Communicating with your child’s teachers can be a triggering event for some parents. We wonder when or if we should. We worry if we’re going to be seen as “too much.” Or, we wait too long, and then the entire situation is fraught with emotion and resentment. By keeping a few strategies in mind, you can easily communicate with your child’s teacher.
With the start of school right around the corner, the best strategy for communication combines wisdom from SCUBA diving and communication gurus. When I was learning to SCUBA dive my instructor used to tell us to clear our ears early and often so as not to cause harm. If you read any book on communication, the author will tell you not to make assumptions or let things linger. We can combine the two for the best strategy – Communicate early and often!
Here are some tips to make this your number one strategy!
Communicate for Success
When you share the inside scoop about your child, you are helping both the teacher and your child have an amazing school year. Communicating early and often enables you to set the tone for having solution-focused conversations. For example, when it comes to organization, you know that paper planners are a disaster. Talking with the teacher and having a plan in place for what does work sets both the child and the teacher up for success.
A teacher is responsible for the learning and well-being of a lot of kids; depending on the grade it may be over 100. So, what you share is really important. Providing a handful of specific insights about your child will have a dramatic impact on their year. This means you need to pick out the 1-3 things that are the most important right now for your child. Oversharing confuses and overwhelms teachers. But by communicating early and often, you can always follow up and share more as the year progresses.
Focus on Strengths
Too often, we focus only on what is not working because that’s where support is needed. Instead, when you talk to the teacher focus on what does work well for them in school and social situations. For each area of support, have 5-7 things that they do well in that same area that you can share. This helps the teacher leverage and build on their strengths.
Pay Attention to Language
How you say it is as important as what you say. Pay attention to how the adults talk about areas of need. For example, Tara is bad at math is different from Tara needs support on quick recall for the times’ tables. The ‘to be’ verb of is makes it sound like this is a part of Tara’s being and is something that can’t change, like her eye color. When in reality, math is a skill that Tara is learning. JoAnn Deak’s Fantastic Elastic Brain is a wonderful children’s book about how our brain changes, grows, and stretches as we learn.
Have this conversation face to face or at least over a video call like Zoom. Email is convenient, but it does not help build relationships or allow for nuance to emerge. If you want a paper trail, you can follow up with an email thanking them for their time and recapping the points that were discussed.
Last year’s teacher took an entire year to figure out your kid. Do you want to “wait and see” if they pass that information along? Worst case scenario: your meeting is short because they’ve already received information from last year’s teacher. Better to get that response than hearing in mid-December “I had no idea that …”.
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate. So take a deep breath, and think carefully about what will make the biggest positive impact for them. And don’t forget to check in with your kiddo about how they’re feeling about school. Check out How To Fight The School Anxiety Monster for more insights. You can help to make school a brain-friendly place for your child so they can have every opportunity to be successful. Drop a comment below if you need any support on reaching out to teachers.