I’ve recently been writing a series on the ways educators can better partner with families to help students make a successful transition to middle school. In the process, I’m hoping to create resources that can be shared with families across the district, especially those from marginalized communities who don’t often have access to historical knowledge about how our education system works. If you have questions or ideas about how to support middle school family engagement please write your ideas and questions in the comments below.

(This post is part of a series focused on middle school. To read the first post in this series click here.)


As a former middle and high school educator, and now a parent, I’m realizing how important it is to share information with students and families. As a new middle school parent, I’ve been really blessed to have AMAZING teachers for my daughters this year. I know they will be working hard to meet the needs of my kids… along with many, many other students.

I know middle and high school is a time for students to learn independence. As students go farther up the academic ladder, specific homework help grows less and less important and students rely more and more on their peers and teachers for support.

Nonetheless, as a former middle/high school educator, I understand how important parental involvement is ensuring kids’ success. In fact, being an advocate for my child is one the of the MOST IMPORTANT roles I can play as a parent.

what i want

I know teachers receive “Teacher Expectations” from their principal. Many of my expectations as a parent are the same. Even so, I think it’s important for parents to communicate with teachers about our high expectations for our children’s schooling. Below is my list of expectations for all my child’s teachers.

What I Want from My Child’s Middle/High School Teacher

Be clear about classroom expectations

Show students you mean business by sharing a syllabus which contains and explanation of the following: behavioral expectations, discipline policy, homework policy, late work policy, materials list, grading policy and contact information. Ask for families to sign the syllabus to confirm they are also aware of basic classroom requirements. Request their contact information as well.

Create fair and transparent grading practices.

In elementary school, many districts use standards based grading. This is the first time many students will actually receive grades. They will also need to manage different teaching styles and expectations. Please be as explicit as you can about what will be graded, when it will be graded… and most important, HOW IT WILL BE GRADED.

Share your overall grading expectations in the syllabus you hand out at the beginning of the year, and share your grading expectations and criteria at the START of all major assignments. (If you and your child are still unclear about a teacher’s grading criteria, it is a good idea to involve your child’s counselor or principal. Speaking up is important, because there are probably other students in a similar situation. For more info on good grading practices, click here.)

Model good organization and time-management.

As a former middle school teacher (and now parent) I know how much students struggle with organization. Please support them by being organized yourself and being explicit about how you stay organized. How do you recommend students keep track of multiple assignments in multiple classes? What is preferred and mandatory? What structures do you have in place to help them manage their time? What do you do to ensure students who struggle with time-management and organization? Be explicit with parents about what they can do at home to support kids in class.

Communicate early and often with families

First off, let me be clear. I don’t expect a TON of communication. As a former middle school teacher, I know you have anywhere up to 100+ students. Nonetheless a little communication goes a long way for families. As educator, you know how hard my kid is trying to be cool while also trying to assert their independence. This means, even when I ask (EVERY DAY!) I may not get the whole picture. If you can share some highlights with me here and there it will really make my day (!) and I can back up the work you are doing at home.

Additionally, if my kid is struggling, let me know what I can do to support. If my kid is at risk of getting anything less than a “B” I want to know about it BEFORE their grade hits a report card. If my child truly earns a “C”, or worse, I want it to be because they earned it, not because they didn’t get support.

Communication is a two-way street.

If I reach out with a question or concern, please get back to me in a timely manner (within 48 hours, excluding weekends) In return, I won’t expect you to call me on a Friday night or to give up time on weekends. And, I’m sure you will also understand, I may have difficulty picking up the phone during meetings or leaving work. I will share the best ways to contact me via phone, text, or email. (And do my best to keep my contact info up to date!) If there is an online system, I’ll also do my best to check it regularly.

Reach out for help and support.

I know how crazy your workday is. Remember, as a former teacher, I was once one of you. Please, don’t underestimate my desire or ability to help out—and not just with fundraising! This is true of other parents as well!

Not all parents can come in during the school day, or donate money… but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Let me know what you DO and DON’T need: food, copying, supplies, an extra hand in coordinating a class project. Just let me know. Working families, benefit when you can share ideas of ways they can help out from home. And, even if it doesn’t work out, the simple act of asking let’s us know you value our contributions.

Parents… Educators… Is there anything else I should add to this list? Please let me know in the comments below!

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. It seems extremely unreasonable to request that teachers notify parents when children are earning anything less than a “B.” School Loop is typically used and parents can check that as they see fit (with the understanding that it takes some time to grade assignments and input the scores).

    Middle school is a time to refrain from hovering over children, academically-speaking.

    Reply
    • I agree. It’s important not to hover, yet stay involved. I consider School Loop to be notification, which you seem to be advocating. So, I don’t think we’re in disagreement there. I’m also not a die-hard School Loop fan. It works for some folks, nonetheless I think schools should adopt systems that work best for both teachers and parents. School Loop isn’t always the best for teachers (it can be clunky and time-consuming). And parents who lack Internet access or don’t speak English might not be able to use it. In these cases, notification could be as simple as having parents “sign off” on graded assignments, or having students log grades in a grade-sheet in their binder which parents know to check. This makes it even more of a student responsibility. The key is having a regular system of communication which allows parents to reinforce and support students and work as a team where necessary. :)

      Reply

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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Life-long Learning, Social Emotional

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