Remember Miss Beadle from the TV series Little House in the Prairie? She used to have a heck of a lot of apples on her desk. Laura Ingalls and even the mean-spirited Nellie Olson kept her in good supply. However, the days of one teacher teaching kindergarten to 8th grade in a one-room classroom are long gone, having evolved into a myriad of specialty teachers, changing classrooms and different personality types. With academic simplicity a thing of the past, here are some tips to help children get along with teachers.
Teach your child to play by the rules. Students should “follow classroom rules. Observe the rules that have been established for the good of the whole class, “ advises Laraine Meehan, principal of Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Park Ridge. “Every teacher loves working with kids who show interest and a concern for learning. No teacher will be turned off by a child who demonstrates that kind of attitude.”
Parents should take the lead. Parents are a child’s first teacher. They feed off everything parents do and say, sometimes without even verbalizing. This can be an advantage. “Establishing a solid home and school connection leads to success because there is consistency,” says Lynn Ann Miller, owner and director of The Learning Experience in Waldwick. “Children strive when they feel they are supported at home and school equally. Show your child that you trust their teacher.”
Communication is the key. Whether it’s letting a teacher know your child will not take the bus today or giving your husband a list of items you would love for your birthday, communication is king. Julie LoConsole, Saddle River mother of a first grader, concurs. “Whether it’s a brief note, an email or a quick conversation in the hallway at pick up … as long as you are on the same page…everyone should be happy.” Kindergarten teacher Melissa Hoffmann of Montvale says that communication also means an open mind: “Keep the lines of communication open. Listen to your child’s teacher and be open to what he or she has to say about your child and their progress. As teachers, we truly care and want the best for your child.”
Forget brown-nosing. “That’s a beautiful dress you have on today, Mrs. Cleaver.” That line may have worked for Eddie Haskell in the days of Leave it to Beaver, but brown-nosing may not be a fruitful endeavor. “A teacher can smell that a mile away, and it can be annoying after a while,” says Joanne Gordinier of Park Ridge, a mother of two sons. “Pay attention to the teacher,” she adds. “It’s very important to listen first, ask second, and do not interrupt.” And, of course, please and thank you never hurt anybody.
Timeliness is next to godliness. Teachers note the students who consistently interrupt class by walking in huffing and puffing from the physical endeavor of leaping from a car to the stairs with backpack flung over one shoulder and a notebook or dance shoes in another. It stresses everyone. As a family, plan ahead the night before and start the day earlier - timeliness shows respect and preparedness.
Don’t let the dog eat the homework. Students who have mastered every “Billy Madison” excuse in the book for why they did not complete the dreaded, oh-so-laborious task known as homework don’t go to the head of the class. “Even if a student does not understand any of the homework, it’s better to try and get the questions wrong than not do it at all,” says Jackie Giordano, teaching assistant at Ridge Elementary in Ridgewood. “The point of homework is not only to provide students with further practice, it also helps the teacher know what students understand well and what they don’t.”
Talk it up. Jennifer Moran, principal of the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, says that student participation is important. “Even if you make a mistake, the teacher will see you are trying and will reach out to help you.” Teachers want to know that students are interested in what they have prepared and are living in the moment rather than composing a mental text message ready to send at dismissal.
Are they ready? Children who show up prepared and eager to learn are immediate winners. Juliana Remo of Emerson, a seventh grade homeroom and math teacher, says students should “be prepared for class. ... It’s evident when a student is not ready for the day, because they haven’t tried, are missing work or items needed for the day. Your best is always the best, even when it’s wrong, and having it ready to go is always noted.” Frank Mastrocola, director of Anita Ehrler’s Dance Extensions in Park Ridge agrees. “Any student will always remain on the good side of a teacher if she shows an interest in the class. It makes it easy for the balance between teaching and learning.”
Clean up. Several teachers noted that cleanliness is a key to classroom success. Just like walking into a job interview, a teacher will notice whether a student has toothpaste on the chin or has never been introduced to a hairbrush. Parents should “establish proper morning routines like brushing teeth, combing hair and dressing for success. Healthy habits begin at a young age,” Miller says.
Ghost writers need not apply. Like a Scotland Yard bloodhound on the hunt for Jack the Ripper, teachers can sniff out parents’ work in an instant. Fifth-grade teacher Leo Conwell of Emerson says parental products are an immediate turn off. “Parents completing projects or homework for their children stunts their creativity. It takes away their independence and makes them too reliant on their parents.” Be aware that when a second grader’s project shows up like a Powerpoint presentation or your fifth grader’s note cards are aligned perfectly and pre-printed for finals, it’s a dead give-away.