Effective Communication with Your Child’s Teacher :: Advice from Someone Who Knows

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Back-to-school can be a chaotic time of the year. Teachers are hard at work setting the stage for a successful school year. Additionally, they are working hard to establish routines and procedures in their classrooms to help students transition back into the school environment. 

As moms, we can feel overwhelmed about our role in the back-to-school transition. Sure, we can handle the home part. We’ve got down the bedtime routines, the lunch packing, and the healthy breakfasts before sending our kids off in the mornings. So, what exactly should we be doing in terms of school? Some moms prefer a hands-off approach. Their stance is that it’s the teacher’s job to handle the school stuff. However, most moms agree that their children’s education should happen as a partnership between the parents and school. This partnership is cultivated by proper communication. 

Communicating with your child’s teacher(s) is critical for success. After all, who knows your child better than you do? You can be an amazing resource for your child’s teacher as they work to learn how to best educate your child. Below are some tips to help you communicate effectively with your child’s teacher.

Attend Meet the Teacher Events

Most schools offer some type of “Meet the Teacher” event prior to the start of school. This is an excellent opportunity for you to introduce your child and yourself to the teacher. This meeting is very important because it gives your child a chance to familiarize himself with his new teacher and it gives you the chance to get to know the teacher a bit as well. This simple meeting can really make a big difference in getting the school year started positively. 

If you’re unable to attend the event, it might be good to send a brief introductory email to the teacher or to send him/her a note. You can tell them a little bit about your child, including his strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. (Remember to keep it brief and courteous.)

Offer To Help By Signing Up to Volunteer or Donate Items to the Classroom

If you can, consider signing up to volunteer your time (if this is something that the school allows). If you’re unable to volunteer at the school, consider donating items to the classroom. Make sure to always communicate with the teacher about the types of donations needed, too. 

Communicate Early and Often

This is arguably the most important tip. It’s important to communicate early and often with the teacher. (And by often, I mean at least more than one time per school year. My rule of thumb is to communicate around progress report time. That way, you can catch and address any issues prior to actual report card time.) Communicating early conveys your support and interest in your child’s education. It also sends the message that you are interested in a partnership, which is essential for the student’s success. I particularly love early communication because it’s neutral communication that isn’t tied to grades, behavior, or any other issues. It’s simply cultivating the relationship needed to have other conversations throughout the school year. 

If Communicating Via Email, Pay Attention to Tone

Email communication is so convenient, isn’t it? I love being able to quickly type out a message at a time and place that’s right for my schedule. The tricky part about email communication, though, is that you have to be careful of the tone you use so that the receiver doesn’t misinterpret it, especially when you’re communicating about a sensitive topic. When you’re communicating via email, pay close attention to your word choice, punctuation, letter case, and sentence length. You also want to be careful with your opening and closing. I would also suggest reading your message aloud before sending it. Most importantly, avoid typing messages when emotions are heightened. 

The key here is to remember that just because you write something a certain way doesn’t mean that the receiver will interpret it the same way. 

Communicate When Things are Going Well

In addition to communicating early and often, I also suggest that you communicate when things are going well. Don’t let your only communication with your child’s teacher be about something negative. If everything is going well with your child at school, maybe you could take a moment to simply say “thank you” and see if there is anything that you can do to help.

Questions to Ask Your Child’s Teacher

Do you want to communicate with your child’s teacher, but you’re a little unsure about appropriate questions to ask?  Here are some sample questions for you:

  1. What is your preferred method of communication throughout the school year?
      • This is very important to note because teachers often receive lots of communication. You want to make sure that you are using the teacher’s preferred method of communication so that there are no misunderstandings about how/why messages are being returned, etc. 
  2. What can I do at home to support the work you’re doing in the classroom?
      • You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Children whose parents are involved in their schools tend to do better and have a better feeling about going to school. 
  3. How do you assess student progress?
      • You want to make sure that you understand the methods being used to assess your child’s progress. Some school districts have transitioned away from traditional grading systems, so it’s important that you understand the method being used to evaluate how your child is performing. If you are unsure, ask for clarification. Your child’s teacher can let you know if your child is falling behind in a specific skill or subject. When you know how progress is measured, you can work with the teacher to create a plan to help your child improve. 
  4. How is my child doing socially?
      • In addition to doing well academically, we want our children to do well socially. Inquire about your child’s social development. Ask about how your child interacts with other children in the classroom, especially regarding conflict and misunderstandings. Social skills are just as important as academics. 
  5. What are my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses?
      • Having this conversation with your child’s teacher can give you information that you need to support your child most appropriately at home. 

A partnership between a teacher and parents that begins with communication is a recipe for success. I hope these tips help you and your children have a successful school-year!

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