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How Can Parents Support Their Kids Through K-12 Education?

A parent helps his child with his homework

By Nat, IvyWise WiseStart™ Counselor and College Admissions Counselor

As a parent, I find nothing more important and satisfying than seeing my children healthy and happy. A close second may be seeing them enjoy and excel in school, and what are the odds that we’ve always had incredibly positive classroom experiences? Both of our kids have managed to thrive in their respective classrooms and shine in many ways, and as an educator, counselor, and parent, I’ve observed a few things that I think significantly contribute to helping students have wonderful educational experiences in both private and public institutions.

Insights From an Educator

A lot of what I’m going to talk about here stems from having experience as a classroom teacher. After graduating college, I worked as a long-term substitute in a special education classroom for elementary students with profound emotional issues. I worked alongside and learned from an incredible educator whose poise and patience were unmatched.

We had frequent interactions with the parents of the students we were working with. It was in the best interest of the students that the parents and teachers worked as a team to be consistent in shaping and eliminating some behaviors. I worked in a variety of classroom settings over the past 25 years, but my first classroom at Turtle Rock Elementary was the most challenging and rewarding. My partner is also a seasoned teacher, and I hear about her experiences with teaching, guiding, and mentoring children.

As an administrator at multiple independent schools, I’ve had the chance to work closely with students and get to know their parents. I would sometimes be invited to their homes or to dinner during my time as an Upper School Dean. This experience, alongside my experience at IvyWise, gave me a fascinating firsthand look at so many different parenting styles and how that affected behavior, performance, happiness, and success at school.

Parenting Choices to Maximize Your Child’s Education

Most of the parents I had the privilege of working with were wonderful. But I can say without exception that when parents behaved counterproductively, it usually resulted in an unwanted outcome for their child, either immediately or down the road in college. However, this piece isn’t about parents behaving badly — it’s about some of the common behaviors that parents implement to help their kids have happy, successful experiences in school. Positive learning experiences in the classroom happen because of these key things:

1. View Teachers as Teammates in Raising Your Children

You’d be surprised by the number of parents who approach teachers as adversaries, as if the two parties weren’t aligned. One of my colleagues always told parents who came in for family meetings, “We’re on the same team,” signaling a reminder that the teacher and the parents want the same thing — for the student to thrive in the classroom. One of the most important questions, and often the first question we ask my sons’ teachers at the parent-teacher conference is, “What can we do at home to support what you are doing in the classroom?”

2. Know That Communication Between Parents and Teachers Is Key

In the special education classroom, I had a lot of parent interaction because it was important for them to know how the day went, what worked well, and what areas we’d continue to work on. Parents would also let us know what was going on at home so we would have valuable context into why something would manifest. This was key to a child’s success and breakthroughs, such as being able to navigate through a conflict on a particular day, speaking for the first time in class, or even speaking to the parent for the first time in over a year. As a young teacher, I learned the importance of communicating and working with the parents closely because it was crucial to the work we were doing in the classroom. Now, as parents, my partner and I often send the teacher a quick email if our son stayed up too late or if he was nervous about something coming up.

3. Have Empathy for How Difficult Teaching Is — Especially During and Post-pandemic

In my mind, there is no job more difficult or important in our society than teaching. During the pandemic, teachers had to learn and navigate virtual learning on the fly. Now that we have returned closer to “normal,” teachers of all levels must navigate more differences between students due to learning loss and other manifestations from the pandemic. On top of this, teachers go through lockdown drills and are charged with keeping our kids safe during the unthinkable. It’s very likely teachers spend more time with our kids during the school year than we get to as parents.

Over the course of our children’s lives, my partner and I have had dozens of teachers. All of them had different strengths. Some were incredible in their ability to teach certain academic skills, while others helped develop our sons socially, emotionally, or creatively. It’s not always easy to see how our kids’ teachers are guiding them, but I assure you that it’s happening. It’s important to take time out to recognize any growth that your children have had over the course of the academic year. Odds are it was largely because of their teacher.

A good rapport with your child’s teachers will go a long way to help them have more successful and enjoyable academic experiences. From kindergarten to senior year, the educators in your student’s life will take the lead on how and what they learn in school. At IvyWise, our experts work to expand and enhance your child’s education team — not work against it. Contact us today to see how we can help the student in your life reach their academic and admissions goals at any grade level.

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