There are both right and wrong ways to communicate with school staff. Knowing how to communicate effectively with your child’s teacher can form a parent-teacher relationship built on mutual trust and respect. This will benefit your child, who will look to your example in how to communicate with others.
Negative Communication Hampers Progress
There are ways in which you do not want to communicate with staff that include, but are not limited to:
- Going into meetings unprepared
These negative communication methods hamper positive conversation that can lead to actions and problem-solving.
Coming in Unprepared
You have a meeting scheduled with your child’s teacher but don’t come prepared, instead opting to “wing it.” You’re there to discuss your child, and it’s your responsibility to know what you would like to discuss. If you don’t know what you want or need to know, it leaves the conversation hanging. The teacher won’t know how to continue or offer solutions to any potential problems.
Make a list of topics you’d like to discuss with your child’s teacher before coming in to a meeting. When in a meeting, take notes so you can ask any questions you may have after the teacher is done speaking.
Interrupting the Conversation
Interrupting not only hampers communication between parents and teachers, but it’s also rude. Listen first to what your child’s teacher has to say before you offer your opinion on the situation. Interrupting cuts off the conversation and thus you may miss something, especially if it’s a clarification.
Maybe you don’t mean to interrupt. Maybe you just wish to show that you’re on the same page as the teacher. Whatever your intentions, no matter how harmless, try to refrain from speaking until the teacher is done. If you’re worried that you’ll forget what you want to say, make a note of it and refer back to it when the staff member is finished speaking.
You will not always agree with what your child’s teacher says or does. Expressing your concerns is normal and okay, but don’t play the blame game. Making statements like, “If you had just done this better,” or “My child was doing fine until he came into your class,” does not help identify or solve problems.
Instead, approach the conversation with “I” phrases like, “I’m concerned about how my child seems upset whenever he comes home from school. Are there any problems he is having in the classroom?” Discussing the problem positively with the teacher can help lead to solutions.
Positive Communication Benefits Everyone
As with all communication, you will get farther when you approach the situation in a positive manner:
- Be respectful
- If emailing, keep it concise and to-the-point
- Ask if the staff have time to talk
“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” the old saying goes. Even if the teacher is rude to you, take the high ground and keep a cool head. Getting indignant and rude in return will only make things worse. Be diplomatic. Try to understand why the teacher may be acting the way that she is.
Keep it Brief
Teachers often do not have the time to read a long, drawn-out email or letter. When communicating through emails or physical letters, keep them brief and to-the-point. Don’t talk about topics that are not relevant, and don’t add animations or pictures with the text. Photos can be acceptable, but only if it pertains to the conversation. If in doubt, leave it out.
Respect Time Restraints
You may be tempted to think, “They never have time for me!” when a teacher cannot talk right away when you see them in the hall. Or maybe they take longer than you would like to respond to your email. Don’t take it personally or think that they don’t care.
Ask for times that are convenient for the teacher to talk. If they do not work for you, schedule a time to talk with the teacher that works with both of your schedules.