Working with Students and Parents

The relationships you foster with your students and their parents are extremely important. Children appreciate teachers who treat them like human beings. Parents appreciate a teacher who cares enough to include them in their child's education. Here are some creative ways to work with students and parents.

Working with students

Use innovative ways to get to know your students.

Every year, we begin by working to understand who we are, as a special group working together as third graders. Our class will be together for one year and we all have a responsibility to make our class work. We build trust and a sense of community at the beginning of the year through our first project, making dolls. Most children have never used fabric, needle and thread before - so they embark on a new learning experience together. Watching the children approach the task, I learn a great deal about their approach to learning. Making dolls becomes a very important assessment tool. Do students listen to the directions? Do they share materials well? Do they help each other or are they focused on only their own work? Do they extend the ideas I've presented and create their own, unique project? Students tell me a great deal about whom they are as a learner as they design their "self-portrait" doll.
–Amy Purcell Vorenberg

Be more than just a teacher.

Communicate. Conference with students. Be a real person to them on an individualized basis - not just their teacher - while conversing about an academic topic or assignment. Praise whenever possible. I use Friday folders to communicate to the parents and reinforce to the kids what was shared during conferences. In the folder is a sheet where I check off behavior, completed or incomplete/late assignments and effort. Then in the space beneath that I write a few sentences. It could be a reminder to work on something, a compliment or a request for a conference with student and parent. The parent signs and returns the form to me on Monday.
–Carol-Ann Kinane

Empathize with kids in special education.

This is a very frustrating situation for a child. They're smart and they know it. They want to be like the rest of the class, they just need someone to hand them the key to unlock the door. These children deserve to effectively learn to read, write, and spell.
–Bobbi Barrows

Meet the needs of gifted students.

These points were gathered at a seminar conducted at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development:

  • Socialization is more of a problem in large groups than in small ones.
  • Gifted kids have more social difficulties with "age mates" than "peers."
  • Profoundly gifted kids need to understand that it is OK to preserve those parts of themselves that are more introspective and contemplative.

Especially in the middle school years, when loud abrasive, in-your-face interactions are common and expected, profoundly gifted kids might think they are "weird" if they prefer quieter outings or relationships. They need to know they are not tiered, but just operate at a social level that, like their mind, outpaces itself.
–Jim Delisle

Working with parents

Help parents understand speech and language issues.

The speech and language clinician can be a very valuable resource for parents. Speech and language specialists do more than diagnose hearing and language problems. They provide specific interventions or therapies and they can also help a parent find other valuable community or school resources.
–Bland Stewart

Encourage speech and language therapists to work effectively with parents.

One important point to remember is that parents of students with disabilities are often "spent." They have so much to attend to and so many concerns about their children who are receiving special education services. It is important to respect this aspect of parenting a child with LD. Setting up home interventions that are beyond the parents' time or capabilities will not be successful.

Also, children who struggle academically are more likely to show behavioral issues. Unfortunately, when energy is spent controlling behavior there may be little left to work on individual speech or language homework exercises. Yet when the basic disability is remediated, behavior is more likely to improve.
–Bland Stewart

Support parents' efforts to get services for a child with special needs.

Send the message to parents to be the squeaky wheel! Maybe this program isn't the one you want but don't let Johnny get lost in the shuffle.
–Bobbi Barrows