I want to be proactive and work with my son’s teachers. But I don’t want to annoy the teachers with too many emails and requests. When it comes to communicating with teachers, how much is too much?
This is a really good question. It shows you want to be involved in your child’s education and that you respect teachers’ time.
The answer? There isn’t a single answer. It depends on your child’s needs. It also depends on your child’s grade level and how many teachers your child has. And it depends on the teacher.
Most teachers try to be available to answer questions or talk about concerns. But they vary in how and how much they want to hear from families. You should ask your son’s teachers directly how much contact they’re comfortable with.
I can give you an idea of how much contact I liked to have with families as an elementary teacher, and what I wanted to know.
When a child was on track: I liked to connect with families about once a marking period. This often happened at parent-teacher conferences or through report card comments. I also welcomed an informal phone call, email exchange, or chat at dismissal time.
Usually, families wanted to know what their child was learning and how they could build on that learning at home. I would ask if they had heard anything from their child that they wanted me to know.
When a child wasn’t on track: I wanted to connect with families once or twice a month. This way, we could decide if the difficulty was just a rough spot. Or we could track if it was something more we should look into.
It helped if they took notes on what they were seeing and shared them with me. It was also good if they made a list of their exact concerns to go over in one meeting or phone call (instead of separate emails). And I always wanted to know if they had noticed any changes in their child.
When a child was struggling: I wanted to connect about once a week. This could take the form of an email or phone call on a Friday afternoon to give them an update about how the week went. I liked having a response in my inbox by Monday morning so I could plan for the week.
I specifically wanted to hear about behaviors and struggles at home. That included how often they happened and what triggered them. And I wanted information on how the child was handling homework, like how long it took and how much help the child needed.
When kids were “in crisis”: During times when a child was having serious behavior problems, I touched base with families at the end of each school day. I shared what happened in school. I also asked for an update about what was happening at home.
I wanted to know about anything that happened overnight or in the morning on the way to school that I should be aware of. I also wanted to know about any changes at home, and any good news or “wins” I could reinforce at school.
These are just examples, of course. But they might give you some ideas for how to approach your son’s teachers.
It can be hard for some families to approach teachers, especially if they don’t know what to say. Don’t be afraid to reach out with questions or concerns, even if you’re not sure what’s important enough to bring up.
Just keep in mind that teachers have demanding jobs. Your child’s teacher may be trying to communicate with other families about concerns at the same time. So you may not always hear back right away.
My best advice is to ask teachers how often and in what ways the two of you can communicate. It will show them that you’re looking to build a positive relationship between home and school.
About the author
About the author
Kim Greene, MA is the editorial director at Understood. A former elementary teacher and a certified reading specialist, she has a passion for developing resources for educators.