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5 Things Parents Need To Know About Communicating With A Teacher

5 Things Parents Need To Know About Communicating With A Teacher

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.

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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.

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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!

4. Listen.

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.

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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.

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In Closing…

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

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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