How To Talk To Your Child's Teacher
A meeting with your child’s teacher can be a powerful tool for helping your child succeed in school. Whether initiated by you, the teacher or the principal, such a meeting gives you a platform to learn about your child and to assert her needs. Follow these nine guidelines for more productive (and even enjoyable) parent-teacher conferences.
Set goals. Whether you or the teacher initiated the meeting, you should consider what you hope to accomplish. Ask yourself ahead of time what a successful outcome for you would be, then plan and work toward that goal.
Come prepared. Write down your questions ahead of time. Bring samples of your child’s work that demonstrate problem areas and strengths. Keep track of behaviors at home that may be repeating themselves in the classroom.
Listen then respond. Let the teacher speak first and listen carefully. Take notes on points for which you need clarification or with which you disagree. Respond to the teacher’s concerns and then introduce the topics you want to cover.
Ask for specifics. What is the particular behavior the teacher is complaining about? At what times and how frequently is it occurring? Ask what an acceptable behavior would look like.
Request special services. Many services are available for children with special needs. Ask for an evaluation if you suspect your child has a learning disability.
Be firm, but don’t threaten. You have a right to assert your point of view, but do so with respect and courtesy. Most teachers care about your child’s success. Politely ask to bring the principal into the discussion if you feel it is warranted, but don’t raise your voice or threaten to have them fired. Being disrespectful or rude will only distract from your point of view and make it more difficult to work with the school in the future.
Avoid discussion of other children. Teachers have legal and ethical reasons why they can’t discuss other children. Information about your child should be kept confidential as well. Respect these practices for everyone’s benefit.
Be willing to follow-up. Let the teacher know you are willing to help your child at home, if necessary. Ask what you can do at home to supplement what is going on in the classroom and then do it.
Ask for more time if needed. You are entitled to a full discussion and understanding of your child’s progress at school. If more time is needed, schedule a follow-up meeting.
Welcome the chance to confer with your child’s teacher, whether your child is having problems or not. You and the teacher can help each other to provide the best educational experience possible. Children learn best when home and school are in agreement on expectations and goals.