I had a student tell me recently that I am his “school mom”. This got me thinking about the relationship between parents and teachers. We need to be supporting each other in both instances. But, what it is exactly that helps teachers and parents be on the same page? How can teachers support parents at school and how can parents support teachers at home? And, how can we both support what students need?
Below you will find a list of what I have determined students need to be successful at school. Mixed in are ways that parents and teachers can begin to form a relationship that will support what students need the most.
When training to become a teacher, I had to learn about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Did other teacher friends have to learn this stuff?!) Psychologist Abraham Maslow posited that humans have specific needs that drive their behavior if unmet. These needs are placed in a pyramid to indicate the level of need that must be met for another can be sought and achieved. On the basic level are physiological needs: food, water, shelter, sleep.
Sleep has gotten so much research lately, and, as a parent, I am constantly looking to the research to find out how much sleep my one and three year old should be getting overall every day. They need between 10 and 14 hours of sleep everyday, including naps. But, teenagers also need a lot of sleep to be able to function properly. Depending on their age, kids should be getting between 8 and 11 hours of sleep each night. Sleep affects every aspect of our lives, and sleep deprivation can cause health problems, a lower intelligence quotient, depression, memory loss, weight gain, judgement to be impaired, and more.
As a teacher, this means that I need to be open and honest with parents about how sleep affects students’ school life. Make sure to sign up below for updates – I’ll be adding a video on the importance of sleep soon!
Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food is another basic need for humans. If we are hungry, that is all we will think about. (We jokingly called my husband HANGRY years ago and now is has become popular slang.)
Students MUST eat before coming to school each day. If that is not possible, then they need to eat right when they get to school. Therefore, teachers, it is out job to ensure students are getting enough food. If they aren’t their parents need to be notified or another solution needs to be found. I used to keep a big bag of animal crackers in my room for students who came to school hungry or stayed after school for tutoring.
Another one of Maslow’s needs is belongingness and self-esteem. Parents contribute more than anyone in the early years to a child’s sense of self and feeling of belonging. Teachers are second. We need to fill both of those buckets as full as possible during school. Students who feel that they belong and have a high self-esteem are more likely to take risks and learn through mistakes. (Yes, this relates to positive parenting philosophies.)
Teachers want parents to get involved with both their child’s learning and school activities. Due to rising numbers of students in our classes, it is HARD to contact every parent throughout the year. Thus, if parents contact us first, it makes it easier to involve parents. But, teachers, parents want us to make the first move. So, take time at the beginning of each year and try to reach out to as many parents as possible through phone or email to introduce yourself and open that line of communication. Forming an early relationship helps students to see that home and school are connected.
As teachers, we tend to think that kids are capable of doing everything that we ask of them. Sometimes THEY.ARE.NOT. And, that’s OK! The problem lies when we have unrealistic expectations of our students and their abilities. Each and every person has strengths and weaknesses. Those weaknesses need to be looked at as things that can be improved, not things that will always be too challenging to be good at.
My students need sleep, food, a sense of belonging and increased self-esteem, teachers and parents that are engaged in their learning and realistic about their abilities.
Your challenge: Reach out to as many parents as you can before the end of the school year. You can give a short progress report, a positive shout out for their student, or something else!
I look forward to reading about your challenge.
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