How to help your kids successfully navigate the school system (Hint: it starts with a strong parent-teacher relationship) with guest Punam Saxena

About this Episode

Every family has their own set of goals for their children after they graduate high school and fly the nest. No matter whether your family’s goals are secondary education at an Ivy League institution, learning a trade at a vocational school, or heading straight into the workforce, parents can play an active role in their child’s education and help them safely experience both successes and failures as part of their journey.

Join Dr. Amy Moore and Sandy Zamalis for a chat with Punam Saxena, author of Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond. Punam shares her tips and tricks for navigating the school system and creating positive relationships between parents and teachers so that they can work together to help their children safely experience both the highs of great success, and the lows of difficult, sometimes unexpected, failures. Punam explains why it’s important to provide a safe place for children to fail while they are still living at home, so that they can independently navigate the world of secondary education, the workforce, and beyond.

 

About Punam Saxena

Punam is a Parent Impact Coach, TEDx speaker, author of Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond, and podcaster. Her work focuses on bridging the gap and fostering a stronger relationship between parents and schools by empowering parents to become partners in their child’s education. After children, Punam became a perennial volunteer in her four children’s schools. From volunteering for special activities in the classroom, to leading the parent organizations at two of their schools, she was entrenched in their activities and their education. It was most fulfilling when the outcome of our decisions directly impacted the students and their classroom teachers. Punam’s background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Emory University, a Master’s Degree from the University of South Florida, and 20+ years of professional and advocacy experience.

Connect with Punam

Website: http://www.edu-Me.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.come/theedume
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/theedume
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/edume19
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/punam-saxena-m-ed-7981b9124/

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Read the transcript for this episode:

Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore, coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and I am joined by my lovely co-host today, Sandy Zamalis, coming to us from Staunton, Virginia. We are excited to welcome our guest, Punam Saxena. Punam is a parent impact coach, TEDx Speaker, podcaster and author of the book, Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond. Her work focuses on bridging the gap and fostering a stronger relationship between parents and schools by empowering parents to become partners in their child’s education.

Sandy Zamalis: Welcome Punam.

Punam Saxena: Hi. It’s so nice to see you girls.

Sandy Zamalis: We’re so glad you’re here. This topic is extremely timely in that, from an education perspective, we’re still recovering from the pandemic’s impact on learning, and I believe now more than ever, it is so important for every parent to learn how to build a strong relationship with their child’s educators. Before we get started, however, can you share with our listeners a little bit of your background and how you became passionate about helping parents find their power when advocating for their kids?

Punam Saxena: Yes, I’d love to. So I started out, well, I actually fell into education. I come from a family of educators and like all, like most children, they don’t wanna do what their parents did or their family does. So I was like, “I’m not gonna be in education.” And what I found was that it is the backbone of everything we. And every opportunity that we have. So I started teaching at a very young age, and I retired from teaching 10 years later, but I left teaching when my children were born. I had four children in four years. And I started volunteering just for fun, just to get out of the house, just to kind of spy on my kids, especially in kindergarten. You know, they get into tons of trouble in kindergarten, but I, you know, I wanted to see what they were doing. I wanted to get to know their teachers who were spending so much time with my children every single day. And eventually that relationship grew. And it grew to a point where we became friends and then we began to partner with each other because I was able to bring challenges that my child was having and tell the teacher, and we would be on the path to finding a solution. Now, I will tell you that part of bringing a challenge to the teacher is having a solution because when you were solution oriented, you have more credibility. You’re not just whining and complaining. So that’s probably part of the meat of what we’re gonna talk about, but that’s actually what developed over 20 years. And when they all went off to college and left me, I decided that I needed to turn this passion into a mission, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years.

Dr. Amy Moore: So I’d love for you to start even further back and talk about what happened to you as a child and how that kind of impacted your whole movement, right? To be such an advocate for this. You talked about it in your TED Talk and so we’d love for our listeners to hear that story.

Punam Saxena: Sure. But they should also listen to the TED Talk as well. Absolutely. This is a snippet of it. I’m a first generation Indian American. I was born in Auburn, Alabama, which is, you know, a mecca for all Indians to go to when they immigrate. But my dad was doing his PhD and that’s where I was born. So I grew up in the south. I grew up in rural Georgia, south of Atlanta, and my parents didn’t know how to navigate the education system here. It’s very different from the one in India, and teachers in India are revered, so you don’t really question them. You take what they say as gospel. And so, in first grade I was given the gifted test and I didn’t make it. In second grade, I was given the gifted test. And I remember specifically that day taking the test. I was so excited because this time I knew what was gonna be on it. I knew I could pass it. And the, the other thing I remember about second grade is the day Mrs. Smith told me I didn’t make it for the second time, and it took my confidence from a very high level to nearly invisible. I lost all my confidence. My grades went from straight A’s to straight C’s. I became a C/D student and it really changed the trajectory of my life. Now what happened was my parents were immigrants and they didn’t know, and they tried everything in their wheelhouse, but when you don’t have a support system and you don’t have that relationship, because the teachers are not reaching out, and my parents didn’t know they could reach out, there was that disconnect. And so, I fell through the cracks. And you know, I don’t blame my parents at all. In fact, I really applaud them, because what could not happen for my brother and I happened for the next Indian family that moved in. And the older child in that family did not make it the first time he took the test and my parents said, “Nothing doing, You need to go and ask why. Make them tell you what needs to be done.” And they did it. He got into the gifted program. He went to MIT. And he became a successful businessman at 26. And the difference is night and day. And when I look back at those moments in my life, they were, they were defining moments. They were eye opening to the point where there was no other option, but for me to do this—for my children, for other children; you know, for other students whose parents never walked through the doors, especially in high school… Yeah, that’s just, that’s where I come from. I come from a place of, let’s make this better, not worse.

Dr. Amy Moore: Wow. So I’m super fascinated by something you said. You said that you know, the reason that your parents didn’t step in and advocate for you was because that wasn’t culturally how it was done in India, right? Because they just revered the teachers and let the teachers do their jobs basically.

Punam Saxena: Yes.

Dr. Amy Moore: Well in America, especially our current culture, everyone has an opinion. And everyone is right. So why is it that we still see parents shy away from advocating for their children at school? They’re voicing their opinion on social media. They’re voicing their opinion at cocktail parties, around the water cooler at the office, everywhere. Why do they not do that at school?

Punam Saxena: I believe it’s twofold. One is they’re too busy, or they say they’re too busy. “I have projects, I have deadlines, I’ve got to be at work. I have to clock in at eight. I have to, you know, clock out by six and I’ve got meetings back-to-back.” And, you know, that’s an easy—I hate to use the word cop out, but it’s a cop out. Because if you can text your friend about the latest crazy thing that’s happened, then you have time to send an email to your child’s teacher. It’s no different. And the other reason is that I believe many parents don’t find that they’re valued in the school system. They are the outsiders—the teachers, the administrators, the support staff—they all know education. They know the bureaucratic pieces of it. And parents generally don’t, and my philosophy is you don’t have to. That’s why you have teachers and administrators. What you have to do is talk about what your child is doing and where they are, socio-emotionally. That’s the piece that teachers need, that they’re not getting. If there was a huge tragedy in your home last night, and you send your child to school the next day, and your child is not performing, and the parent never says anything, how do they know? They’re assuming that everything is fine, that the child’s just being non-compliant. So our relationship with teachers is crucial, because we’re giving them the missing pieces that teachers aren’t seeing.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, absolutely. I always talk about the importance of building empathy in teachers, and so I teach teachers about the ADHD brain, for example, and help them understand that children with ADHD have brains that work differently so that I can build empathy so that when teachers see behaviors in the classroom, they don’t take it personally, right? They say, “wait a minute. How can I support this child? Because this child is not doing this to me, but has a struggle.” And so I kind of see it as the same thing. That parents, the more they share about what’s going on in their child’s lives, whether it’s a diagnosis, whether it’s a trauma that has happened, whether it’s just a simple, “hey, he didn’t get enough sleep last night, so just wanted you to know,” Then that builds empathy, right? And then the teacher doesn’t say, “why is he behaving like this?” You know? He’ll say, “oh, mom said…”

Punam Saxena: And it’s, something’s really simple. You know, when we talk about parent engagement, immediately people go to, “I need to quit my job. I need to be on campus all the time, and I need to be in the, the thick of everything that’s happening.” And that’s not the case. And I think parents shy away because they think that, but it’s really a text, an email, a phone call. If you’re picking up your child in the afternoon, just getting there five minutes early and hopping out and just checking in with the teacher, something really, really simple. And the other thing that I will say that I think parents shy away from engaging is that parents are quick to not, put blame on their child or behaviors. I mean, when I was growing up, I’m much older than you ladies, and I was always the one who got it before the teacher even was contacted. “Well, a teacher contacted me and left me a message. Oh boy, I’m in trouble.” Because it’s not, it’s not the shifting of the blame. I was responsible for whatever reason the teacher was calling me. And so when the teachers reached out to me with my own children, the first thing I did was turn to mine and say, “what responsibilities did you have? You may not be the reason, but you must have had a part in it, and it’s better for you to tell me the truth now so that we can solve it.” And I think parents don’t want to hear that their child isn’t doing well, or they had a behavior issue, because they don’t want to have to deal with it. Because it’s too much. It’s one more added thing on their plate.

Dr. Amy Moore: Sure. And many times, they’re already seeing those behaviors at home, too. Yeah.

Punam Saxena: And, and the teachers are just, what’s the word? I’m losing all track of my brain cells today.

Dr. Amy Moore: (laughing) It’s because you’re much older than we are.

Punam Saxena: I know. I am!

Dr. Amy Moore: I laughed when you said that because I’m sure you are not; you just have really good lighting!

Punam Saxena: But if you’re seeing it at home, you can kind of ignore it, right? “That’s just who my child is.” But when the teacher is saying it, they’re confirming that behavior, and oftentimes we don’t wanna hear it from other people. So, there’s a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to parent engagement, and I understand that.

Sandy Zamalis: I was gonna ask, do you feel that sometimes parents might have a misunderstanding about the training a teacher has engaged in, in terms of dealing with different kinds of students, especially students that may have dyslexia or ADHD? I feel like in conversations that I’ve had, a lot of times, there’s a little bit of like this perception of expertise that parents don’t realize they’re the missing piece of that conversation, but maybe that teacher has never seen a student like your child and needs to learn and grow with this new student on how to manage and help this student be successful.

Punam Saxena: So I was a special education teacher when I was teaching. And this is also in my TED Talk, by the way. Just wanna throw that out there, this little anecdote. But we were sitting in an individualized education plan meeting, an IEP meeting, and you know, of course all of the professionals are there. I’m there as the teacher. You’ve got the guidance counselor, the classroom teacher, the district personnel. All of us are sitting there. And this mother, she worked an hourly job at McDonald’s. And she had to take two buses to get to this meeting, and she sat there for 30 minutes and we were talking about all the goals this kid needed: he needs to have remediation in reading and phonics and math, science, you know, in every single subject. We were literally taking his worst attributes and putting them on paper. And the mother did not say anything for 30 minutes, and I turned to her as the classroom teacher, because I’m thinking, “as a mom, why is she not saying a word?” And I said, “so, Mrs. So-and-so, what would you like to see your son do?” And she said, “you’re right. All of these are deficits in his, in his academics, all of them. And can he improve? Absolutely. But in seven years when he graduates, I need him to be able to have life skills. To know that he’s responsible to wash the dishes, to pay his electric bill. I need him to learn those skills.” I honestly thought to myself, “she doesn’t care if he can’t multiply. That’s not a life skill that he’s going to need, ever.” And so until we, as teachers, engage our parents, they’re not gonna come to the table. So, you’re right, Sandy, they’re not gonna come to the table. Because there is that level of expertise and parents feel inferior. But what they know best that the teacher doesn’t, is that is their child. They know their strength, they know their weaknesses, and they know what the child wants to do. Not every school, Let me rephrase this. Not every child is going to be in academics. They’re not gonna go on to college. They’re going to go on to a different post-secondary program. So we have to have flexibility in our academics and parents can provide that.

Dr. Amy Moore: So how much power does the parent have in an IEP meeting?

Punam Saxena: In my opinion, a hundred percent. I mean the curriculum is so interesting, that the state passes down, because it’s supposed to be for the average child. They’re looking at the median, right? They’re not looking above or below. So that child who’s struggling may never get to that. So are we pushing them to a point where they’re going to just completely fall apart and be unable to perform at any level? You know. So, I think there’s a lot of value in rethinking how we educate our children and we do need to know, our children need to know some things, but they don’t need to know calculus. I don’t remember calculus. Do you?

Dr. Amy Moore: I do not. (laughs)

Punam Saxena: Right. Exposure is one thing, but expecting them to perform at a level is something very different.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, I’ve said in the past, we don’t all grow up and do the same job, so why are we taught exactly the same way? Why do we learn exactly the same things in the exact same order? When that isn’t our life trajectory.

Punam Saxena: I saw on Twitter the other day, a woman said, “my husband has retired. He’s 56 years old. He’s worked for 30 years and he was an electrician.” We don’t teach, you know, how to be an electrician in high school, but let tell you—when the electricity goes out, who are we calling? Because those PhDs are not gonna know how to fix it.

Dr. Amy Moore: Absolutely right. We don’t value the apprenticeship model in America, like Europe does. We don’t value the trades and you know, the alternative post-secondary experience, that you were just saying, in America. So, what needs to change in your opinion, for us to value that, and for us to kind of bring that into the high school environment, right? To show that there are these options and alternatives to college.

Punam Saxena: When  I was in high school, we had Shop. We had Home Ec., we had these classes that taught you life skills. So even if you didn’t go on to become an electrician, you at least had some basic knowledge. We don’t wanna have that anymore. So, in India, they have a class called General Knowledge. It’s called G.K. and every child has to take it. And it is general knowledge about life, about your society. So, people—my cousins in India and their children—had much more worldly views and understanding about history than we could ever imagine. And it is because that’s part of their curriculum. So we don’t, like you said, we don’t value it enough to put it into our curriculum. And yet those are the people we rely on when we need help.

Dr. Amy Moore: Absolutely.

Sandy Zamalis: I’m fascinated by, when you were telling your story about yourself, how that that one failure had such an impact on you and how you thought about yourself, and it impacted your grades. And we’ve talked on this podcast before about, you know, the story that you’re writing inside your mind of your life. What was that story that you told yourself when you made that, you know, perceived failure, and how that impacted you? And then what key helped you flip that, in order to become the successful adult that you became?

Punam Saxena: So when you’re an immigrant and you—English is not your first language—Hindi is my first language, you’re not socially accepted, because I grew up in a community that was black and white. We were the only non—we were the only Indians in our community, so we were the outcast. So, I already felt that in my social circle. So that was one aspect, and I’m a very social person, so that was, that was a huge red flag. And mind you, I’m eight years old and I’m still in tune to this. And so, the one thing that I had was academics. I could bury myself into my schoolwork because I knew that I had control over that. I knew I had control over my grades, and I knew I was good at my grades, because I was able to focus on them. So when Mrs. Smith told me that I didn’t make it, it was just one more, you know, red “X” on my heart that said, “well now I’m not good enough socially, and now I’m not good enough academically.” And it became, “why bother? If I’m not good in either, then what’s the point?” What changed is my husband, when we got married, I was 23 years old, still in that, that black hole. He said, “no more are you that person. So stop living there.” And I went from being a mediocre undergrad, to being an honors master student, in three years. And I started to realize the worth that I had, and that’s what changed, is the mindset that someone cares about you enough to lift you up. Now my parents tried to do everything they could. I give them a hundred percent credit for that. So, I don’t want to diminish their efforts. But you know, as a child, you just want someone of your peers to embrace you, and that just happened to be my husband. And since then, it has just been fun! And I’ll let you all in on a little secret. Four weeks ago I started my doctorate program.

Sandy Zamalis: Oh, congratulations!

Dr. Amy Moore: Excellent.

Punam Saxena: Because why not?

Sandy Zamalis: I love—you have in your article that I read when I was prepping for our talk today—you said that one of the things you like to help parents do is give their kids opportunity to make safe fails. But at the same time, which I find this to be tricky, also, have expectations, Right? So you’ve got, “yes, we wanna make sure we have understood expectations, but we also wanna make sure you have safety to fail.” How do you help parents with that? I find that dichotomy really interesting because a lot of times, we see kids in our center that just have that fear of failure. In fact, I did an assessment today and I opened the page and I had a student go stand up and say, “I quit . I quit.” And I thought, “wow, okay. Come back!” And I had to reel ‘im back in. But it’s that that fear of failure can just stop a student in their tracks. If they get overwhelmed, they immediately shut down.

Punam Saxena: They do shut down. So I’ll reference an article that I read in 2015, and it was by a Stanford professor, and she had the audacity to say—that we parents do not give our children the opportunity to fail. Because when they come to Stanford, you know, the suicide rate is very high at these prestigious institutions, and she said, “because you’re not teaching them to fail, we’re losing that, and they’re losing their lives.” And my son had applied to Stanford and didn’t get in. And he was a very good student. He is a very good student. And so, I just chuckled to myself. I’m like, “lady, you don’t accept failure. My child got an 89/B in one class and that wasn’t good enough.” He was a class president, you know, he had done all of these things, and 89/B is not even failing. Right? So, the part about us teaching them to fail is very important because when they get out into the world, they need to understand that not everyone is going to accept what they’re putting out. And that’s really important, because learning how to fail is more important than learning how to win or be successful. And it’s something that we have to teach. So, when you’re walking that fine line, what I recommend is look at what the activity is. You know, if it’s peewee soccer, it’s not gonna matter, right? If they didn’t score a goal, or they missed the ball, whatever. I know parents—I’m sorry to all you parents out there who, who believe that that’s really important. But in the long scheme of things, it’s not going to change their life. So, we have to keep it in perspective. So, when we’re talking about safe sales, I would say, Sandy, we have to keep it in perspective. If it’s life-altering, we need to step in. If it is not life-altering, like an 89/B, it’s not life altering. Now, did it alter his life to go to Stanford? Yes. He’s doing just fine. And so, we have to keep that in perspective when we’re talking about safe fails. And safe failing is good for their confidence. It’s good for motivation. The big fails are where we lose them, and we lose that confidence. Like the test that I took in second grade, that was a big fail, in my mind. So we have to, we have to look at that. And a safe fail for one child may be a big fail for another. So, we have to look at that child individually when we’re processing how we want to proceed.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. And that absolutely builds resilience, um, to be supported through those fails for sure. So, we need to take a break. And Sandy’s gonna read a word from our sponsor. And when we come back, we want you to talk to us about your book.

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Dr. Amy Moore: And we’re back talking to Punam Saxena about the importance of, teacher and parent relationships, or parent and school relationships. And so Punam, you’ve written a book called Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond. Talk to us about that.

Punam Saxena: The book is about normalizing parenting. Every single one of us is overwhelmed at some point in our parenting, and I would say sometimes it’s minute by minute, in what we have to tackle. And so this book kind of breaks it down into chapters, so you can process different scenarios that you’re living. And see that it’s all okay. So, the book starts with self-care, because that’s the first thing that parents, especially moms, throw out the window. We’re like, “well, you know, I don’t really need to do my breathing exercises today,” or go for a walk, or whatever. Yes, you do, because when you’re so anxious at the end of the day, those activities are what keep you grounded. And so, the first thing we have to do is take care of ourselves. We can’t take care of anyone else until we are solid. Part of this chapter focuses on the other thing that we don’t do, which is give ourselves grace. We work at a hundred miles an hour. Everything has to be perfect. If, you know, our project is not looking perfect, we stress about it. If there are dishes in the sink, we’re like, “oh my gosh, I can’t believe I haven’t gotten to those dishes yet.” We’re constantly on the hamster wheel trying to attain this level of perfection that is impossible. Then we feel bad about it. We don’t give ourselves grace to say, “you know what? I’m really tired. I got 10 things on my list done, and the 11th thing, which is the dishes, it’s not gonna get done tonight.” Or, “I’m too tired to cook and I feel bad that I’m taking my kids through the drive through for the third time this week.” Kids are happy. Right? They don’t have to be the broccoli or the spinach. They’re thrilled! But we don’t allow ourselves to feel that openness to say, “you know, what? It’s okay. I didn’t do great this week. I’m going to try and switch things up for next week.” So self-care is a big part of it, and giving ourselves grace is a huge part of this book. The other part, like we were talking about, sports in Peewee soccer, you know. Haven’t we all been to a sporting event and you’re looking at this parent going, “wow, you need to chill out. What is wrong with you? You were screaming at eight-year-olds. They’re just running around. They don’t know what’s going on. They’re having fun!” You know, but this parent’s taking it so seriously. Well, what happens to that child? That’s what that child sees. And then the team learning that happens is not occurring, because it’s not fun anymore. It’s work. And then it moves through social media, The impact of social media and how we as parents can maneuver it. For me, social media is a double-edged sword. It’s great. You can Google anything. And the other side is, you can Google anything. How do you navigate that? And it’s by having honest conversations with your children, monitoring what they’re doing. Mine always said that I was infringing on their rights, and I said, “You betcha. That’s my job. My job is, until you’re 18, to make sure that you’re in safe places. And I’m sorry if it, you know, cramps your style, but it is better for us to be in a safe environment than a potentially dangerous one.” And I think parents are hesitant a lot of times to check what’s on their children’s phones and to monitor their social media. I really encourage you to monitor it. Their brains are not developed enough to understand all the nuances that are occurring. And our children are exposed to so many adult situations that we were never exposed to prior to social media. So, it’s vitally important that parents check that. And then the last chapter is empty nesting. We go the whole gamut. Talking about how to manage having an empty nest. What do you do? You’ve raised these little people and they just leave you? Yeah. You want ’em to, don’t you? I don’t want my children here when they’re 50, hanging out with me. No, go! I want you to come home because you want to come home. Right? And so, we want to be able to provide those independent living skills. Now, whether they live with you for a short period of time or not, that’s very different. But they still need to have those independent skills to be able to live in the real world. And the other side of that is, hey, you can write a book, you can do a podcast, you can do a TEDx talk. You can do all of these things, because now you have time to focus on the things you’re really interested in doing. So that’s what the book is about. Each chapter ends with Punam’s perspective, which is an anecdote of my life of why I believe this is so important, or the chapter is so important. So yeah, it’s fun, it’s informative, and it’s a little snarky.

Dr. Amy Moore: We like a little snarky.

Punam Saxena: It’s who I am. It just comes out naturally.

Dr. Amy Moore: And that’s available everywhere books are sold?

Punam Saxena: Yes, absolutely.

Dr. Amy Moore: What’s so funny, Sandy?

Sandy Zamalis: Nothing. I’m just laughing at you two. Snarky.

Dr. Amy Moore: Snarky. I’m all about snarky. You have to have a way, right? I can be self-deprecating and snarky all at the same time.

Punam Saxena:  I think it, that’s a great tool that parents can have. Is starting to laugh at themselves.

Sandy Zamalis: Sure. Absolutely. So, you have a podcast too, right, Punam? In fact, you call your episodes, edu-sodes. Tell our listeners about that.

Punam Saxena: Yeah, so my whole business started with a podcast cause I’m like, “I can talk! But what am I gonna talk about?” And then I realized what I’m gonna talk about is things that are important to me, which is parent engagement. And so that’s what EDUme is, that’s all we do, is we talk about strategies. We bring in professionals to talk to us. I brought in my parents to talk about the immigrant experience and navigating the education system here. I brought in my son who is gay, and we talked about what it’s like to be a gay minority in America. Cause all of these things are happening in our world, and if we don’t talk about them, then we’re only heightening the divide. And so, my job is to bridge those stories and those strategies, so that parents can see themselves in that situation and then move forward. And see the value of being engaged in education because it is a value and it’s an investment in your child.

Dr. Amy Moore: So we’re almost out of time, but I would love it if you would leave our listeners with some quick tips on creating those relationships with schools, the best ways to communicate, you know, where they can start.

Punam Saxena: Sure. I think the first thing is that we have to be willing to do it. We have to be willing to prioritize our children and their academics. And that doesn’t mean you have to be in touch with the  teachers every single day. You can put it on your calendar and touch base with them every week or every other week, and just make it a habit. Because when we make it a habit, it becomes more a part of our lives. And I will tell you, as a teacher, I want that input. So I would say don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Take that first step and reach out and say, “Hi, I’m So-and-so’s mom and I would love to know how Johnny is doing in class this week. Is there anything that I can do at home to support you?” Pretty simple. Two or three sentences. The other thing that I would say is talk to your child. What’s happening in the classroom? Let them know that you’re interested in what’s happening, because when you show interest in them, they’re gonna ask you what you did today? “Did you get your big project done, Mom?” That’s a huge part of building that relationship because children are really proud when you get your project done. They’re gonna go to school the next day and say, Guess what? My mom did this big project. And then the teacher might hear it and go, “oh, well let’s talk about the project.” We’re creating that symbiotic relationship, and that’s ultimately what we want is a symbiotic relationship. The other thing that I would say is, it’s not complex. It’s not the PTA mom. It’s not the homeroom mom. It’s not the party planners that you need to be. You just need to be engaged. That’s it. So that’s my strategy. It’s not rocket science. It’s just, reach out. And I would say do not reach out when your child has an issue. That’s the wrong time to say, “hey, I think you really messed up my kid that came home crying today.” Okay, well, you know, that’s not the way you’re going to create a relationship. That’s the fastest way to get a reputation for being a bully parent. If you create that relationship on the outset when there is an issue, you go in and you talk to the teacher and because you have a relationship with them there, they’re partnering. We’re partnering together. And it’s amazing the solutions you’ll find.

Sandy Zamalis: So, what I hear you saying is if we start off with creating these positive communications and interactions off the bat, then when we do have an issue, it’s much better received.

Punam Saxena: Absolutely. Absolutely! And we’ve all, we’ve all seen parents, you know, come in all huffy and puffy. Well, that’s not productive. I will say. And I will also say that teachers are human. They’re with kids all day. They’re craving adult interaction, right? Most of them wanna talk to somebody who’s an adult. But they also wanted to know that they have an ally in that parent—that if there’s an issue, that they can call and say, “hey, this is what happened.” My, daughter’s high school calculus teacher called me—12th grade. She’s senior—and said, “You know what? So-and-so is having a really rough week. Is everything okay at home?” Wow. Right? You don’t hear that happening very often, but it happens when you create those relationships. And teachers knowing that they have an ally in a parent is powerful stuff. Powerful. Because they can’t make changes from the inside, but they can talk to you about it, and then maybe you can help find a solution to make a change that’ll be better for everyone.

Dr. Amy Moore: I love that. Thank you so much for being with us today, Punam, and for sharing your wisdom and tips And, listeners, if you would like more information about Puna and her work, her website is http://www.edu-me.net and you can find her on Facebook and Instagram at @theedume. We’ll put all those links and handles in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening today. Please follow us on social media at the Brainy Moms. If you like us. And if you liked our show today or any day, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts or whatever platform you get your podcasts. If you would rather watch us, we are also on YouTube, so you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Brainy Moms. If you would like to be on our show or suggest a guest or topic for our show, you can email me at DrAmy@learningrx.com or visit brainymoms.co. So, look, we know that you’re busy moms, and we’re busy moms. So until next time, we’re out.

Sandy Zamalis: Have a great week.