Parents sometimes find it difficult to know how much and when to communicate with teachers at school. I advocate for strong, positive, purposeful and open communication. I also think it’s important to try and encourage and help a child advocate for themselves first before a parent steps in to help. Here are some tips on how to keep communication positive, ongoing and healthy.
- Approach all communication as allies - If you work under the premise that you are all working toward achieving the same goal, which is to help your child succeed, you will have more luck communicating positively. All conversations should be approached with the assumption that you and the teacher are allies, working together. It is important to lower the walls and to go into all conversations with the mindset of working together. Even if you don’t agree with everything the teacher says, communicating in a respectful, non-confrontational, non-threatening way will lead to more amicable results. Show appreciation for their time and for taking your concerns seriously.
- Address specifics - Communicate with a purpose and with a specific goal in mind. It is very important not to be reactive but to communicate once you’ve really thought about what the issue might be. Understand your reason for initiating a conversation, and think about what you are hoping to achieve from the conversation. Take some time to understand the problem, looking at it from different perspectives. Think of flexible and multiple solutions you can present that are realistic and achievable before approaching the teacher.
- Listen to all sides before making assumptions – It is easy for “mamma bear” or “daddy bear” to surface quickly when a child comes home unhappy or stressed from school. Sometimes our instinct is to jump in and try to “fix” the problem very impulsively. It is important to gather all the facts and information before approaching teachers with “guns a blazing.” It is important to initiate the conversation with a teacher by stating your child’s concerns and then asking the for their input, feedback and perspective of the situation. Sometimes that might mean giving the teacher some time to investigate the problem and letting them get back to you later to discuss the issue from all perspectives.
- Be proactive – Start communicating as soon as there is an issue worth addressing. Don’t let incidences build before approaching the teacher. Nipping small issues in the bud right away often diffuse situations from escalating. That said, judge what situations warrant you being involved. It is important to let children sort out minor incidences on their own as it is part of growing up and becoming resilient. Find out the best way to communicate with each teacher and use their preferred method. Some teachers like email, some prefer phone and others use the agenda. Be flexible with how and when you communicate and give teachers time to respond.
- Work together in collaboration – Make it clear to the teacher that you are willing to do your part at home to support and enhance whatever issue is happening at school. Teachers will be more willing to help when they know that you as the parents are also doing your part at home to support your child. Your child should always know you are working with the school in partnership to address all issues. Your child should never think that you are going in to “fix” a problem or that there is a negative feeling toward the staff at the school. Older children should be part of the process and conversation to help problem solve issues that arise.
Keeping a positive, open mindset with your child’s teacher will go a long way in advocating for your child and getting the results you are hoping for. Never speak negatively about your child’s teacher in front of your child, even if you feel frustrated. If you feel you need support in communicating with your child’s teacher in a positive and healthy manner, it is one of the services I offer. Sometimes it is helpful to have an advocate who is not emotionally attached to the situation. I can be reached at 613-316-6457 if you'd like to discuss further. Visit our website at http://www.possabilities.ca/