While there’s no single recipe for educational success, there are key ingredients. The main one being communication, and not just with your student but with teachers and other staff. Teaching your kids to do the same is a crucial part of a solid start to the school year and helps ensure success throughout. 

Students who have close, positive, and supportive relationships with their teachers attain higher levels of achievement than those who often conflict with teachers. If a student feels a personal connection with a teacher, has frequent communications, and receives more guidance and praise than criticism, the student is likely to have more trust, show more engagement, behave better, and achieve more academic success. Positive teacher-student relationships help students learn as well as promote an increased desire to learn.

As important as they are to a strong educational foundation, positive relationships alone are not enough. It is also critical to clearly define and enforce expected behaviors. Most teachers establish open-ended communications with parents prior to the start of the school year. They share contact information and set expectations about what information they will share, and how often. Similarly, they set expectations for the students on the first day of school.  However, communication is a two-way street. If you have a question or concern, don’t wait for the teacher to contact you.

Cyber Academy of South Carolina‘s Head of School, David Crook, agrees. He says his teachers, “really focus on making sure that expectations are made clear to the families, and we encourage all families to do the same. As long as the lines of communication are kept open by the staff and the families, real progress can be made. That is why it is so critical to really make an effort to build the relationship at the beginning of the year.”

So how should you communicate? Brick-and-mortar students can take advantage of constant access to their teacher in a classroom setting by raising their hand or staying after school for additional help. Online students have constant access to their parent, who often oversees their school day, and their teacher is only a phone call or e-mail away.

Crook says the key is to communicate all of the time, not just when things aren’t going smoothly. If students develop comfortable communication with their teacher on good days, they’ll be more inclined to ask for help when they’re struggling.

This article was updated August 2015

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