Parents care a lot about their child's education; which is why knowing how to talk to your child's teacher is an important skill. Whether it's a simple phone call or a parent-teacher conference, learning how to communicate concerns to the teacher is key to setting goals, understanding and tracking behavior, and making sure that your child is having positive experiences at school.
Start by Talking to Your Child
Whether you request a meeting, or your child's teacher requests one, it's important to first talk to your student. Let your child know that you will be meeting with their teacher and explain how this is an opportunity for them to voice any concerns, opinions, or qualms about their school life. Being transparent and opening the floor for dialogue is a good way of building rapport and trust with your child.
Ask Your Child Questions
A good way for you to understand what your child's learning experience is like in the classroom is to listen to their side of things. Learning more about their perspective will also help you come up with more questions and concerns that you may want to address with their teacher. Some helpful questions you may want to ask your student are:
- How do you feel about school/your classes?
- Do you feel like you need any help with certain subjects?
- Do you feel comfortable reaching out to your teacher for more help when needed?
- Do you feel like you can raise your hand and share your thoughts in class?
- How do you feel about your friend group?
- Do you ever feel distracted in class?
- Are you able to see the front of the room well from where you sit?
Decide Which Type of Meeting Is Best
Oftentimes, you will have the opportunity to choose which kind of meeting you want to set up with your child's teacher. Typically, these meetings are either in-person or over the phone, and there are pros and cons to each.
Meeting face-to-face allows you to get a better feel for the classroom and school environment by being physically present. It also enables your child's teacher to share physical copies of your child's homework assignments and projects that they have been working on in the classroom.
Over the Phone
Talking to your child's teacher over the phone is a good option if you are in a pinch for time, but it does limit the emotional connection that can be created during the meeting. If you call your child's teacher, or they call you, to discuss concerns about your student, try to set a time in the future that will allow you two to meet in person. This may also help guarantee that you and your student's teacher have dedicated enough time to focus on your child's learning.
Attending With Your Child
Some parent-teacher conferences invite the student to be a part of the meeting, which can be daunting for your child. If this is the case for your situation, make sure to explain to your student that the purpose of the meeting is to help everyone get on the same page about their learning. Reassure your child that you are there to find positive solutions to any problems that they may be facing in their learning environment. If your student is not invited to the parent-teacher meeting, explain to them that you will fill them in when you return to ensure that they don't feel like they are being kept out of the loop.
Prepare for the Meeting
After talking with your child, it may be helpful to create some notes with comments from your student, along with your own questions and concerns to bring to the meeting with their teacher. This will help the teacher respond to comments from both you and your student. Some questions you may want to ask your child's teacher are:
- Which subjects do you think my student may need more practice with?
- What are the school's bullying policies?
- Have you noticed any changes in my child's mood throughout the day?
- Is my child meeting the goals set out in this class?
- What can I do to support my child more with their schoolwork at home?
- How is learning personalized for students in your classroom?
- Is there anything about my child's behavior in the classroom that I might not know?
Allow Space for All to Speak
Depending on who requested the parent-teacher meeting can change the emotions surrounding it for all parties involved. It's normal for you to feel nervous about receiving a call from your child's teacher about their learning or behavior, whether it is good or bad. It's also important to remember that teachers are human too, which means that they may also be bringing nerves into the meeting. The goal of a parent-teacher conversation is to help your student learn at their best, which can only be done if everyone involved shares their thoughts, feelings, and questions on the subject, and works together to turn intentions into reality.
Listening to what your child's teacher has to say is equally important as voicing your own concerns. Generally, children spend more time at school with their teachers than at home during the school year, which means that your child's teacher is filled with information about how they act, learn, and interact in a different environment. Being open to hearing everything your child's teacher shares may not be easy, but it is the best way of filling in the blanks of your child's day-to-day life.
Keep Communication Positive
Don't assign blame or cast judgment on your student or their teacher during the meeting, even though your first response is to protect your child. Instead, one tip for a parent-teacher conference is to focus on creating actionable plans to put in place to achieve the goals you are striving for. Also, make sure that the conversation is student-centered, with the focus on your child's specific traits and goals. After all, the purpose of the meeting is to help your student learn in the best way possible and succeed at school.
Make a Plan
After you and your child's teacher have talked and learned more about what you each wish to see change or progress, it can be helpful to make a plan. This can involve setting personal or educational goals with your child and then writing out the steps to get there. Remember to make the plan achievable by not setting a goal that may be too lofty, and keep the steps actionable with clear expectations on how to accomplish them.
Plan to Follow-Up
At the end of the meeting, let the teacher know that you wish to follow up with them about any actionable changes you both have planned to implement for your child. Suggest a time, perhaps a month or so in the future, to give yourselves space to reach new goals and to notice any changes that may occur. Choose an over-the-phone follow-up or another in-person visit depending on what works with your schedule and the intensity of the changes you are aiming to achieve.
Discussing More Serious Concerns
There may be a time when you want to discuss more serious concerns with your child's teacher, such as surrounding bullying, classroom behavior, or maybe even failing a class. Although these topics can seem more daunting, the same steps apply, and the goal of the parent-teacher meeting remains the same: supporting your child. Some phrases to open up a dialogue about these topics are:
- I noticed my child received a referral in your class and I want to know more.
- I saw that my child failed a test and I want to know how to offer support.
- My child received a citation for bullying and I'm looking for more information.
- I know my child hasn't been turning in assignments and I want to know how to help.
Addressing Concerns With Your Child's Teacher
It can be intimidating to bring your concerns and questions about your child to their teacher. But if you remember to set realistic goals, communicate with your child about their learning experience, and stay positive during the conversation with their teacher, you'll help pave the path to success at school.