Parents as Advocates for Great Teaching
By Sandra Whitehead

Nothing has as much impact on children’s education as the quality of the teaching they receive. Parents must learn to recognize (see How to Spot a Great Teacher) and insist on high-quality teaching for their children, experts say, and to support investments in teaching districtwide.

Observing what goes on in your child’s classroom is one thing, but teachers require support from their school and district administration, as well as from the parent community. Leaders of school reform efforts urge parents to speak up about how much they value high-quality teaching.

Speak to everyone about great teaching, from the teacher and the principal to the superintendent and the school board, Katherine Boles advises. “Tell the teacher how you feel about her teaching. Tell the principal when a teacher is doing great work and be specific. Don’t just say, ‘This is a great teacher.’ Say what the teacher is doing.” Take that message up the chain.

• Talk with other parents about the importance of teacher quality. Bring up the issue in your parent-teacher organizations. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Organize a media campaign to rally support for great teaching.

Offer support to teachers. “Teachers hear our demands, but they don’t always get our commitment to support their efforts,” says
Anastasia Samaras. Teachers who have lost their passion often say they feel betrayed. They have been frustrated by years of trying to make a difference, but feel they aren’t getting anywhere and no one cares.”

• Give teachers respect and a sense of partnership with the community. When teachers feel their work is valued and when the students learn to value their teachers, Samaras says, they will carry that into the classroom. “At the end of the day,” she says, “the question is ‘How can we help this child learn?’ No one can do it alone.”

p. 1 - Great Teaching l p. 2 - How to Spot a Great Teacher l p. 3

Related Reading:
Growing Great Teachers

Sandra Whitehead is an award-winning writer and a lecturer at Marquette University. She lives with her husband and three children.

From United Parenting Publications, September 2003.