Tips on how to talk to your child’s teacher

  • Tap into the ways the teacher shares information, such as student planners, take-home folders or weekly e-mail messages. Familiarize yourself with this information so you approach your child’s teacher with the information already available to you about your child’s classroom activities.
  • Recognize the positive regularly, especially in the beginning of the school year. Consider sending a note to the teacher, saying “Jane is looking forward to your computer technology workshop this year.”
  • Share decision-making authority.
It is your responsibility as a parent to support your child’s learning and to advocate for her interests. Assume that teachers and administrators are also interested in helping to find the best solutions for your child. The outcomes will be far better if you approach challenges with an attitude of cooperation. Look for solutions that distribute the responsibility to the student, parents and teachers rather than depending on the schools to solve every problem alone.
  • Communication should always be honest and direct. Do not engage in gossip because it can compromise your own integrity. Don’t let big problems slide, but choose your battles wisely. If you are finding that you have problems with every teacher on a regular basis, you are likely the problem. Gather all the information before making any decisions or arriving at any judgments.
  • Troubleshoot a problem. Let’s say your daughter is not finishing her work in school because she’s chatting so often with friends
  • Identify the problem. Is she bored? Has recess been eliminated? Is too much of the instructional time desk work?
  • Gather information. Talk with your child and listen. Get his teacher’s thoughts, and ask other teachers if they have observed any issues. Conduct some research.
  • Develop an action plan. Communicate in whatever way feels most comfortable (for example, meeting, phone call, or written communication). Clearly identify the problem. Share your findings. Then ask for some specific changes. For example, you may ask that your child not lose recess as a punishment. Perhaps the agreement is that he loses privileges at home if he doesn’t come home with a complimentary note at the end of the week. Or you may ask the teacher to switch his classroom management style to acknowledge your son for good behavior rather than punishing him for bad behavior.
  • Always follow up. Parents, teachers, and students need to know what works so that those strategies can be repeated in the future or modified, as needed. Recognize your daughter for helping to solve her own problems. Also, thank the teacher for his flexibility and willingness to make classroom changes.

Reprinted with permission from Angela Engel, former teacher, school administrator, speaker, policy advisor and author of Seeds of Tomorrow: Solutions for Improving Our Children’s Education. Go to www.angelaengel.com for more information.

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