How teachers and parents interact is an important part of children’s development and progress at school. It is also a subject that I give a lot of thought to as I am both a parent and a teacher at my children’s school.
How To Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is a book that every teacher and parent should read – in fact, I ran a workshop on it for my teachers before the new term.
Amongst all the good advice in the book, there is one chapter in particular that discusses how effective communication should be maintained. The chapter discusses some key strategies which I have summarized as follows;
Tell Parents Something Right About Their Child
Even if you want to tell them about something that is wrong, at least start with something that their child is doing well. To often, as teachers, we only contact parents when things get bad.
Point Out What the Learner Needs to Do
Rather than making a list of weaknesses and limitations (which can seem pretty abstract to some parents) during the parent-teacher conference; provide useful suggestions for what the child needs to do.
Don’t Tell Parents What to Do
Parents may feel uncomfortable being told what to do during their free-time (often after a long work day) so your suggestion that “you should practice times-tables with little Jimmy every night” might come across as invasive and patronizing – however much sense it makes to you. Instead, try describing what strategies have worked well in school as a prompt towards what might improve things at home.
Develop a Plan… and Follow Through
Instead of giving up or talking about “natural abilities”, develop a plan with parents’ input (preferably designed by parents) that can be applied, observed, and reviewed.
If a parent tells you about a break-up, a family problem, or anything you suspect was meant in confidence; treat it as if it were your own secret.
How to talk so kids can learn is available on Amazon and has been around since the dawn of time (okay, since 1996). Its insights are invaluable (plus it has lots of cartoons).