Approaching Your Child's Teacher: The Do's and Don'ts
By Emily Habelrih
How should you approach your child’s teacher if you are concerned about something that is occurring at school?
Parent’s often find themselves in difficult situations with teachers. While teachers are there to facilitate your child’s learning, their roles and responsibilities have changed dramatically in the 21st Century. When we think of the role of a teacher, we think of planning activities, delivering instructions, assessing learning, and managing classroom behaviour (Stronge, 2007). However, more recently, teachers have been expected to also juggle their existing role, whilst also monitoring and assessing the emotional and behavioural well-being of their students. Consequently, teachers are often stretched thin both in time and patience. If a situation does arise where you believe you need to meet with your child’s teacher to discuss particular incidents (i.e., accusations of bullying, or academic difficulties), the following points will help ensure that a smooth encounter occurs:
- Make an appointment ahead of time to discuss your concerns, try to avoid ambushing the teacher during pick up/drop off, these are often stressful times as the teacher prepares for the day ahead, or ensures all children leave school safely. Furthermore, by making an appointment, you can let the school know how much time you think you may need to ensure you are able to discuss all necessary information (Department of Education and Training, 2015).
- Bring any relevant materials with you (i.e., a sample of a homework task you are concerned about, a doctor’s report, a psychologists’ report, etc).
- Be prepared: be clear about what you want to discuss and what outcome you are hoping to achieve (Department of Education and Training, 2015).
- Be clear and specific about what your concerns are (i.e., ‘Jack has been having trouble with his sight words this week. We stopped doing them with him after 30 minutes because he was getting frustrated and teary. Can we discuss some things we can implement to help Jack with his reading?’). This will ensure that everyone is clear about your concerns.
- Limit the conversation to current concerns, try to avoid bringing up past incidents if they are irrelevant to your current concern.
- Approach the encounter with a positive, open mind and with the confidence that the school/teacher will work with you to ensure your concerns are addressed.
- If you are approaching your child’s teacher regarding an incident that has upset your child, it is important to keep in mind that the story you have heard from your child may not be entirely accurate. Each child sees things differently, and children perceive words/situations very differently from how an adult would. The situation may in fact require the teacher’s perspective as well as your child’s perspective, before the whole scenario is understood. It is only then that a strategy to tackle the problem can be formulated.
- Teachers are more likely to be responsive if you remember that the purpose of your meeting is conversation and you’re diplomatic, tactful and respectful. Actively listening, taking notes and asking about specific ways you can help at home will help achieve an outcome that will benefit your child’s learning (Department of Education and Training, 2015).
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, (2009, May). Addressing parents’ concerns and complaints effectively: policy and guides. Retrieved from: https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/commrel/contacts/POLICY_AND_GUIDES_Addressing_parents_concerns.pdf
Stronge, J.H. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. Alexandria, VA. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.