Is your child’s teacher a class act?

Is your child's teacher a class act?

As thousands of students prepare to return to classes, there’s
one critical item required for a successful year: a good
teacher.
But how do you know if your child has one?
As thousands of students prepare to return to classes, there’s one critical item required for a successful year: a good teacher.

But how do you know if your child has one?

While good teachers don’t come in a one-size-fits-all package, there are qualities that experts say are universal.

Here are some ways to determine whether your child has a good teacher, and what to do if problems arise.

Communication

This is key: Whether by e-mail or telephone, through parent sessions, open houses or even newsletters, good teachers will let you know what’s going on.

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 communicate frequently with parents, sending home updates on what’s been covered in class and what’s planned.

Jeanne Jusevic, chairwoman of Broward District Advisory Council, 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.

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.

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.

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.”

Pay attention, get involved

Parents should look for signs from their children to gauge teacher performance, 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 be partners in helping children learn.

Suzy Martyn, author of “Enjoy the Ride: Tools, Tips, and Inspiration for the Most Common Parenting Challenges”, said parental support – through volunteer time or sending in classroom supplies – is very important in developing a relationship with teachers.

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.

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.

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.

Should talking with the teacher not work, parents can seek out a principal or assistant principal for help, said Judith Klinek, assistant superintendent for the Palm Beach County 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.

She urged patience.

“We often tell the parent, ‘Give it a week,'” Klinek said. “‘If you’re still not happy after a week, call.'”

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