Commu nicatio n, motiva tion, pa ssion and co llabora tion are key qualitie s


This is key: Whether by email or telephone, through parent informational sessions, open houses or even classroom newsletters, good teachers will let you know what’s going on in class and how your child is doing. Parents should pay attention to what they receive from teachers at the beginning of the school year, said Nancy Self, clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M University’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. Good teachers will E-mail is one way communicate good teachers frequently communicate with with parents, parents. sending home letters and updates on what’s been covered in class and what’s planned for the weeks ahead. Jeanne Jusevic, chairwoman of Broward (Fla.) District Advisory Council — a group that advises the county’s school board on policy issues — points to one of her children’s former math teachers, who would e-mail parents to alert them of upcoming tests, then send parents the test curve so they knew how their children did compared with the rest of the class. With such teachers, “you know right away, they’re looking to partner, to have a home connection so they can build a relationship,” Jusevic said.

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be partners in helping children learn. Suzy Martyn, author of “Enjoy the Ride: Tools, Tips, and Inspiration for the Most Common Parenting Challenges” (Mother’s Friend Publishing, $12.95), said parental support — through volunteer time or sending in classroom supplies — is very important in developing a relationship with teachers. “One thing I know for certain is that the parents’ attitude, participation, openness and support can really go a long way,” Martyn said. “No matter what type of teacher you have, even if it’s someone who is really hard to work with, if they feel supported by a parent, it’s hard not to bring out the best in them.” Teachers want parents to get involved, said Jeb Handwerger, a math teacher at Hollywood Hills (Fla.) High School. He suggested parents reach out early, attending open houses or other parent nights to meet teachers and give them their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. “We can have more parent involvement,” Handwerger said. “Parents

ntinel e, Sun Se Bushous By Kathy

need to be held accountable for their kids’ education as much as a teacher is.” Parents can track their children’s progress through online gradebooks, where teachers input students’ grades on homework and tests. On those sites, parents can sign up for e-mail alerts when their children’s grades dip below a certain level, and contact teachers if there is a problem.

What if there’s a problem?
If there is a conflict, make sure to talk to the teacher first. Suggest a phone conversation or a conference, and approach teachers “with an attitude of ‘How can we solve this problem?’” Self said. Don’t disrespect the teacher in front of your child or give any indication you don’t trust the teacher. “This simply fuels the problem, causes the child to give up or to be a behavior problem in the classroom,” Self said. “The problem is then more difficult to resolve.” If the trouble lies in conflicting personalities, Martyn advises parents to try to be patient. She suggests being open and talking to children about what they can learn from their teachers. Should the conflict be over a grade, parents can help by holding on to their children’s homework, tests and projects until the end of a grading period, Jusevic said. She photocopies assignments and saves a copy so she has proof of their grades in case something is lost, and uses online gradebooks to keep track of scores. Should talking with the teacher not work, parents can seek out a principal or assistant principal for help, said Judith Klinek, a former middle school principal who is now an assistant superintendent for the Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District. Once an administrator works with a teacher to settle parents’ concerns, “I do believe 99.9 percent of any issues are resolved at that point,” Klinek said. Rarely do parents come back to request a switch to a different classroom, she said. Such intervention is more common at the elementary school level, since students spend most of their time with one teacher, Klinek said. And often, the problems emerge during the first week or two of school, when children are adjusting to a new routine. She urged patience. “We often tell the parent, ‘Give it a week,’” Klinek said. “‘If you’re still not happy after a week, call.’”

about life and their own experiences as well as the Pythagorean theorem or the meaning of irony.” If a teacher is motivating, chances are students will still be talking about projects, experiments or other lessons after school, said Julie Fanning, whose son is a student in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. She thinks you can tell children have good teachers “when your child’s excited to go to school and you’re not having to drag them out of bed in the morning, (or) when they come home and talk about what a great day that they had.”

Pay attention, get involved
Indeed, parents should look for signs from their children to gauge teacher performance, such as whether children enjoy school, make academic progress and feel respected by their teachers, Self said. Another sign: Parents are welcome in the classroom. Self said good teachers want parents to volunteer in the class or for class projects, and to

Keeping it interesting
A teacher’s passion for the subject and for helping students is a good indicator of how effective that teacher is, said Elizabeth Yagodzinski, an instructional designer at Lynn University’s Institute for Distance Learning. “Good teachers love their subject and love being in the classroom,” Yagodzinski said. That means getting creative — wearing a toga during lessons on ancient Greece, for example. Or it may involve a teacher bringing personal experiences into the classroom. Student Doug Hall said teachers are “better at getting things across when we learn

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