Tips for establishing good communication with your child's teacher

As your child's education unfolds, you have an opportunity to partner with your child's teachers by volunteering, attending parent/teacher meetings, and staying current on school events.  Here are a few tips for establishing good one--one communication with your child's teachers:
  • Communicate in good times and bad:  If the teacher only hears from you when you are upset, you're missing an opportunity.  Communicate and give feedback when things are going well, too.
  • Give feedback when you hear positive news from the teacher -- tell her you appreciate receiving updates that include examples of your child's good behavior, study habits, and class participation.
  • If you leave a phone message for a teacher, leave the number where you can be reached about the time school dismisses.  Also leave a number where you can be reached in the evening.  This gives the teacher an option of calling you right after school if his schedule allows, or later in the evening.
  • While teachers don't need a running journal of your experience with your child's homework, teaches like to know when you have relevant feedback.  "This led to a good conversation in our home," or "We needed more information so we checked online," or "He's so interested in this topic that we decided to plan a trip to a museum" are meaningful to your child's teacher.
  • Limit the conversation with the teacher to your child and your child's performance.  The only time it is appropriate to bring up the names of other children is when those children are having a direct impact on your child.  Otherwise, don't talk about other kids' grades, behavior, or families. 
  • When you leave a message for a teacher, don't be afraid to say, "It's important that I talk with you today" or "This is urgent."  The teacher may teach as few as 20 children or as many as 150 children a day.  By giving a relative urgency to the call, the teacher can prioritize appropriately, especially when your call is urgent.
  • If you can check your child's grades online, take a minute to check his/her grades before you contact the teacher.  This saves time and demonstrates your preparation and interest in the conversation.  Remember, the teacher may be away from his/her grade book when you talk.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for input on issues that are not academic.  Teachers appreciate knowing that you will support their efforts to coach your child's behavior.  Examples include reinforcing, sharing or talking through tough emotions like jealousy.

The bottom line is that you want the teacher to look forward to talking with you as a partner in your child's development and success.  As a team, you'll find that you are ore efficient in communicating -- in good times and challenging times.