BACK TO SCHOOL: Parent, teacher relationship impacts education - KMSP-TV

BACK TO SCHOOL: Parent, teacher relationship impacts education

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Do you like your child's teacher? According to a poll by the AP North Center for Public Affairs, 82 percent of parents in the U.S. rate their child's teacher as excellent or good. Just 5 percent say they're "poor."

The figure is important because the parent-teacher relationship can impact how a child performs in school, and FOX 9 News spoke with Mary Katherine Ricker, president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, to talk about why.

Q: Why is it important that parents like their child's teacher?

A: It's really important. One reason is you get to model for your child what it's like for adults to get along on behalf of their best interests. First of all, communication is absolutely critical. We're at the beginning of the school year. So, if you have that chance to sit down and have back-to-school conferences or back-to-school welcome nights, that's where that relationship first gets started.

Q: The research shows that there are academic benefits for the student. What are those benefits?

A: One, when you see that collaboration and you see that wow, my family and my teachers are coming together because they care about me, that actually taps into something that we see in our children and in our students -- and that is that "I'm going to work harder when I see people who care about me."

Q: I want to talk a little bit about something specific to our area, and that's the Parent Outreach Program at the St. Paul School District. Tell us how that helps to connect parents and teachers, in particular in bilingual homes or minority homes where English is not the first language.

A: It's helping across the spectrum. Our union, a couple of years ago, started what we call the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project. We replicated a program that was begun in Sacramento, Calif., over 15 years ago. What we saw was, again, anecdotally -- that experience that the survey bears out. That is that families really want to like their teacher and want to have that communication -- and teachers want that communication as well. So, we decided when we looked at what our students needed to succeed that we wanted to actually take those relationships that got developed and take them one step farther. We started this home visit project where members of the school -- teachers, education support professionals -- voluntarily head to the home of a child to meet with the family and the family has the right to accept that visit and schedule it. Then, we get to know the family and the children in a much more intimate setting.

Q: I want to ask you about the 5 percent we talked about that end up not liking their teacher. What advice can you offer those parents?

A: The first thing I would do is ask for the communication. What has that communication level been like? Is that where the problem was? Then, the next thing I would say if you've uncovered what it is has you feeling uneasy about this teacher, have you approached that teacher about it? In those rare instances where a parent doesn't feel comfortable with their child's teacher, often it's a small misunderstanding that's smoothed over for a really successful school year if you have the chance to talk it out.

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