Do you feel intimidated when you think of talking with your child’s teacher? If your child complains about problems with his or her teacher, what do you do then?
I’m a parent and a teacher, so I’ve been on both sides of the teacher’s desk. I’ve also felt the challenges teachers and parents feel while navigating remote learning. Here are some tips to help you communicate and connect with your child’s teacher even during the most difficult of times.
Get to know the teacher
Try to introduce yourself and talk to the teacher face-to-face or on a virtual call. If this is not possible, it’s never too late to send an email introducing yourself while offering your support to the teacher. That way, if a challenge does present itself during the school year, a teacher’s first encounter with you isn’t a call about behavioral challenges or academic struggles.
One of the best ways to get to know your child’s teacher is to be involved in what is going on in the classroom and at the school. One way you can do this is to volunteer. Ask if you can read to your child’s class. If volunteers are limited at your child’s school, you can organize signups for supplies and send in prepackaged craft items and snacks for class parties or events. If your career is related to something your child’s class may be studying, offer to answer questions face-to-face or virtually. Many employers build in time for employees to volunteer in schools freeing them from taking vacation or personal time off from work.
Ask if you can cut out the items the teacher has laminated, or purchase supplies for a lesson. Come to after-school events, school productions and parent-teacher conferences so that you are visible and can touch base with your child’s teacher.The key is to be tuned in to what is going on so that you will be, and remain, in the know.
Keep communications open and positive
Typically, teachers welcome questions and comments about your concerns and are proactive. As a teacher, I would much rather know about a problem early so that I can consider how to deal with it and then to make a plan so that the issue is dealt with in the best way for all concerned parties. Your child’s teacher should be open to your suggestions, but don’t be too intimidated to ask.
Keep up with written teacher notes, permission slips, report cards and any other written communications the teacher sends home. Sending a quick response to the teacher’s requests makes the teacher’s job easier.
Remember to keep communications positive. If you have concerns or think the teacher has dealt unfairly with your child, don’t jot down a negative note or email and send it first thing in the morning. For those more sensitive conversations, call and set up a time to meet after school.
Of course, sending an encouraging note brightens a teacher’s day, so those are always a good idea!
Try to understand both sides
Teachers have a lot of different factors to manage in their classrooms, and with twenty-five or more students to supervise, sometimes they make mistakes or don’t see every problem. Your child may think something happened in class that wasn’t fair, and it’s easy for parents to react emotionally and immediately blame the teacher. It is important to support the teacher as much as possible while you gather information about what happened. Try to help your child see the teacher’s point of view, and talk about how people can have differences and still work together to succeed.
Advocate for your child
Don’t be afraid to speak up if a problem in your child’s class becomes pervasive. If your child’s grades start to slip, or you see that he or she is continually unhappy or you suspect your child is being bullied by a classmate, work with the teacher to devise a plan to help.
Make a drastic change only as a last resort
Sometimes children have personality conflicts with their teachers. That situation actually offers an opportunity for growth if teachers and students can work together in a respectful and productive manner. After all, this is what children will need to do when they grow up. But if problems persist, it may be time to request a change to another class. Discussing your options with a school counselor or administrator may help you navigate a tough year.
Understand that teachers are human
Most of the teachers I know are caring individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. Often, they are parents too, and although it is hard to imagine, at one time they were students who lived through awkward growth spurts, problems with peers, lost homework and braces. They understand what parents and kids are going through, and they strive to build a positive connection between school and home.