Parent-teacher communication plays a big role in helping your child to have a successful academic career. Since parents and teachers know different aspects of a child's personality, they must work together to solve problems or celebrate gains. Unfortunately, because teachers spend their time in the classroom with students, it may not always be easy to get in touch with your child's teacher. Knowing some of the Dos and Don'ts of parent-teacher communication can help you make that connection.
Keeping Parent-Teacher Communication Lines Open
- Don't: Feel as though you're being a nuisance. Whether you have concerns, questions or just simply want to say "Great job," it's perfectly all right to get in touch with your child's teacher. That's what good parent-teacher communication is all about.
- Do: Advocate for your child. His teacher may spend six hours a day with him and know him within the school setting, but you're with him the rest of the time and know him in a very different light. If there is something he needs or if something isn't going well, make yourself heard.
- Don't: Wait until there's a problem to get in touch with your child's teacher.
- Do: Make an effort to introduce yourself in person, in writing or over the phone, as a way to begin a good parent-teacher relationship.
- Don't: Call your child's teacher during the school day and expect to be put right through to her.
- Do: Let your child's teacher know what is a good way to get in touch with you and at what times. Teachers are busy teaching during the school day and often use breaks to use the bathroom, grab a quick lunch and/or prepare lesson plans. Thus, you may have to wait until after school hours to speak on the phone. However, if you let the teacher know that you can be reached via note or email or that early in the morning is a fine time to call, you have a better chance of speaking soon.
- Don't: Say to the person who answers the phone "Tell her Jane Smith called" and expect the teacher to know who you are and that you would like a return call.
- Do: Leave a message identifying whose parent you are and leave as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing about why you are calling. If you would like a call back, make sure to mention that in your message.
- Don't: Call your child's teacher at home unless she has specifically indicated it is OK.
- Do: Ask the teacher whether it's all right to reach her at home in the evening to discuss a problem your child is having. While many teachers prefer not to be disturbed at home, some don't mind and will provide their home phone number to a parent whom they know will not abuse it. If you have her home number, make sure to be respectful of the teacher's time, calling at a reasonable hour and only for urgent situations (usually problems that need addressing before the next school day).
- Don't: Hesitate to request a meeting.
- Do: Let your child's teacher know if you need a few face-to-face minutes with her. Just be sure to let her know why, whether you'd like other staff to be there and about how long you expect the meeting to take. That way she can set aside enough time for you.
- Don't: Assume that phone calls and notes are the only way to speak with a teacher.
- Do: Find out whether or not your school or school district has an intranet, which provides each teacher with a school-related email address. Email is a very quick and easy way to get in touch with a teacher and can provide a great parent-teacher communication platform in which issues or questions can be addressed without playing phone tag or setting up a meeting.
- Don't: Send an unsealed note to your child's teacher and expect your son or daughter not to read it.
- Do: Seal notes in an envelope or fold and staple them shut, so it's obvious if little eyes have been prying. Make sure to clearly print the teacher's name on the outside if it is for her eyes only. That way, if there is a substitute for the day the note will be set aside unread. Notes that deal with changes in transportation for the day or lunch money should be labeled as such on the outside. For example, "John's Lunch Money" or "Bus Change Information."