My kids are now starting the 7th and 11th grades of school. I have spent many hours at the kitchen table helping with homework, had many conversations with teachers over the years, and imparted much wisdom to my kids (whether they consider it so or not) on the topics of time-management, doing our best, hard work and more. Today, I am sharing with you some suggestions for setting the year right with your child’s teacher or teachers. I have observed these things as a teacher, counselor and parent, and I hope they will help you during this school year, too!
I am posting the only first-day photo I could find. My girl looks ready to go with her backpack on and coordinated outfit (this was preschool for her). However, as usual, she has drool down her front. She was such a slobbery little thing. Notice, too, that my big boy has enjoyed his buttery biscuits. He ALWAYS eats breakfast. The greasy marks all over her shirt are the evidence. I sure hope I made him change. Honestly, though, I probably didn’t even notice that day!
Perhaps one of the most often heard complaints of parents about teachers is that there is a lack of communication. Parents don’t like to be surprised by a grade at the quarter’s end, nor do we want to hear about “continued” or “ongoing” behavior or academic issues for the first time.
Teachers typically appreciate parents who are communicative and cooperative when it comes to their child, but being available may sometimes be a challenge for them. That’s particularly true when kids reach the secondary level and teachers may be seeing 200+ students in a given semester.
How can parents keep informed about what’s going on with their child and make the task more manageable for teachers? Here are seven ways to stay on top of the latest news.
1) Be Available for Open House and Conferences
Nearly every school schedules an evening at the start of the year where parents can visit their children’s classes and teachers. Open houses are opportunities to learn what will be expected and have face-to-face introductions with teachers. There are also conferences a little further into the year, during which parents get an update on their children’s progress. Schedule around these events, and plan to attend. These evenings are scheduled for parents’ convenience and for the purpose of communicating information; schools appreciate those who attend.
2) Train Your Child to Advocate for Himself
Begin teaching your child to communicate with his teacher by the time he reaches second or third grade. Even young children should be able to ask simple questions about homework or field trips. As he grows, encourage him to speak personally with his teacher about improving his grade or making an appointment for extra help. Children need to learn the skills to effectively communicate most concerns themselves. Then, parents step in on more serious concerns.
3) Utilize E-Mail, if Available
Teachers have plan periods for making private calls, but many times e-mail is the preferred method of communication for them. Teachers are able to e-mail from their desks during short intervals of time in the day. Making contact via the phone is often hard to accomplish. Unless a conversation is required, use e-mail for faster feedback. Allow teachers a 24-hour turnaround time. Your question may require some research or calculating, so give the teacher time to prepare a complete and accurate response.
4) Provide Prompts for Obtaining Routine Updates
Some students have IEP’s (Individualized Education Plan/Program) or 504 Plans because of diagnosed learning disabilities or medical diagnoses that mandate additional accommodations for their success. If your child has such a plan and you are getting weekly or monthly updates on her progress, e-mail a reminder to her teacher that it is time for that report. This will help you get the feedback needed in a timely manner without a lot of frustration.
5) Check out School Resources
Make it a habit to read newsletters that come home from school, and review the local newspaper to stay current on what’s going on within the school district and specific buildings. There are many resources that are available to parents, ranging from events organized by elementary parent groups to college fairs held at the high school level. Stop by the school’s guidance office and find out what’s available there. You’ll likely find materials about school clubs and activities, tutoring resources, and scheduling and scholarship information. Ask your child about daily announcements, and advise him to stay tuned in for the latest as well.
6) Make Communications Pleasant
Teachers are human, too, and they may avoid making calls or communicating with unpleasant parents. While these issues can be serious to discuss, we can strive to be positive in our conversations. Ask how you can help the teacher or child as they work toward the desired goal. Provide your insights about your child, and be willing to hear the observations of the teacher, too. Be specific about your desires where your child is concerned, but resist a defensive tone. She will be more successful if you and her teacher are working together as a team on her behalf.
7) Moving Through the Channels
If you’ve received no response or unsatisfactory feedback from your child’s teacher, contact his counselor. The counselor will act as a liason between you and the teacher to provide the information needed. It may be necessary to involve a principal or arrange a meeting during this process, and the counselor can facilitate that for you. If a specific teacher is a poor or negligent communicator, the counselor will already know this and be able to help with the problem.
I hope it will be a great year for my teacher friends and their students!