Sure Fire Tips for Better Communication with Teachers
When I taught, I used to check my e-mail on the weekends. But over time, I started getting more e-mails from parents that would ruin my entire weekend. So, I stopped checking my e-mail on the weekends. It wasn’t convenient for my students, but it was necessary for my own mental health.
What kind of e-mails you ask? Nastygrams. Ones where parents questioned my professionalism and intelligence. Ones where their child’s low grades were entirely my fault. Where I was given a series of demands and my suggestions were ignored. Every teacher I know has received these e-mails before. While these are the exceptions, they are the ones that erode parent-teacher relationships the most.
So, let me share with you some tips to communicate with your child’s teacher(s) and create a strong working relationship with them. My experience is with parents of high schoolers, but most of these tips would work no matter your child’s age.
Tips for Better Communication with Your Child’s Teachers
Build a Relationship
If you can, attend Back to School Night or parent-teacher conferences and meet the teacher. If you can’t attend those events, send a short e-mail introducing yourself. This is particularly helpful if your child has a health condition, special needs, or has struggled in school before. If a problem arises later in the year, it is easier for you and the teacher to start working together right away to solve it.
Also, make this a team effort. After all, parents and teachers all want what is best for your child. Provide a few suggestions of your own and ask the teacher for his or her suggestions. While you are the expert on your child, the teacher is an expert in education. You each have something to contribute to the conversation.
Assume positive intent
Teachers want their students to succeed. Be sure to listen to what the teacher is saying and always assume it comes from a good place. It SO easy to misread intent in e-mails, in particular. Assuming negative intent – the teacher is out to get my kid – leads to mistrust and a bad relationship with the teacher.
Assuming positive intent is such a powerful way to reframe interactions. Often, we can jump to conclusions based on the wording of an e-mail or whether we are hangry or not. (Just me?)
If you’re not sure about the teacher’s intent, ask them (politely) for their reasoning. That simple question could lead to a much more in-depth conversation. Assuming positive intent leads to better communication with teachers and improved working relationships.
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Contact the teacher for big stuff
Limit the number of e-mails you send the teacher and help your kid become more independent at the same time. It’s a win-win! Most middle and high schoolers, especially 11th and 12th graders, should be handling issues with their teachers themselves. However, the younger your child, the more you should contact the teacher.
Things your child should talk to the teacher about- staying after for help, getting make-up work, reviewing grades, scheduling a quiz or test make-up date, or asking for a reference.
Things parents should contact the teacher about- sudden changes in the child’s grade, continuing problems that haven’t been solved, home situations (health, divorce, etc) that would affect classroom behavior, etc.
If your child is too nervous to talk to their teachers, check out my post on teen e-mail etiquette. There is a free download that includes e-mail scripts they could use!
Be reasonable about response time
Teachers are notoriously hard to get a hold of. Why? Because they are probably teaching. Or in a meeting, writing a test, or grading. Fun fact – most schools won’t ring a classroom phone during the day, so you’re going straight to voicemail.
Give at least 24 hours for the teacher to respond, longer if you send an e-mail on the weekend. After a few days, though, I would definitely check back in if you haven’t received a response.
Talk in person
When things become . . . heated, it’s time to stop e-mailing. It’s so easy for e-mail to be misconstrued. Instead, schedule a phone conversation, video conference, or in-person meeting. I always recommend in-person if possible.
When you are face-to-face, misunderstandings are less likely to happen. Instead, you’ll be more productive and more likely to actually come up with a solution.
I hope these tips will help you the next time you need to contact your child’s teacher! While I can’t guarantee they will help you and the teacher become BFFs, they will make the process go more smoothly.