Working with Teachers and Schools: Helping Your Child Succeed in School

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

Many teachers say that they don't often receive information from parents about problems at home. Many parents say that they don't know what the school expects from their children—or from them. Sharing information is essential and both teachers and parents are responsible for making it happen.

The following questions and answers can help you to get the most out of talking to your child's teacher or with other school staff members.

Q: What do I do first?

Learn everything that you can about your child's school. The more you know, the easier your job as a parent will be. Ask for a school handbook. This will answer many questions that will arise over the year. If your school doesn't have a handbook, ask questions. Ask the principal and teachers, for example: What classes does the school offer? Which classes are required? What are your expectations for my child? How does the school measure student progress? Does it meet state standards? What are the school's rules and regulations?

Ask about specific teaching methods and materials—are the methods based on evidence about what works best in teaching reading or math? Are the science and history textbooks up to date?

Sharing information is essential and both teachers and parents are responsible for making it happen.

Ask if the school has a Web site and, if so, get the address. School Web sites can provide you with read access to all kinds of information—schedules of events, names of people to contact, rules and regulations and so forth.

Keep informed throughout the school year. If your schedule permits, attend PTA or PTO meetings. If you are unable to attend, ask that the minutes of the meetings be sent to you. Or, find out if the school makes these minutes available on its Web site.

Q: When should I talk with my child's teacher?

Early and often. Contact your child's teacher or teachers at the beginning of the year or as soon as you can. Get acquainted and show your interest.

Tell teachers what they need to know about your child. If she has special needs, make these known from the beginning.

If you notice a big change in your child's behavior, school performance or attitude during the school year, contact the teacher immediately.

Report cards are one indication of how well your child is doing in school. But you also need to know how things are going between report cards. For example, if your son is having trouble in math, contact the teacher to find out when he has his next math test and when it will be returned to him. This allows you to address a problem before it mushrooms into something bigger. Call the teacher if your son doesn't understand an assignment or if he needs extra help to complete an assignment. You may also want to find out if your child's teachers use e-mail to communicate with parents. Using e-mail will allow you to send and receive messages at times that are most convenience for you.

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