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How to communicate with...your child's teacher.
Talking to the Teacher
One of the most important skills a parent or guardian should maintain is the ability to communicate effectively with their children's teacher. Too often, this communication breaks down, leaving the teacher and parent frustrated and the child without valuable support. Taking the time to learn how to communicate clearly without offending or antagonizing each other is essential to your success.
As a teacher and a parent, I have been on both sides of the fence when it came to communication. I've seen and been the receiver of some of the most insulting and confusing letters, emails, and phone calls in my years in the classroom. The worst offenders weren't necessarily people who were not educated. In one instance, a father who was an educator himself had a melt-down in my office that left us both frustrated. Everyone can benefit from taking the time to evaluate their communication style and its effect on others.
The First Days of School
The first few days and weeks of school are important for so many reasons. When it comes to effective communication, both parents and teachers should take the opportunity to establish clear guidelines identifying communication preferences and expectations. As a parent, you should take the time to meet your child's teacher. This would NOT be an appropriate time to have an impromptu parent/teacher conference...in fact, there is never a good time to try and have a conference unless it is scheduled. Teachers hate being sidelined by parents who want to turn a meet and greet into a full-blown conference. Instead, you should take the time to let the teacher put a face with your name. Let him or her get a positive imprint of who you are so that when questions arise (or problems), there is a good feeling already established between you.
One of the most effective ways to start out the school year is to walk your child to his or her classroom and quickly take a minute to introduce yourself to the teacher. Make a point of complimenting the classroom setup (most teachers spend a lot of their own money and time to make the classroom attractive for students). Also, be sure to ask if there is anything the teacher needs to make her job a little easier. This can come in the form of supplies (over and above what is required on those student supply lists), volunteers, or parent interaction and involvement with their student.
Another important step to establishing a positive communication environment for both you and your child's teacher is for you to quickly and accurately complete all of those forms that are sent home with your child. Don't make the teacher have to chase you down for these. The forms are usually a state requirement and the responsibility to collect these materials is bothersome to the teacher. She or he is, after all, there to teach, not to act as your secretary. Make an effort to complete the forms on the evening that they come home. Let your child know where you have placed them (most likely in their backpack) and send the forms back to school the very next day. You will ease the teachers stress level and earn a gold star for being one of the "good" parents for doing this one small thing.
Next time, I will discuss discipline communication and how you can help both your student and your child's teacher have a successful school year as it relates to behavior.