How to Talk to Your Child's Teacher

Talking to your child's teach can be tricky business, but it doesn't have to be. It's easy - just be nice! You want to show respect for the teacher as a professional while being the best possible advocate for your child. Sometimes you need to stand up to the teacher, but you have to approach the situation in a way that's non-threatening and productive.

Regular Communication

A lot of rifts can be avoided if you are clear on how the teacher will be communicating with you throughout the school year. If the teacher doesn't state a policy, ask. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a quarter when you've heard nothing from a teacher only to find out your child has been having trouble all along. If you take the initiative to ask the teacher's plan for communicating with you up front, it will become clear if he or she plans to engage in a regular exchange or if you'll need to be the one to keep tabs. Either way, you know where you stand.

If you know of an issue that may affect your child at school, give the teacher a heads up. Good teachers want to know their students and will appreciate any information you provide. Teachers will love to hear when a child is excited about a subject or lesson and sharing your child's enthusiasm in one area may make the teacher more receptive to hearing about boredom or difficulties in another.

And since this wonderful teacher (always assume the positive!) is taking so much energy to understand and get to know your child, it won't kill you to chat for five minutes. Getting to know the teacher may pay off later.

Common Courtesy

Some people view teachers as hired hands, almost servants at the parents' beck and call. Do NOT adopt this view! Your child's teacher is your business partner in the venture of teaching your child what he needs to know to move on, master the next grade, and eventually get a job and stop eating your food. So be nice.

Don't blame the teacher for giving too much homework. Ask what you can do to make it easier on your child to complete the work. Don't go over the teacher's head straight to the principal. How would you feel if a colleague of yours went to your boss instead of dealing with you directly? If you have invested time in creating a relationship with the teacher early on, it will be easier to talk if troubles arise later.

Strive to be clear and unemotional in your dealings. Listen. If you're working together on solving a problem, make sure you repeat back to the teacher what you understand to be the outcome and next steps.

Word Choices For Talking With the Teacher

Instead of: Johnny always gets an A. You must have made a mistake.

Try: I'd like to discuss Johnny's grade. It seems unusual for him to get a C.

Instead of: Susie's sick. You need to email me a list of homework.

Try: Would you mind jotting down Susie's assignments and I'll pick them up at your convenience?

Instead of: I have a problem with your solution.

Try: Is there anything else we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again?

See, it is easy - just be nice!

No One Likes a Pest

Don't bombard the teacher with special requests or reasons why your child is an exception or has a ‘different learning style.' Recall that this is a professional who has studied extensively, still studies, about the best way to educate your child. You also must be aware that teachers are not paid especially well for this privilege so you can safely assume that this is a passion, a calling. Treat the teacher with respect.

Besides, life is not fair. Maybe your child will end up with a truly awful teacher. Everybody does at some point. What a wonderful lesson you teach by modeling for your child that sometimes in life we simply must make do with what we've been given.

More by this Author


Comments 17 comments

jamescc 3 years ago

Good advise to be nice. My daughter really doesn't her teacher and doesn't want to stay after class for tutoring or meet him after. She also think he didn't cover material on tests and didn't put problems that he said they would be on the test. So I emailed him with nice words and ask for help and option(retake test etc.). btw she thinks he is a pervert because he likes to (high school) girls but not boys. Consequently her grade is not good and need to work really hard to bring up. To me it is partially teacher's competency at play here.


lmpvjj 5 years ago

i just don't get it. we're to assume EVERY teacher is passionate about what they do, FOR THE RIGHT REASONS? sure it's nice to believe they're doing it because they care but they're human; they're not perfect. communication is a huge issue of importance between parent and teacher and between teacher and student, especially if the student is in elementary school. he or she needs to be HEARD by the teacher. the door should be open for parents to be able to walk in and discuss a matter briefly with the teacher, in the mornings and afternoons, in the absence of a sign on the door about testing or conferences. this is not the case at my children's school. my son's teacher is not open to it if i walk in to speak with her, for two or three minutes. she lets me know she doesn't appreciate what i have to say and it's so entirely counterproductive to my son's success (he IS struggling) that there are hardly any words to describe how much i want to move him to another school. i'm just at a loss right now as to what the best approach is: do i let him finish the year, or move him now. i don't know.


Ceci 5 years ago

Do you guys think is a good idea to have a tape recorder during a teacher-parent conference?


Heidi 5 years ago

My 6 yr old (1st grader) has been coming home with notes from her teacher quite frequently. I find the daily notes rather overkill and they are making me feel stressed. I find I have to talk to my daughter every time the teacher writes a note. It can be "she was interupting today and putting water in her bucket", or "We had a talk about self control today". Our daughter is very smart- and quite independent. She also seems to struggle with possibly some hyperactivity. She has a very hard time sitting still (very fidgety), she talks a lot, she has a bit of an impulsivity about her, she interrupts sometimes and with a loud voice, she likes to run ahead and be first for everything. On the other hand, she can definitely finish a task, follow directions (can get distracted sometimes), is advanced in reading and math, loves to be a helper to the teacher with "jobs", loves to be busy and loves to figure things out. Her teacher seems to have quite high expectations of kids. I understand teachers need to have control over their class, but if they know a child has a challenge like my daughter's, are daily notes and dealing with things by punishment (i.e. keeping in from recess) the most productive way to handle things? How about praising or being positive? I seriously find my daily talks with my daughter being stressful to us both. I don't want her to begin to hate school- I want to help her. I want her to succeed. She is very smart, but has a harder time than most kids with sitting still, being perfectly quiet and acting perfect for 6 1/2 hrs a day. I absolutely do not condone disrespectful behavior by my kids at school- quite the opposite. I am just feeling at a loss here- like my daughter can't possibly thrive as a student in this "regular" environment. I am planning on meeting with her teacher to discuss all of this, but am worried I won't get my words out right. I just feel sad and frustrated about this situation. I feel like this teacher is treating my child as if she were a serious problem. While I know she is a very busy and challenging child as far as energy goes- I volunteer at school a lot and see plenty of other kids doing some of the same things.


Marie 5 years ago

Last year my son had a teacher who just did NOT pay attention to him...at all. I was ignored at ALL school functions, and I just let it be. I brought up some of my concerns at parent teacher conferences and her response was always "oh don't worry we'll work on that at school (referring to his "dislike" of writing narratives). The worse thing I could have ever done was not to speak up. We were new at the school and I did not want to be the annoying parent. The one's I hear about since while I'm attending college I also work as a TA at an elementary school. I know wish I would have spoken up...because this year my childs' teacher is now seeking advice from ... guess who ... last years oh sooo uninterested teacher. I will recommend this WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN!!! every little incident that you don't feel comfortable with write it down. and remember that you are looking for a PARTNER in your childs teacher so come to them with respect BUT you also have RIGHTS to be heard and acknowldged. It is difficult to deal with a teacher who is rude, disrespectful, condescending, or who flat out just doesn't care to pay attention or acknowlede you as an adult...even more so because through work and personal experience I have learned and seen that people that have a working relationship (teachers and principals) stick together and protect each other and attitude is something a teacher rarely gets repremanded for ... so I say write it down leave ALL the personal crap out of it (emotions) and always come back to what's best for your child...what will make him/her have a working positive learning environment. I say all this while knowing that tomorrow I myself have a meeting that I asked for with my childs teacher. stay focused on your child and what is best for them and leave everything else out of it...but know that from what i hear in the teachers lunch room...if the teacher doesn't like you or your child it WILL affect their learning and that is something that needs to be adressed because I have even seen parents try to buy teachers with $$$ nice gifts and altohough they gladly take them...the attitude and remarks are still there...OPEN DIALOGUE and ACCOUNTABILITY- good luck to me and all the parents out there who have to meet with their childrens teachers =-)


Yvonne 5 years ago

Very good advise, & its so true there are good and bad teachers. In our experiencs there definitely seems to be much more good than bad in this day and age. Before I had children I always wondered what all the hullaballo was about teachers being underpaid and how wonderful teachers were, because in all my school years I only had one of the good ones...but those were different times, teachers employed methods of humiliation and used the old sticks &stones addage to deal with terrible bullying etc..Nowadays the majority of teachers really are amazing.


Stacy 6 years ago

I have a child that is in 1st grade. He has just started the school year, and is already having some issues and concerns. He has been telling me that the teacher yells at them as soon as the door is closed and that she only smiles when parents are around. He goes to bed crying about school and says that he doesn't think she wants him in her class because of how she treats him. He cries every morning before school and says he wants to switch schools. I am aware that my child my be being over-dramatic, but I still want to have a discussion with his teacher to ask her how she thinks he is doing and address his concerns. Any advice on how to go about this discussion?? This is my first child and I don't want to go about it the wrong way. Thanks


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

I agree that teachers can be underpaid in some school districts. I also agree that there are some out there who should find a different line of work.

Courtesy, yes, is always the best option, but on two different occasions, I have run into teachers that did not understand any language but that of being taken down a peg or two.

In those cases, I sternly informed them that as a parent, my taxes paid their salary, and therefore, they essentially work for me, and every other taxpayer, and so should not be up on their high-horse treating parents like uneducated scum.

I was very careful not to lose my temper and resort to foul or vulgar language; in fact, I trumped the teachers' "more-educated-than-you" attitude with the use of a few well-placed $5. words. But I also left no room for misunderstanding of my position.

(In fact, this is true of ANY teacher--public schools are supported by taxes; private schools by tuition--so no matter how you slice it, the teachers and all the rest of the school staff are employees of the parents!)

After that, things improved somewhat--and guess what? The following semster, one of the teachers moved on to the field of real estate! Hooray! Victory for the children!

Professionals though teachers may be, NO ONE knows a child as well as that child's parents, and if there is an issue, the teacher DOES need to listen to the parent(s).


Angela Rupert 7 years ago

Thank you for this blog, I needed a reminder. We do seem to get a sense of entitlement as parents sometimes and should be more patient with our children's teachers.


Cathy 7 years ago

I have a daughter that just finished 3rd grade and thank you god. 2 teachers were awful to communicate with. One evening my daughter came home from school telling me that I need to sign 2 letters she had to write.(One to the teacher for"Wasting her Time" and another to a student for bullying her.(My daughter was trying to get her attention by tapping her on the shoulder and wouldn't stop when asked). Her classroom teacher was off that day so it was a student teacher. I signed the letters and she took them the next day. She then returned home that evening to let me know this classroom teacher called her to the front of the class and asked her what she did yesterday. My daughter told her and the teacher began to poke her roughly in front of the class while saying how do like it see how it feels. My daughter began to cry and had to write then again the 2 letters she had already written. So the next day I sent a few letters of my own stating that she bullied my daughter in front of the whole class so do I get to then come in and do that to her since she was showing that it is OK to do it. Also I told her I don't want her ever laying a ahnd on my daughter ever again. The other letter was written to her homeroom teacher saying I will deal with issues at home since my daughter was"wasting her time". I feel these teachers are preaching one thing to children about bullying and doing the opposite to them. Where does it stop.


Beth  7 years ago

Get this! I am a 5th grade teacher and my son is in the same grade that I teach and at the same school and in the same hallway. I do not have him in my class but his homeroom teacher seems to think that I need to know every little thing that he does. Keep in mind that my son has had a wonderful school experience until now. I have not had any behavior concerns until now. He tells me that he can tell that she doesn't like him. I have had 2 conferences with her on his grades and our concerns. The first one she cried and told me about all her personal problems. And on the second meeting she cried as well but we actually talked about my son. She sent an aide to interrupt my class just last week to inform me that my son had thrown away a paper that she wanted to review over. I am so at my wits end. Any suggestions?? I don't know if I should bother w/my principal because we only have 20 days left of school. :( Signed: Very sad mom


hannah 7 years ago

My dauughter is 7 and in the 2nd grade.Me and the teacher stay in contact.My daughter is having trouble keeping up with the class.She keeps telling me that the teacher talks to fast and doesn't give good directions on the class work.(her teacher last year made everything fun to learn with games,etc.)I have made a conference to meet with her but my question is how do I tell her what my child said about her talking too fast?


Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 7 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas Author

AmyB, It sounds like you're in a tough situation. You might want to consider asking the principal or school counselor to get involved if there are multiple issues in play. You definitely want to keep the lines of communication open.


AmyB 7 years ago

Dedre, I have the same situation with my daughter now. She is in third grade as well. This year has been awful. The complaints from the teacher started the 2nd week of school and have not stopped since. Every day it's something! I have had one conference with her early on, but things have only gotten worse with my daughter. After the 3rd time coming home throwing up, my daughter told me that she was making herself throw up because she did not want to be at school. I took her to her doctor and we are in the middle of testing for learning disabilities (very long story). He is a wonderful doctor though. I emailed all of her teachers asking for a conference and no one responded. That was 2 weeks ago. Tonight my daughter started crying about having to go to school tomorrow. She says her teacher does not like her and that she told another teacher that my daughter "never gets anything right". My child has always loved school up until this year. This behavior is so unlike her. I have sent another email (that is the teachers preferred contact method) and I am eagerly waiting a response. There are so many things that I want to discuss with her teacher but I don't want to see accusatory. It's so frustrating!


Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 7 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas Author

Thanks for sharing, Dedre. I don't envy your position. It can be so frustrating to see your child struggle. As for approaching the teacher, I would advocate openness and honesty. Tell her what you told all of us. It seems that you may need to discern whether it's a homework problem, or as you say - your child has some needs that are not being met, maybe not yet identified. All you can do is start where you are and make your concerns known. The one thing I would caution is taking out your frustration on the teacher. It can be a fine line to walk. Good luck.


Dedre 7 years ago

My daughter is 8 years old and is in third grade. she is bombarded with hours of homework with little down time. I am not against homework and I am willing to work with my daughter through this. Yesterday my daughter for got to turn in her 3 missed spelling words ehich she was to copy 5 times a piece. Since these 3 missed spelling words were not turned in the very next day my daughter had to spend her 2 recesses inside writing every word on her spelling test 20 times each! Then she had to continue working on these words at home along with other homework . By 9 o'clock she still had100 words to write. Her bedtime is at 8:30. She had to write 20 words 20 times. Keep in mind we are very thourough with homework she has never finished her homework or not turned this in on time in the past. I am also concerned that my daughter has an underlying learning disability. She gets A's and B's. I am seeing little bits of information being missed when given directions. She is also in title one reading. I am very frustrated. I am currently in the beginning phase of fighting for testing. My daughter is suddenly starting to have stomachaches and says she doesn't like school. She has NEVER expressed this before. My daughter is very expressive and gets very excited. How should I approach her teacher?


basspro profile image

basspro 9 years ago

Thanx my childs teacher is very hard to deal with.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working