How should you approach your child’s teacher when you are concerned about something occurring at school?
Parents often find themselves in difficult situations with teachers. While teachers are there to facilitate your child’s learning, their roles and responsibilities have changed dramatically in the 21st Century. In addition to delivering the curriculum, teachers are now expected to monitor and assess the emotional and behavioural wellbeing of their students. Consequently, teachers are often stretched thin both in time and patience.
If a situation does arise where you believe you need to meet with your child’s teacher to discuss particular incidents (i.e., accusations of bullying, or academic difficulties), the following points will help ensure that a smooth encounter occurs.
8 tips for talking to your child’s teacher
- Make an appointment ahead of time to discuss your concerns, try to avoid ambushing the teacher during pick up/drop off, these are often stressful times as the teacher prepares for the day ahead, or ensures all children leave school safely. Furthermore, by making an appointment, you can let the school know how much time you think you may need to ensure you are able to discuss all necessary information (Department of Education and Training, 2015).
- Bring any relevant materials with you (i.e., a sample of a homework task you are concerned about, a doctor’s report, a psychologists’ report, etc).
- Be prepared! Be clear about what you want to discuss and what outcome you are hoping to achieve (Department of Education and Training, 2015).
- Be clear and specific about what your concerns are (i.e., ‘Jack has been having trouble with his sight words this week. We stopped doing them with him after 30 minutes because he was getting frustrated and teary. Can we discuss some things we can implement to help Jack with his reading?’). This will ensure that everyone is clear about your concerns.
- Limit the conversation to current concerns, try to avoid bringing up past incidents if they are irrelevant to your current concern.
- Approach the encounter with a positive, open mind and with the confidence that the school/teacher will work with you to ensure your concerns are addressed.
- Be open minded. If you are approaching your child’s teacher regarding an incident that has upset your child, it is important to keep in mind that the story you have heard from your child may not be entirely accurate. Each child sees things differently, and children perceive words and situations very differently from how an adult would. The situation may in fact require the teacher’s perspective as well as your child’s perspective, before the whole scenario is understood. It is only then that a strategy to tackle the problem can be formulated.
- Be diplomatic. Teachers will be more responsive if you’re diplomatic, tactful and respectful. Actively listen, take notes and ask how you can support your child at home.