By Shari Nielsen
As a teacher I have dealt with many parents of my students. Some have been pleasant experiences while others were, well: let’s just say I have had more enjoyable interactions.
I have had parents try to contact me every other day and I have also had students whose parents I can’t reach, despite numerous attempts.
As a tutor, you understand both sides, that of the parent and of the teacher. As a result, you are in a great position to advise parents on effective ways to interact with their child’s teachers.
Before I take on a new client to tutor, I have an extensive conference with the parents. I found that one of the most important parts of this discussion is how to communicate with teachers. I am always surprised to see how receptive parents are to the tips that I give them.
Feel free to suggest some of the following points:
1. Use an email to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers at the beginning of each year. Provide them with your telephone number and email address.
2. Write a quick email to the teacher after the first few weeks of school. By this point the teacher should have had a chance to get to know your child and can provide you with some feedback. Find out if your child is missing any assignments, is prepared for class, and behaves appropriately.
3. Make teachers aware of any changes in the family routine that may impact your child. Stressful situations at home will impact your child’s ability to focus, behave, and perform on assignments. Even positive changes, such as a parent getting a new job or starting a new extra-curricular activity might be the cause of sudden changes.
4. Create an agreement with the teacher that you will both sign your child’s assignment pad. Have your child write the night’s homework in an assignment pad. They then must get the teachers initials. This should take about 10 seconds at the end of class to look it over and make sure that all of the homework is listed there. Once the child has completed all homework and the parents have checked to see that it is done, they sign the assignment pad and write a quick note to the teacher if necessary. The child should be responsible for bringing the pad to his or her teacher for the signature and for bringing the pad home each night.
5. Ask if the teacher has a webpage that you can visit to find out what is going on in class.
6. It is very easy to become defensive when you hear a negative report regarding your child. Remember that teachers went into the profession because they love working with children. They aren’t out to get your child; they simply want to let you know about a situation so you can address it at home and make the situation more pleasant for everyone. Keep an open mind during the discussion and remember that you are both on the same side.
7. Always discuss how “we” will work together to help your child. Both the teacher and the parent play a major role in the development of the child. Work together during the good times and during the troublesome ones.
8. Create an email template that you can email to the teacher once a week. Include categories that you want feedback in. For instance, 1. Completed all homework. 2. Completed all classwork. 3. Participated in class. Etc. Have the teacher put a quick letter next to each category. (Ex. O=outstanding, G=good, S=satisfactory, U=unsatisfactory). The teacher can also include a quick comment such as any missing assignments or a test grade and email it back to you. Help the teacher out by emailing it to them at the end of each week or so so the teacher doesn’t have to remember it on his or her own. Make it so it won’t take a lot of time to complete and the teacher will be more willing to send it back to you each week.
9. Make sure you contact the teacher and discuss any issues in depth before you talk to the principal.
10. Make yourself visible. Attend open-houses, back-to-school nights, conferences, etc. Always remember to personally introduce yourself to the teacher so that he or she can put a name with a face.
I believe that communication is a must between teacher and parent, but it is important to find a happy medium. As a tutor, you can play a major role in helping the parent reach this point.