Today’s technological advances make getting and keeping in touch with your child’s teacher easier than ever. Like everyone else these days, teachers are never too far from their cell phones, and some are more than happy to share their contact information with their students and their students’ parents. Keeping the flow of communication open between you and your child’s teacher is an essential element of your child’s success in school. The following are some guidelines about staying in touch with your child’s teacher.
- Pick your mode of communication. Teachers have email addresses, phones in their room, and certain periods of time during the school day when they are available to take calls and conference with parents. Some will even give out their personal phone numbers, and some might even be open to texting. Ask your child’s teacher which modes of communication he or she is willing to engage in and/or prefers, and then pick one that is most convenient and reliable for you.
- Be respectful of teachers’ time. Understand that teachers are busy. While they might have 30 to 90 minutes of “planning” time each school day, as well as time before and after school, this time is often spent grading papers, planning lessons, and meeting with committees and other teachers. Therefore, if you want to meet with your child’s teacher, it’s important to plan ahead and make an appointment whenever possible. This is also the best practice for a phone conversation that you anticipate will be lengthy.
- Be prepared with an agenda. Make the most of your conversation with your child’s teacher by having a list of questions or concerns. This will help keep off-topic conversations to a minimum and will cut down on distractions. Also, if your child is struggling in school, teacher conferences can be stressful for both parents and teachers; therefore, having a well-organized agenda for the conference can help alleviate on-the-spot anxiety for everyone.
- Present a “united front” for your child. You probably remember a few teachers over the years of your own schooling whose personalities and teaching styles did not mesh well with your own. As a parent, you are likely to encounter teachers who approach the art of teaching in a way with which you or your child might not be comfortable. Nevertheless, it’s important to remain respectful and polite to your child’s teacher, especially in front of your child. Criticizing or complaining about your child’s teacher can leave your child feeling confused about his loyalties and possibly unmotivated to put forth his best effort in the classroom. If you are at odds with your child’s teacher for any reason, be sure to discuss these matters privately (but respectfully) with him or her—not in front of your child.
- Show that you’re on the same team. If your child is struggling in school academically or behaviorally, ask your child’s teacher what you can do at home that will support his or her efforts in the classroom. If your child is learning material in a way that is different from how you learned it, ask her teacher to explain it to you so that you can then present the material at home in the same way. Mothers and fathers (and stepparents) often have to “be on the same page” when parenting their children, and a similar team approach between you and your child’s teacher can be just as effective in ensuring your child’s success and motivation in school.
- Check your child’s backpack every day. Ideally, you will encourage your child to share with you any information from the school or from his teacher with little to no prompting or reminders from you. Realistically, the best you might hope for is that your child will present you with his book bag or backpack daily so you can sift through it to find any graded work or notes from the teacher. In any case, it is important to keep your eyes out for notes from the school or teacher communicating important details. Many students these days utilize a school-provided “agenda” or small planning calendar in which they write down assignments and upcoming dates for projects or tests. Teachers also often write notes home to parents in the agenda. Sometimes parents are asked to review the child’s agenda daily and sign off that they did so.
In sum, consistent, positive, and respectful communication with your child’s teacher is an essential element to ensure your child’s motivation and success in school. Parents and teachers must work together as a team to create the best educational experience possible for their children and students.
© 2013 Sunny Im-Wang, PsyD