately. Assume a busy, full schedule and allow about a week for a response.

• Don’t take things personally when issues that come up are actually about your child’s progress in school.

• Don’t expect teachers to try and please you. They are supposed to focus on teaching the kids, not coddling the parents.

• Don’t speak disparagingly about your child’s teachers with him or in front of him.

• Don’t fire off an email when you are angry. Wait until you calm down and then send an email asking for more information or requesting a meeting time.

• Don’t go over a teacher’s head unless you have made every attempt to cooperate with that teacher first. If you have tried three times and been unsuccessful each time, you might send a calm note to the principal explaining that you are having a hard time communicating with the teacher and you would like some assistance.


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