Sometimes communicating with your child’s teachers can seem a chore. The sad fact is, when teachers contact parents it is more often than not to address a problem; an injury incurred at school, slipping grades, or disruptive behavior. It is no surprise that the teacher/parent dynamic is sometimes strained.
In my experience as both a teacher and an administrator, I have noticed a pattern in parent-teacher relations and student performance. Almost without fail, those parents who keep regular contact with teachers see their children’s performance improve as a result.
There are some key strategies for keeping up efficient and productive communication with your child’s teachers;
Even if your want to talk about something you are unhappy about, start by talking about something that is going right.
Just as giving feedback to kids requires tact and diplomacy, so does providing negative feedback to parents. It’s fine to raise the fact that your child feels that her teacher is too critical in class, but perhaps you could preface it with the fact that she really enjoyed the support she received on her recent project.
Don’t play the Blame Game, Focus on your Child’s Needs
Rather than giving the teacher a ticking off for not supporting your son’s creativity, instead describe the strategy that you feel would work best to encourage him. Criticism has a tendency to put people on the defensive and the risk is that the teacher will be trying to justify his current course of action rather than really think about how to improve things.
Share Relevant Information
A professional teacher will keep confidences and will understand the impact a change in home life can have on classroom performance. A new job, new addition to the family, or a divorce can and will have an impact on her ability to do homework and focus in class. If her teacher is aware of these changes, they can make allowances and adapt work schedules accordingly during a period of upheaval at home.
Work on a Plan (and stick to it!)
Where there is a long-term issue that needs resolution, create a plan together. Your plan should be realistic and specific, detailing the particular skills you all want your child to achieve within a time frame. Your plan should also be monitored and during your first meeting, you should set specific dates for when you are going to discuss progress and what you will define as successful outcomes for your plan. Then stick to your plan!
Pencil in an Informal Conversation Every Month
Render the dreaded Parent-Teacher conference irrelevant by putting an informal meeting/phone call with her teacher into your diary on a monthly basis. Before the informal chat, make a few notes about what you want to discuss so you can keep your track of thought when you meet the teacher. This can be scheduled for five minutes before the start of class or a quick phone call in the evenings and the continuous communication will allow you to identify problems before they become serious.
Of course, all of this requires the (probably already time-pressed) teacher to be willing to cooperate and put in the time required to making the relationship work. A professional educator will realize that more communication is always a good thing and that frequent parent-teacher communication – while it might take up a little extra time in the short term – will actually save them time in the long-term.
(Some ideas taken from the excellent “How to Talk so your Kids Can Learn” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish)