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Communication 101: Talking with Your Child's Teachers

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Updated on Mar 22, 2011

A new school year, a new teacher; it’s quite the exciting time for your child! And it can be for you, too, because it’s the chance to help him get the most out of school by communicating better with his teacher.

“There is abundant research that shows that the more parents and teachers communicate, the better kids do. Curiously, despite this knowledge, there is far too little communication between most parents and teachers,” says Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. Open House nights are fine for quick meet-and-greets, but teachers have to talk with all their students’ parents during these events. If you want to have a real, meaningful interaction, ask to schedule an appointment.

Here are some simple ways you can communicate with your child’s teacher easily and effectively:

Talk Communication is always more effective when there’s no blame involved. Even if you have a complaint, be careful how you word it; saying things like, “I think,” or “I feel,” rather than, “You do…” or “You don’t...”.

Be sure to come up with goals for your child, plus a list of ways you will help her at home to accomplish these goals.

Share Come prepared to any meeting with a teacher. Write a list of what you’d like to talk about so you can cover all your points. Since it’s about your child, why not include his input? Ask him what he enjoys about school, and what he feels he needs help with.

Schultz says, “Tell the teacher what makes your child get excited by learning. Point out his or her learning, social or behavioral needs, and also talk (but don’t brag) about your child’s strengths, both in and out of school. Remember, you are your child’s best PR agent!”

Another option he mentions is, “You can offer to come in for a ‘guest spot’ in the classroom, telling kids about your hobbies, work or adventures. This makes learning more practical and exciting for kids, gives the teacher some adult contact, and lets her be learning too — which is good for the kids to see.

By the way, if you have kids who are in middle or high school, it’s probably better to save these special appearances for your younger kids. They don’t know yet that you embarrass them when you show up at school!”

Listen Of course, it’s not all about you. Listening skills are highly overlooked in our society, but probably the most important communication skills there are.

When communicating with a teacher, be sure to stop and listen to what she has to say. Listening is not just waiting to talk; active listening includes paying attention, making eye contact, showing interest by leaning forward, nodding or smiling as appropriate, and not interrupting.

You may not agree with everything she says, and that’s fine. But as you listen to her plans for the class, or desires for your child, ask yourself if your differences of opinion are something you can overlook, or whether they are a definite non-negotiable.

Recognize Recognize what your child’s teacher is telling you by paraphrasing what she’s said, and ensuring you understand. If you want something clarified, go ahead and ask her to rephrase it.

Also, why not formally recognize your children’s teachers for what they do? “Get together with a group of other parents (or grandparents) to honor the work of teachers and administrators in your kids’ school by hosting a potluck breakfast for them once or twice a year. Promise not to talk about your kids and just let them enjoy the food,” says Schultz.

Whatever way you go about it, and to whatever degree, better communication with your child’s teacher will benefit everybody concerned: you, the teacher, and most importantly, your child.

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