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Why, When and How to Talk to Your Child’s Teachers

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Kid Companions- Chewelry: Why, When and How to Talk to Your Child’s Teachers

November 13, 2010

Why, When and How to Talk to Your Child’s Teachers

Parents want what is best for their children. A good education is high on their list. More than learning the 3 R’s, parents want their children to be happy at school, to be enthusiastic about school activities and to be looking forward to going to school to meet and be with their friends. Parents want to know the progress of their children and they insist that their children receive extra help or support the minute they notice problems regarding school. The best way to have a happy, flourishing child at school is by sharing information and it is essential that both teachers and parents make it happen.

A previous post dealt with How Schools Communicate With Parents , the following are suggestions to parents on their role in the communication process.

Why and When You Must Get In Touch With Your Child’s Teachers

The best way to start off a new school year is to actually read and file all the documentation sent by your School Board, school and teachers. Then attend, volunteer and participate in your school system’s activities. Be a friendly, helpful parent from day one, therefore when a problem arises you already have a foot in the door and links to the teachers you must meet.

One reason to get in touch with your child’s teacher is if there is a problem or change at home. A teacher wants to know about an issue bothering your child so they may act accordingly, know how to console or encourage your child during those crises. Furthermore give teachers heads up of up coming events that cause stress.

Another reason to communicate with the teacher is if you notice change in your child's behavior, school performance or attitude towards school. First discuss with your child to find what is wrong. From this discussion if you cannot find a solution or explanation, then you must get in touch with the child’s teacher. Most teachers would rather hear about problems sooner than later.

Gather concrete evidence to support your concerns, write down your child’s interpretation of things and jot down your take on the matter. It would be helpful if you list beforehand what is going well at school with your child and write a few suggestions of what could be done to solve your child’s problems.

For minor problems and concerns, a telephone conference may be sufficient. From that conversation a face to face conference can be scheduled.

Everyone’s goal should be to serve the best interest of each child and most teachers welcome parental involvement. Never go over the teacher's head straight to the principal. However do not attempt to have a conversation about your child when dropping off or picking up your child from the classroom. The teacher has all the other students there and they need her attention at all times. The teacher does not have her own notes about your child hanging by the door and this scenario turns out to be a nightmare…one I still have! Imagine having to discuss such an important matter with a parent and feeling he/she can only spare a few minutes at a door with 27 other kids as background music!

How To Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

Set a date that is convenient to both parties and arrive with a smile on your face for a discussion not a confrontation. Do not bring any other children with you and bring only your child in question if you have discussed with the teacher what would be best. Do not put the teacher on the defensive but approach the teacher with a cooperative spirit. Best school solutions come when teacher and parent act as a team. Be prepared to document, have in writing or even tape the end results of your conferences.

State your views, explain clearly and leave insults and emotions out. Then listen to the teacher’s viewpoint. There may be mitigating factors of which you're unaware and which your child did not mention. Together negotiate, give and take and explore the strategies available. Weigh the good and the bad and come up with a plan that has measurable goals and a time line.

Before leaving, summarize the consensus you arrived at, put it in writing and have teacher and parent sign it. Leave with an arrangement on how to connect daily/weekly with each other and set a date for a telephone or person to person conference to review and adjust your plan of action.

If you do not arrive at a consensus ask for another meeting with another person also present…principal, special education teacher, teacher responsible for special education in your school board, school counselor, school's psychologist or a learning specialist… Explain you want this next meeting to happen quickly and the need for more opinions on the matter is required.

You must continue to press until you are confident that your child’s needs are being met. And my teacher hat must add that parents must remember that their child’s needs must be met all the while respecting the needs and learning environment of all the other students.

Document, document all along!

Not Getting Anywhere…Last Steps

So if you feel deep down your problem is a legitimate complaint and your child's health, safety, or welfare is at stake, then you must continue if the problems persist. When you are sure that this is a problem that the public school system is responsible to remedy, go to the School Council and next to the Superintendant. Be sure your problems warrant such action and that the time required to steer this through is time well taken from the valuable time you could have with your family. Do not let this become a drain on all parties to prove who is right…it started to help your child and it should end that way.

Inform yourself on how other schools and school boards have dealt with similar problems. Find out if other families in your community have the same problem because a “parent coalition” will have a lot more clout. Support from a provincial or national group will bring more credibility to your cause. Be prepared, be professional, be passionate but be polite!

Still No Results

Find out the best way to approach your School Board and the member of the School Board representing your area. Bring out those documents, records of the steps already taken, the meetings already had, the strategies tried, the problems not solved… arrange for another round of meetings.

As a last resort, because nothing was resolved climbing up the chain of command, contact your local or provincial paper to try and get your story across and bring positive results to this problem.

This brings me back to square one and at the first weeks of the school term with a child, a teacher and parents. Build a relationship with your child’s teachers early when no problems have yet surfaced. When they do, there will be a foundation there to build supports, to create solutions and to carve out a happy, productive niche for your child.

Do you have tips to add to communicating effectively with your teacher/school?



 




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2 Comments:

At November 19, 2010 at 9:25 AM , Anonymous Jean Nicol said...

Terrific advice! I will recommend this for a "must read' for all parents with a child in school.

 
At November 19, 2010 at 9:58 AM , Blogger Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont said...

Thanks, Jean, I am sure you know the importance of working WITH the school from day one so problems can be anticipated and discussed with solutions already planned and ready to be implemented before everything comes crashing down.Like for everything else:" 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'

 

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