Working with Your Child’s Teacher or Caregiver
Posted on June 8, 2021 by CHS
As a parent or caregiver, you can work with your child’s teacher or child care provider to help support their learning and development. Once you have created a partnership with your child’s teacher or child care provider, it will be easier to communicate and work together to support your child. Working together involves establishing a clear system of communication, understanding school or program policies and learning goals, establishing a routine for helping your child learn at home, sharing observations about how your child learns, attending parent-teacher conferences, and reaching out for help when it is needed.
Establish a system for organizing paperwork and school records. Once your child starts school, you will begin to receive parent letters, homework assignments to review, art work, awards, and certificates. You will need a place to store these items in an organized way so that you can easily find anything you need. There are any number of ways to organize school work, but you may want to consider something you can take with you to parent-teacher conferences or medical visits if needed such as a binder or portable file tote. Decide on a location where you want to put items that you need to remember, or that require follow-up. You might place them on a bulletin board, attach them to a calendar, or use a magnet to hang them on the refrigerator.
In kindergarten through twelfth grade, there can be a large number of school staff and it can be overwhelming to know who to talk to when you have a question or concern. Start by talking to your child’s teacher first and if you need further assistance this list of school personnel can help guide you to the right people. Once you know who the key people are, create a contact list so that you can reach them easily when needed.
Many schools and child care programs already have a communication system in place. One of the most common methods of communication is email because it is a fast and free way to reach a large number of people at once. You can open a free account with any of these email service providers. Phone data or a WiFi connection will be needed to access email. If you are new to using email, you can find a short tutorial on our Know and Grow Tutorial page or request assistance from your local public library.
Other methods of communication you may encounter can include text and phone messages, phone calls, letters, or the use of a communication app. Ask the teacher to explain how the communication system works and discuss your preferences for communicating. Whichever method of communication you are using, be sure to check in frequently and ask questions if anything is unclear.
Child care programs and schools have policies in place to help keep children healthy, safe, and prepared to learn. For example, licensed family child care homes and centers are required to follow laws and regulations from Community Care Licensing (CCL), and they may also have their own program policies regarding the fees they charge, program routines, celebrations, learning philosophy, and curriculum. Use this Choosing Child Care brochure from Children’s Home Society of California to help guide you in selecting the right program for you, and read the parent handbook or any other documentation carefully. Share information about your child’s interests, strengths, and challenges with the child care provider or teacher. Sharing information will help both you and the child’s teacher to support your child’s growth and development. Ask your child’s teacher to share ideas for ways you can support learning at home.
Elementary, middle (jr. high), and high schools also have laws and regulations they need to follow. Public schools are organized under districts which establish and monitor school policies, procedures, and learning goals. In California, many schools and teachers base their learning curriculum on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and use a variety of assessments to monitor students’ learning. You can discover detailed information about school performance records on the California Schools Dashboard website. Familiarize yourself with the policies and standards used at your child’s school by researching the school ahead of time and reading your enrollment packet carefully. If you have questions about school policies and expectations, you can direct them to your child’s teacher or the principal.
You can contribute to your child’s learning at home by teaching skills for studying and doing homework projects. Homework reinforces concepts that were taught during the day, and it also is an opportunity for you to see the kind of learning that is taking place. Sit down with your child to plan how to do homework assignments, and review them once they are done. Show your child how to write assignments down in a notebook, or on a calendar, and check them off as they are completed. Stay organized and make the morning routine easier by teaching your child to place homework and anything else needed in their backpack or by their remote workstation the night before.
Extend your child’s learning by reading, cooking, playing, and completing chores together. You can teach your child valuable skills for being independent and developing a healthy lifestyle. These activities also teach your child the practical uses of math, science, language, and literacy. By observing your child during homework, engaging in distance learning, and other learning activities, you have an opportunity to see what learning strategies do, or do not, work for your child. For example, your child may find it easier to study sitting on the floor than at a table, or prefer standing to type rather than sitting. Sharing these observations with your child’s teacher will help the teacher develop learning activities that meet your child’s needs.
Schools and child care programs typically schedule parent and teacher conferences on a regular basis, but you can also request a conference. Parent and teacher conferences are an opportunity for you and the teacher to share in your child’s successes and plan strategies for supporting challenges. This is also a time to share observations you have made about your child’s learning and development, ask questions, discuss ways to volunteer or participate in class projects or school events, and request support services if needed.
Whether your conference is for a preschool-age child or a school-age child, it will be more successful if you prepare in advance. Look over any projects or activities your child has done and write down any questions you have. You can also find tips and general questions to ask for preschool-age programs on the VeryWell Family website, and on the Understood.org website for school-age programs. Keep an open mind and reflect on the information the teacher is sharing. Remember that you both want what is best for your child. If you need time to think about anything or require more information, you can ask to schedule a follow-up conference.
If you or the child’s teacher feel specialized support is needed for your child, then you can request a formal evaluation to determine what supports would be beneficial. Evaluations can be done by your child’s doctor or other private medical professional, by a Regional Center for children under the age of three, or by the school district for children over the age of three. The evaluation of infants and toddlers may result in the creation of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to identify early intervention strategies that will help prepare your child for kindergarten.
Children between the ages of three and twenty-one who are evaluated and found eligible for support services will receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is an education plan developed by you, the teacher, and other professionals to support your child in meeting specific learning goals. You can discover more about the IFSP and IEP, find resources for supporting children with learning disabilities, and read tips for working with teachers on the Understood.org website.
Think of your child’s teacher or child care provider as your teammate. The teacher helps your child grow and learn during the weekdays, and you reinforce and extend that learning at home. Communicating clearly on a regular basis, sharing information, following policies and procedures, and participating in special events, field trips, and activities all support the relationship between you and your child’s teacher and help you work together so that your child can grow and learn. Below you will find a wide range of resources for helping you navigate the education system and work with your child’s teacher or caregiver.
References and Resources
- 15 Fantastic Ideas for Organizing and Storing Children’s School Work by The Happy House
- Activity Sheets for learning at home by CHS
- Back to School Checklist by PBS
- California Department of Education (CDE) homepage, Parent-Family Resources, education laws and regulations, and information about the Common Core Standards (CCS)
- California Parent Guide (ages 0 to 5) by First 5 California
- California Schools Dashboard shares the progress of schools and districts
- Colorín Colorado provides resources in English and Spanish to support parents in partnering with schools, preparing for teacher conference, and supporting their child’s learning
- Getting Ready for Preschool Parent-Teacher Conferences by VeryWell Family
- Glossary: Demystifying School Jargon by Edutopia
- Community Care Licensing (CCL) Laws and Regulations
- HeadStart Activity Calendar for Families offers ideas for preparing children to enter kindergarten
- Homework Habits for Success by CHS
- How to Prepare for Your Child’s Parent-Teacher Conference by the Child Development Institute
- KidsHealth offers a wide range of resources on family life, school, child development, and special needs in both English and Spanish
- Mobile Apps by the CDE for finding local schools and food programs, or accessing learning content standards
- Parent and Child Care Provider Partnerships by CHS
- Parent Guides to Understanding California’s student assessment programs by CDE
- Parents Together has articles about what is happening in education and parenting resources
- Parents: 19 Meaningful Questions You Should Ask Your Child’s Teacher by Edutopia
- Resources for Parents from the United States Department of Education
- State of California Safe Schools for All Hub provides key resources and information related to COVID-19 and schools which are continually updated
- Ten Things Parents Need to Know to Support their Child with Disabilities by CDE
- The Best System for Organizing and Storing School Papers by Very Well Family
- The California State Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has tips, resources, and information about parent rights on their website
- Understood.org provides articles and resources about school and learning, Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), information about evaluations to determine the level of support children need, guidance about Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 Plans, parent-teacher conferences, and school contact lists