Think about your best team experience. What were the key elements that made the team work? In my mind I consider the respect of all team members. With respect there was also a high degree of effective communication, with both positive and negative feedback. On my best team experience there was also a lot of action in the form of problem solving. Finally, there was a high degree of accountability with a shared vision of the end result.
As a "coach" to school teams these are the factors I am looking to practice. All parents enter the school building with an old gym bag full of memories of their own classroom experiences and the prior year (or years) of strained teacher-student relationships for their child. It is hard with this baggage to bring your "best self" to the team. We have to practice respect, communication, problem solving, and shared vision before there is a problem at school.
Teachers and parents are experts in different areas of a student's life. Teachers work with countless children of various strengths and disabilities, and are professionally trained to address a broad spectrum of needs while teaching a specific curriculum over the school year. Parents watch their child develop over time and have invested years of interaction and wisdom. Teachers want to teach the student and help him/her learn in the classroom. Parents want the teacher to teach the student and see them as a unique individual. Even though these experts are looking at the child from a different point of view, they have a shared vision.
The open house experience, and others like it, are excellent ways to begin communication between parents and teachers early in the school year. Be prepared with a simple compliment and acknowledgement to set the tone for a respectful relationship. Growing up is a messy process, you need to expect that the school year will have at least one problem to be solved. Resolving conflict is a terrific way to build the strength of the team between parents and teachers. It is also terrific modeling for the student to see that adults can behave well under pressure and respond within their best interest.
Start today to begin the school year with the end in mind. Be your best self on the school team. What would you want to say in May was accomplished this year? Bring this goal to your first parent teacher conference and work to stay accountable to this vision.
Helpful Homework-- Write it out: "This year I hope my student will . . ."