A new school year is now upon us. As much as it is a time for students to turn over a new leaf and start the year off right, it’s similarly a time for parents to start the year off right — with the teacher

Consider this – if you were looking at yourself through the eyes of your child’s teacher, what would you see?

Would you see the parent who volunteers for the holiday party and shows up prepared and on time? Or, would you see the parent who shows up 15 minutes late without the promised snack?

Would you see the parent who vows to proofread the next history paper in an effort to help the student raise the grade from a C- to an A? Or, would you see the parent who demands that the teacher raise the grade because the paper is A quality as written?

Your child’s relationship with a teacher will be one of the most important relationships in his or her childhood. After all, they’re together six hours a day, five days a week for nine months.

Your child’s teacher can be a tremendous advocate for him or her. A teacher may one day be the person who writes your child’s recommendation letters for college entrance or scholarships. A teacher may be the person in whom your child confides with personal problems. These are but a few of the reasons why a strong relationship between the teacher and child and teacher and parent is so vital to your child’s success. A good teacher’s influence endures far beyond that day’s lesson or the walls of the classroom.

But, it may not always be a rosy-colored relationship. The teacher may see behaviors or attitudes popping up in the classroom that you have never seen your child display. We want to think of our children as angels (just like we were in school). Surround a child with 25 other children, though, and he or she might become the entertainer, jokester or perpetrator in classroom shenanigans – behaviors that a child keeps well-hidden from parents who have the authority to take away the cell phone. If the teacher says there is a problem, there’s is a pretty good chance that it’s a problem.

Most teachers are willing to set up a time to talk – and attend parent/teacher conferences. I was surprised to hear from our high school principal that only 10 percent of parents attended our school’s p/t conferences.

When appropriate, bring your child to a meeting with the teacher, because the story you hear at home may be a little different from reality. Don’t pop into the classroom unannounced. Instead, schedule a time and give the teacher some idea of what you’d like to discuss, so he or she has time to gather grades or report on specific areas. If your child hears you disrespecting the teacher, it may make him feel privileged to do the same. Be polite and respectful.

If you fall into a pattern of making excuses when your child is young, that pattern may continue well beyond high school. Would you call your 30-year-old’s employer to say, “I’m sorry, Johnny couldn’t come in to work today because we had family obligations this weekend?” If you do that, you might earn a nickname at school like Marie Barone (the overbearing, overprotective sitcom mother from “Everybody Loves Raymond”).

Help your child build a strong work ethic by helping him or her to be on time and prepared for class – no excuses. Don’t procrastinate, because power outages, sicknesses and empty ink cartridges happen when you least expect. It’s pretty hard to use the “no electricity” excuse when your child has had the assignment for three weeks. Chances are that you haven’t gone for three weeks without electricity.

Parents can also do things at home to foster a learner. Turn off the screens and read – let your child see you reading newspapers, magazines, novels, religious books and biographies. Screen time can be great for documentaries on public television and history channels that you watch and discuss together. Create flashcards to build math skills or expand foreign language vocabulary. Establish morning and evening routines to avoid last minute frenzies as your child is running for the bus.

At the core of the parent-teacher relationship is trust. That is, trust that the teacher will do his or her very best to educate your child, and that the parent will do his or her very best to reinforce the lessons at home.

These little tips may help your child to have the best year ever.

Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at pam@dunebrook.org.

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