By Guest Blogger: Kaitlyn Jue
One of the most important relationships your child has is that with their teacher. Outside of primary caregivers, your child’s teacher is likely the adult they spend the most time with five days a week. The quality of that teacher-child relationship will influence your child’s overall experience in school.
Research shows us that when early childhood educators approach classroom and behavior management from a positive, strengths-based lens, teacher-child interactions improve. Take advantage of parent-teacher conversations and catch a glimpse of who your child is through their teacher’s eyes. Focus conversation on understanding the positive traits the teacher works to foster each day, which may even offer continued strategies that could help support your child at home.
Here are three suggested questions to help get the conversation going:
What are my child’s strengths?
Conversations that centers on your child’s strengths in school will provide encouragement for both the teacher and parent. If and when there are instances when a child would benefit from support with a specific behavior or academic domain, solutions can be developed based on the child’s strengths. For instance, if a child consistently struggles to navigate transitions throughout the school day, the teacher examines their relationship with that child (always taking the child’s strengths into consideration) to determine the best possible solution for supporting the child through these tricky moments. Taking a strengths-based approach to teaching cultivates a positive teacher-child relationship, which can in turn influence impactful and productive collaboration with the child’s primary caregivers.
What motivates my child?
When a child feels safe and loved, they will be motivated to have fun and learn. Finding a way to positively motivate children in an individualized way is key to child success in school. Some children need positive reinforcement through affirming and reflective language. Some children need warmth and understanding. Some children need emotional reassurance yet firm expectations. No two children will respond identically to a given motivational approach. A teacher learns how to best support and motivate your child through cultivating a loving, trusting, and mutually respectful relationship.
What is/are your favorite thing(s) to do with my child?
As with any successful relationship, quality time together is key. In the classroom, this may look like a teacher-student pair collaborating on a puzzle or Lego tower. It may look like a teacher providing a shoulder to cry on during a sad moment for a child. Or, it may look like the teacher and child talking through some angry or frustrated emotions together. All of these moments (and more!) build upon each other to create a beautiful and powerful teacher-child duo.
Anytime I see or hear the book, The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, I think of a past student who got so much joy out of reading it with me over and over and over again. When I see a bright pink bento lunchbox container, I am reminded of a student who was so proud to explain to me the contents of her lunch every afternoon. Anytime I use a big foam dice for an activity, I think of a student who loved numbers so much and visibly cherished his one-on-one time with me playing math games. And, when I walk by a specific bathroom at school, I am reminded of one tough, relationship-strengthening morning where a student and I worked through some tough emotions together as I supported him to complete a new bathroom routine.
Whenever I am faced with a dilemma on how to support a specific student through a challenge, I reference these moments that I’ve had with that child. What have those moments taught me? What motivates that child? How can I use that child’s strengths to set the child up for success?
Your child and his/her teacher share these same invaluable moments. As you continue to navigate the crazy and incredibly challenging world of parenting, I encourage you to find a moment and look at your child through their teacher’s eyes. Aside from creating memorable moments with my students, nothing gives me more joy than communicating to a parent what kind of person I see their child to be, because all children are strong and inspiring individuals.
Kaitlyn Jue holds a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders from The College of Wooster and an MA in Special Education and Human Development from The George Washington University. She has been working in the field of early childhood education, specifically preschool education, for seven years. Kaitlyn currently works as an educator at The River School teaching 3 and 4 year old children. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband.