Teacher-Parent Communication: Dos and Don'ts

Whether your child has the best-loved teacher in school or gets stuck with an educator he's dreading, teacher-parent communication is critical to his scholastic success. Learn the best ways to contact (and stay in touch with) your kid's teacher with these do's and don'ts of communication.

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by Jae Curtis

Whether it's a parent-teacher conference or a quick email, you have plenty of opportunities to talk turkey with your child's teacher. The problem is that some of that communication—while done with the best of intentions—can confuse and even annoy your child's teacher. Make sure you know how to talk to a teacher so the conversation is mutually beneficial.

Do: Get to Know the Teacher

The U.S. Department of Education suggests that you talk to your kid's teacher early and often. Hey, she's going to be spending anywhere from three to six hours with your child every day. It helps if you make an effort to get to know her. Learning her techniques and philosophies can help you better understand your child’s education.

Don't: Get Too Personal

By all means, find out what your child's teacher's favorite sweet treat is—it'll come in handy when you want to give kudos. Other than that, keep a reasonable distance. You don't need to know about a teacher's personal life, so don't ask. And if the teacher is a member of the opposite sex, absolutely no flirting!

Do: Volunteer to Help

Whether you’re helping in the classroom, chaperoning the next field trip, or just keeping the peace in the schoolyard after school, volunteering gives you a chance to chat with the teacher. Teachers often need help, so the next time there's a call for help, pencil it in and you'll become a favorite.

Don't: Blame the Teacher

Even if your kid is falling behind or struggling in a specific subject, it’s never okay to blame teacher for the issue. “Your teacher teaches because he or she cares for your child,” says Sarah Greesonbach, a former high school teacher. “Taking a defensive or threatening approach is rarely necessary.” Take responsibility for your own part in the issue and use "I" statements to talk about things without giving teacher the proverbial stink-eye.

Do: Use Email and Texting to Your Advantage

Technology has made letters home to parents passé. Nowadays, you have the benefit of sending emails and texts as long as they’re approved forms of communication by the school and the teacher. Teachers are busy, so don’t burden the teacher with a steady stream of notes and long phone calls. Instead, streamline communication to check in with homework, find out about class events or give educators a head’s up about an absence.

Don't: Abuse Email and Texting

Sure, shooting a quick text is fine to let your child's teacher know about a dentist appointment, but it's not a substitute for actual conversation. You'll still need to attend parent-teacher conferences and keep tech communication completely professional.

Do: Bring Up Your Concerns

You have a right to ask questions and address concerns about your child’s education, but do so at the right times. Jennifer Little, a teacher for 40 years, says her pet peeve is “parents who drop in 15 minutes before class starts or at dismissal when there are meetings or duties requiring teacher attendance.” If you need to chat with an educator outside of scheduled conferences, ask to pencil in a meeting. Teachers are super busy and just dropping in could make you "that parent."

Don't: Compare Teachers

Volunteering in your child's classroom is great—until you whine about how another teacher planned better field trips or approached math in a better way. Comparing teachers is a definite no-no. Your child's teacher works hard to stay in control of her class, and the last thing she wants to hear is that she's not measuring up. Keep your opinions to yourself unless a teacher is being abusive or neglectful.

Do: Show Your Appreciation

Teachers—whether you're thick as thieves or like oil and water—have a tough, thankless job. When someone is essentially dedicating their lives to teach your child the things he needs to know, a little appreciation goes a long way. Whether it's an old-school apple, a Starbucks gift card or a simple thank you note, give your child's teacher props for sticking it out. Not only will it make her day, but it'll make you her favorite parent.

Keep Communication Simple

Teachers have a tall order to fill when faced with a classroom of kids whose parents want their child to have as much attention as possible. Make her job a little easier by keeping communication simple and beneficial for both of you. That way, you get to voice your opinion, and she gets to do what she's best at—teaching your child.

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