It’s that time of
year again—time for new backpacks, folders, pencils and the return of our
sanity as school begins. Though many parents are overjoyed to send their kids
back to school for another year of learning, challenges and fun, some may feel
apprehension about developing a good relationship with their child’s teacher.
As an educator starting her eleventh year teaching, I’ve experienced the good,
the bad and the ugly when it comes to parent-teacher communication. Here
are some ways to avoid communication breakdowns between you and the person
responsible for your child’s education.
starts, call the secretary or stop into the office and make sure your contact
information is up to date in the school’s computer system. I can’t tell you how
many parent emails I’ve sent that have bounced back from deleted accounts or
have gone unanswered. Then I try the phone number only to find it’s been
disconnected because the parent has gotten a new number.
Mistake 2: Going Straight to the
If you have a
problem with your child’s teacher (you think their grading practices are
unfair, or your child should get an extension on an assignment due to an
excused absence, etc.) don’t pick up the phone and call the principal first.
Your initial complaint should go to the teacher before his or her boss. You
don’t want to be that parent that
hasn’t gotten the memo about how things work.
Mistake 3: Not Utilizing Web Tools
Almost all schools
now have some kind of online grading system that allows parents to track their
students' grades online. You should be provided with a username and password
and instructions on how to use the system. If you’re not sure, contact the
secretary for this information. Some systems will email you whenever your
student has a missing or late assignment, or if their grade drops below a
certain level. Check it often, and investigate not just the total grade, but
the assignment/test breakdown as well. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten
where a parent will log in and just see the grade, and then email me “why is my
child getting a D?” Well, if they’d bothered to click on the grade breakdown,
they could see all the missing assignments and failed tests. After that, feel
free to email the teacher and inquire about what the student can do to raise
their scores. Better yet, send your student to investigate this!
teachers have online blogs, websites or other tools to announce assignments or
send out reminders for tests. You can answer a lot of your own questions by
investigating your school’s web-based grading system and the teacher’s website
instead of peppering their inbox with emails. We love to hear from you, but
Mistake 4: Discussing School Issues
in the Community
If you see your
child’s teacher out in the community, at the grocery store or the local bar,
please do not approach them to talk about school. If you need to speak to the
teacher face-to-face, make an appointment and meet at the school. Besides, your
student’s grades are confidential information, and who knows who’s listening to
you in the produce aisle?
Mistake 5: Making Contact Only When
Something Bad Happens
relationship with your child’s teacher like a bank account. You need to fill it
with positive interactions in case you need to“withdraw” or lodge a complaint
or problem with their teaching. Your personal interactions with teachers will
be so much less stressful if you’ve gone out of your way to be nice to them at
some point. So, maybe drop them an email on the second day of school saying
something like, “Hi, I just wanted to let you know my son Jeremy is very
excited about the first unit of the year. Sounds fun! Have a great week!” Then,
when you need to contact them for something negative, you’ve built up the
positive relationship already.
Mistake 6: Believing Your Kid No
If your child
comes to you with a complaint about the teacher, step back a moment before
making that call or firing off that email. Of course we don’t want to believe
our kids would lie, but children are still developing, and their perceptions of
what really happened in a situation are not always correct. An email that
reads, “why did you yell at my son yesterday?” is not going to go over well. Instead,
keep the tone neutral, and try something like, “I heard from my son that there
was a behavior incident yesterday, and I was wondering if you could tell me
what happened.” I love kids, and love working with them, but they aren’t always
100 percent honest. Get everyone’s side of the story first and try to resolve the
conflict before flying off the handle.
Good luck this
year, and remember to keep those lines of communication open. It is your right
to contact your child’s teacher regarding his or her education, and, though it
may not seem like it, teachers want parents involved in their kids’ education!
It’s all about good communication skills. We’re all on the same team here!