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.
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.
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.