Talking to Teachers: Seven Steps to a Productive Meeting
When your child enters school a new institution enters your family. The school influences your family life, your child’s life, and his or her sense of well-being. Often this is a positive influence — new experiences, new friends, pride in learning. However, for most parents there comes a time when you need to schedule a talk with the teacher.
Think of this relationship as a collaboration. You need each other.
Here are some tips for making that talk as productive as possible.
1. Manage your feelings. When your child has difficulty in school or you feel that the teacher has been insensitive, it can bring out the “mother bear” in you. Listen to Mother Bear and let her know that you are going to attend to the problem. You will be more persuasive if you are calm.
2. Consider the teacher a colleague with a set of skills and information that you need. You know your child and the teacher knows education and your child in school. Some parents carry their feelings from their own unhappy school experience, and they are intimidated by classroom teachers. To them I say, you are the expert about your child and what happens at home. The teacher needs you. Other parents are condescending to teachers. You might have more education and you might be ten years older, but this teacher has training that is specific to education. In addition, the teacher sees your child during the school day — she or he has important information for you.
3. Be clear about what you want to address. Perhaps you want to tell the teacher that the spelling homework is taking an hour a night. Or perhaps you have a question about the requirement for independent reading which is causing havoc in your household. Perhaps you want to inform the teacher that you child is being bullied, and you are concerned from your child’s report that the teacher is insensitive to this. Put out your concerns without blaming or accusing.
4. Ask for input and listen. You may learn things about the homework, the classroom, the teacher, and your child that you did not know before. This is useful to you.
5. Offer a solution. Be open to the teacher’s solutions as well. Perhaps your child could have fewer spelling words. Perhaps you need some guidance in choosing independent reading material for your child. Agree to give the solution a try.
6. Arrange be in touch to share information about how the solution is going. Regular contact by e-mail can reduce the need for future face-to-face meetings.
7. Thank the teacher for his or her time. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
Working in this way sets the groundwork for a respectful working relationship. This is the most likely way to be helpful to your child.
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Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv