An effective working relationship with staff at the school will serve you well, especially if problems arise.
On this page:
- Personal relationships matter
- Many ways to build relationships
- It makes a difference when issues arise
Personal relationships matter
We spoke to many parents and carers in writing Learning Together, and asked them to share their experiences. A common theme was the value of building positive working relationships with the staff and the broader school community, and getting involved at school. Some used words like ‘partnership’ or a ‘team approach’; others simply talked about the need to value the relationships with the people involved in teaching and supporting their child at school.
“Occasionally Ruby and I will make morning tea for the resource room staff. We’ll take pictures and Ruby will write out the recipes for them. That’s me helping Ruby to write and read and engage. And once again its showing that this is what Ruby can do. Its not a suck up thing – well it probably is a little bit! Its more about trying to get them to keep pushing – show them what Ruby can do. Christmas time the same thing – lovely gifts, nothing expensive. But letting them know how much we appreciate what they do.
I spend a lot of time doing that. But what’s the alternative? She goes, she’s not engaged, and then she’ll display behaviour problems and the whole thing is in a mess. I also do it for my son. Not at the same level by any means, but to see the progress, and see it working so well – it is worth it.” – Denise
Many ways to build relationships
Think about which staff in the school can help your child, and build your relationships with them. Get to know your child’s classroom teacher or homeroom teacher at secondary school, the year level coordinator, the integration or welfare coordinator and others who can help you to help your child. Check in with them regularly, be supportive of their work, share information and ideas, get involved at school, and use every opportunity you can to stay in touch, such as communication books, emails and parent-teacher meetings, school events and assemblies.
“It’s also important for parents to acknowledge that most people working with our children are unique, and most have gifted qualities, and are able to identify and bring the best out of our children and sometimes the parents as well. I know I learned a lot from some staff who supported my son.
You would hope if they didn’t like to do the job, or have the immense patience required and the believe to ‘never say never’, then they wouldn’t be doing that kind of work. I encourage parents to work closely with staf at the school, to ensure that together we can achieve positive outcomes. It’s all about making a difference for our child, and our family, and our life.
That’s how I see it. Its not all about the child – its about the child, the family and the holistic life. That’s what my son’s schools have done for us. They really have made a positive difference to us all.” – Rhonda
Many parents and carers are involved at primary school, but become less involved when their child is at secondary school. However, secondary schools welcome family involvement, although it might happen in different ways.
- Read more ideas about Getting involved at school.
It makes a difference when issues arise
Your child will be at school for many years. Over this time, no matter how good a school might be, there are likely to be times that issues arise, when you need to advocate for your child’s needs.
Families we spoke with for Learning Together reported that they felt schools were often more responsive to their concerns when they already had a strong working relationship with the school, and were perceived as a family who supported their child’s education and contributed, where they could, to the school community. As one father says (see Anthony and Mel’s story) this is not about quid pro quo (“I do something for you, so you do something for me”), but rather about creating a sense of the family and school working together, to support the child.
Valuing your relationship with staff in the school will also mean considering how you approach bringing up a concern or complaint. Try to consider the long-term view and both perspectives. Even if you are upset and stressed about an issue at school, time time to calm down, seek support for yourself, and think through how best to raise the issue and get your message across so that the school will respond as you would wish:
“My husband and are very different. I am very much upfront with people. I’ll talk a situation out, and I want to come to a solution. And I’m willing to help and put in as much as I can. And Chris is a little bit different to me. You know, when I often relate things that have happened with Ethan at school, he’ll go, ‘I’m going to ring up that school, and give them an earful!’ And I’ll go, ‘No don’t,’ because I have to deal with them every day.
You’ve got to see it from their perspective too. That is hard, when you’re emotionally involved with your child, and you want the best for your child, but is hard for teachers. I think you have to keep positive too [and not] go in boots and all – ‘Hey I’m not happy, and you’re doing this wrong’.” – Marie
- Read more about dealing with conflict and strong emotions.
- Read more about considering what you want to say and how best to say it.