How to Communicate With Your Child's Teacher
Why electronic communication may be preferred and how to take advantage of scheduled parent/teacher events
Not long ago, a parent of one of my students was sending rude and disrespectful notes to me through her child. Of course, third graders read these notes, so the parent’s chosen method and manner of communication was probably not the best choice. It’s better to share constructive criticism with the teacher without involving the child. While it is natural for parents to be unhappy with teachers on occasion, remember that the teacher/student relationship is crucial to a child’s success and happiness in school. Teachers want to partner with parents, so being critical of the teacher in front of the child can undermine this very important relationship.
And, a note sent with your child is often never seen by the teacher.
In order to achieve the best possible communication, I suggest that parents ask the teacher about preferred methods. As a teacher, I prefer to use email or the popular Remind app. I can often respond to brief questions during class, when the students are working independently. This allows for prompt responses to parental concerns. I frequently even respond to Remind messages from home in the evenings. On the other hand, if a parent wishes to speak to a teacher by telephone, this can delay the response time. I have had parents call me in the middle of class time to discuss issues such as their child’s behavior. This is not a good time. First, your child’s teacher is in the middle of teaching class. Second, the teacher is not likely to discuss your child in front of all the students in class. While a phone call may seem to be more immediate, teachers must return calls when they have time, so calls are not usually as efficient as electronic communication. Teachers do have daily plan times, which are typically less than an hour in length. However, parents often are unaware how frequently those plan times are devoted to meetings. The remaining plan times are needed to create lesson plans, make copies, grade papers, and prepare lessons. This explains why teachers would often prefer to communicate electronically.
Take advantage of every opportunity to meet your child’s teacher in person. Meet the Teacher night, scheduled before school starts, is a terrific time to have a casual chat with the teacher, and to ask any questions you may have. These events are usually casual come-and-go events, so bring a list of your questions, including asking about the teacher’s preferred method of communication.
Other meet-the-teacher opportunities include Back to School Night or Curriculum Night at the beginning of every school year. Teachers will have prepared information which they believe to be important to parents. This is another chance to get many of your questions addressed, and to get to know the teacher better
There are also parent/teacher conferences, usually held in October and March. Parents should attend both of these. Some schools and teachers schedule private conferences. Others have several families in the room at once. Inquire ahead of time as to whether your conference will be private. The teacher will likely be discussing such things as test scores, grades, and student behavior with you. Many parents don’t wish to discuss these matters when others are within earshot. If you would prefer a private conference, be sure to request this ahead of time. Again, have a list of questions and concerns ready.
While most issues can be handled electronically or by phone, there may be times that a personal meeting is needed. The teacher will request one when he or she feels it is necessary. If you would like to talk with your child’s teacher, be sure to schedule the meeting in advance so that both you and the teacher can sit down and focus on your child. Many parents want to meet immediately after school, not realizing that teachers have mandatory duties and meetings after school. Teachers also have lives after school. Many are parents and are trying to pick up their own children, get them to activities, and spend some quality time with them. Other teachers have multiple jobs. It is no secret that teacher pay doesn’t pay the bills. Parents should not mistake this as a lack of dedication to their teaching career. On the contrary, we work the extra jobs so that we can afford to teach your children.
Teachers desire good communication with parents. Take advantage of events and conferences to get to know the teacher. If possible, offer to volunteer in the classroom. Most importantly, be familiar with the preferred methods of communication at the beginning of the school year. Taking these steps will help you establish a strong partnership with your child’s teacher.