After living with a family of teachers for my entire life, and teaching a bit myself, I’ve learned much about the ins and outs of the trade. One of the things I would constantly hear about from them was their interactions with parents (the good, the bad, and the ugly).
Indeed, I’ve been on the receiving end of many a story about parents communicating with teachers in an improper manner, and I have heard a litany of suggestions as to how to fix these interactions.
Below, you’ll find a few things I think all parents should consider before trying to contact their child’s teacher. I realize that there will be times when your anger towards a particular teacher is justified (been there, done that). That being said, these tips will help to keep things civil!
1. Tone is Key.
When writing an e-mail or talking directly to a teacher, remember that the tone of your delivery matters a lot. It’s basically all about respect, really. You want to address your child’s teacher as the professionals they are, not as a friend or a family member. Treat them like your doctor, or if you attended college, like your professor.
I remember my college advisors telling us to always be cordial and respectful to professors, even if we had a pressing issue or felt we had been wronged in some way. This advice served me well, as I can’t remember getting on any of my professor’s bad sides, even when I had to talk about touchy issues with them.
The same theory can be applied in your interactions with a teacher. Always communicate with them in an understanding manner, and they’ll reciprocate.
2. In-Person Communication is Always Better.
I know we’re all busy, especially if you’re a parent who’s simultaneously working and taking care of your kids. But even so, if you really have something you want to get across to a teacher, make the effort to meet them in person. I always liked to go to office hours in college rather than shoot an e-mail to a professor, mainly because I knew I could get across what I was actually feeling much better in person.
When you’re communicating through e-mail, you might be compelled to write a few things you would never say in person. Or, you might not say what you need to say in the proper tone.
When I was a teaching assistant, I didn’t deal with parents at all, but I did deal with 19 year old college students all of the time. I can tell you that I was much more able to address their concerns in person, than I was able to online.
3. Don’t Express Your Frustration on Social Media.
If there’s a teacher you are particularly at odds with, don’t resort to social media as a way to throw them under the bus. Yes, while you may be dealing with a problematic teacher, it’s still better to ask to meet them in person. On social media, you might say things in the heat of the moment that you don’t really mean, and these things might reach the ears of the teacher in question (especially if you live in a relatively close-knit community).
That’s a problem because once that happens, the teacher is angry, you’re angry, and your child is caught in the middle. There’s a bit of a theme forming here: direct communication is key!
This goes both ways. You should listen to everything the teacher says. Listen to their concerns and suggestions. Really try to understand where they’re coming from. Conversely, the teacher should hear you out. You should both try to come to an amicable agreement based on whatever issue you’re having.
More often than not though, parents and teachers try to talk over each other, rather than listen and understand each other’s points of view. In most cases, both sides will have valid perspectives. Since we are all adults, it’s our responsibility to find some middle ground
5. It’s All About Give and Take.
When I say you should compromise, I really mean it. For example, if your child is having an issue with their behavior or their reading comprehension, be open to all of the strategies for improvement their teacher suggests. They are, after all, the experts here, and they’re around your child nearly as much as you are.
On the flip side, if you have some valid concerns in relation to what the teacher is doing, bring it up in an amicable and understanding manner. To somewhat quote Yoda, anger leads only to the dark side!
The best case scenario is that you implement some of the strategies the teacher suggests, and the teacher takes into account some of the insights you have about your child.
I know that there are some teachers out there who are maddeningly difficult to get along with (trust me, I’ve had more than a few of them). At the same time, know that the majority of teachers just want to do what is best for your child. As long as you understand that, and take it into account in all of your communications with teachers, you’ll do just fine. Additionally, you’ll win a lot of fans amongst the teacher population as well!
Remember: as your child gets older, you’ll have progressively fewer opportunities to contact their teachers. Eventually, once they reach college, you’ll have practically zero influence. At that point, it’s up to your child to do the communicating themselves.
So I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: set a good example. Be a good communicator. With luck, your kid will take after you, and they’ll grow up into model students for their future teachers and professors.
We all have problems we want to address at one point or another. What matters is how we go about fixing them (that’s pretty good, I think I’ll quote myself on that).
Featured photo credit: Teacher’s Pet/ Matthew via flickr.com