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August 22, 2012

Advice from teachers on how to make happier students

Thousands of students are heading back to school, and teachers are preparing to shape a fresh set of young minds.

They would like to politely influence some older minds, as well.

Parents can learn a lesson or two from teachers about what their kids' instructors want in the upcoming year. We asked teachers in several school systems what parents can do, beyond reading with their kids, to help their children be better students. Here's what they had to say.

1. Let your child see you making mistakes

Karen Stamp, a Virginia kindergarten teacher, said parents need to remember "that they are their child's first teacher and their lifetime teacher." Part of being a lifetime teacher, she said, is teaching your child how to deal with making mistakes.

"Make mistakes, and let them see that you can make mistakes and laugh at it so they will think it's not a big deal and you can move on easily," Stamp said.

2. Use e-mail to keep in touch

E-mail is a great way to reach your child's teacher without having to play phone tag, said Caitlin Liston, a sixth-grade science teacher in Maryland.

"E-mail is great for teachers because we can have a record of a conversation or print things out to put in a student's file as a reminder," Liston said. "If parents are hearing what their students are struggling in, they should feel comfortable talking to the teacher about it. We want to know that they need more help."

That communication shouldn't be limited to when there's a problem, said Tammie Ferguson, a first-grade teacher in Virginia.

"It's important that there's a lot of positive communication going back and forth . . . to say, 'Hey, your child did a great job today,' " Ferguson said. It's also "very refreshing for teachers to hear that their students are talking about what they've learned in school."

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