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Eventually, every parent needs to do it: contact the teacher.
But how and when? More importantly, how often?
Your child’s teacher can be your best ally. Trust me, teachers WANT to help you! But information and request overload can quickly add to the already staggering workload that educational professionals are carrying. So it’s important to observe a few guidelines and keep communication open.
Here are 7 ways that you can get what your child needs and keep the teacher happy at the same time.
7 Ways To Advocate For Your Child Without Annoying His Teacher
1. Start Early
Right from the get-go be kind and supportive. Ask the teacher if she needs anything for the classroom and then follow through. It might be tissues or hand sanitizer. It could also be helping to make copies or volunteering as a room parent.
This helps to create a relationship with your child’s teacher. If you are involved, you might get info about your child. You can also pick the teacher’s brain more easily. It might be questions about the math homework or the inside track on the big class project, but your physical (or virtual) presence helps you.
2. Small Notes
Teachers look at everything or try to. We check agenda books, homework and even little sticky notes. If you are concerned about something on the small side, send a note. From early dismissal to trouble on the homework or a question about the spelling assignment, the teacher will see it and be aware of the situation.
Sending in small notes like this, occasionally, keeps the dialogue open and lets the teacher know that you are an involved parent. She knows that you are helping your child with her schoolwork and want your child to succeed.
3. Email Etiquette
Email is the easiest way to get in touch these days. It’s fast, efficient and hassle free.
Except emails can get lost in the shuffle. There is also no “tone of voice” reader available.
When you email, be careful. Use precise language to communicate your concern, but try to keep the “tone” warm and friendly.
Even if you are upset.
Especially if you are upset.
Firing off accusations will put the teacher on the defensive and make progress even harder.
Be clear about what you want: answers, a meeting or even just a response of any kind.
4. Ask for a Meeting
For small problems, like homework questions, use email or written notes. If a big issue pops up, like major academic concerns or social situations, ask (kindly) for a meeting.
This is not a You VS Teacher heavyweight battle. It’s all of you fighting for the best education for your child together. At the meeting, approach it like a team effort.
Ask questions. What is the teacher seeing? How has she addressed the issue so far? What has worked with similar situations in the past? What can you do at home to support your student?
Then follow through. Stay in touch with the teacher about the issue. Ask for progress reports and information about interventions. Use the teacher suggestions at home.
5. Quality Over Quantity
Emails have a tendency to pile up real quick. Even paper notes can get misplaced.
Yes, keeping in contact is amazing! The teacher knows you care and you have your finger on the pulse of the classroom. Constant contact can also work against you.
Daily emails or notes are overwhelming and meeting every week is a lot. So keep your communication regular, but not flowing like a river.
Like the boy who cried wolf, if you make every molehill into a mountain, it can become harder to handle the mountains if you find them. Teachers might also be less likely to take your (legitimate) concerns quite as seriously if every challenging assignment results in an emergency meeting or a flurry of emails marked URGENT.
6. Respect the Work Day
Do things happen after 3:30 p.m.? Of course! Kids get sick, homework gets lost and stories from the school day are shared. Plus, since after school is usually when parent get to see all the tests and homework, academic concerns might start to brew.
If you email after the school day, please allow some wait time. Typically, this is one business day, from Monday to Friday, during working hours.
Teachers need time to read, process and find the answers you need. We need time to get our strategy in place. If the topic is especially sensitive, the teacher might also need to write a draft response and then step away before sending it to make sure he got it right.
If you need a meeting, ask when the teacher has time. Typically, a teacher will want to solve a problem sooner rather than later. For parents who are limited by their own working hours, offer some days and times you are available. Many teachers will come in early, stay late, or give up their lunch and prep periods to meet with parents.
Be prepared to sacrifice equally of your time. This is YOUR kid, after all.
7. Be a Problem Solver
If you CAN do it, please go right ahead!
If your child is begging for extra math homework or wants to learn more about anything, try to find the solution on your own first. There are many websites out there that offer free online programs, like Khan Academy or PBS Kids. And the library is always free.
When the going gets tough on homework, search on YouTube for teaching tutorials. There are a bunch of them out there, all conforming to Common Core standards, across grade levels.
Your teacher will adore you for being proactive with your child’s education. And her workload will feel just a little bit lighter too.