As school begins, I want to address a topic that I hear about every year - how to discuss something with your child’s teacher. I hear about this from friends - I have even been asked how to discuss a problem with teachers. So I asked some teachers what advice they would give parents, and this is what I heard.
1. Know your student. This advice surprised me, but apparently some parents show up at school not knowing simple things about their child. Teachers want you to spend time with you child, learn their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes. It makes a conversation go better if the teacher isn’t trying to talk to a parent about how their child hates math when the parent thinks their child loves math.
2. Come prepared. If you want to discuss your child’s reading level, bring a list of current books that your child is reading at home. If you want to discuss a test where you disagree with the grading, bring the test along with you.
3. Remember, the teacher wants your child to succeed as much as you do. This is not an adversarial relationship. While I strongly feel it is a parent’s job to be their child’s advocate, that does not stipulate that the teacher is your opponent.
4. If there is a situation, please speak with the teacher before going to the principal. You end up annoying the teacher and the principal if you go to the principal first.
5. Let the teacher know why you want a conference, including all questions or concerns that you have, in advance. Chances are good that the teacher will know about any problems, but it is courteous to send out this information so that the teacher can be prepared.
6. Ask your teacher at the beginning of the year how he or she wants to be contacted. I have had teachers who want you to send notes, teachers who want phone calls, and teachers who want emails. Find out your teacher’s preference, and use it.
7. Also ask your teacher when he or she has planning time during the day. Typically, this is the time a teacher has for parent conferences. By getting this at the beginning of the year, you’ll know all year long what time you’ll need to get off for any conferences.
8. Arrive on time.
9. Leave on time. If you feel that a situation is not resolved because you need more time, ask the teacher for another conference to finish the discussion.
10. Bring your child with you, if your child is old enough (middle or high school age). When your child reaches an age where she or he can participate in a conference, let it happen. That removes the “he said, she said” that can occur when you and the teacher are discussing such topics as homework or projects.