Sometimes you and your child’s teacher may disagree — and that’s OK. But if disagreements affect how you get along, the friction could impact your child as well. Here are tips to improve your relationship with your child’s teacher.
1. Write down your thoughts.
Consider writing down what you want to say before meeting with the teacher. (Download a parent-teacher conference worksheet to use for this.) It can help you prioritize your concerns and stay on track. It can also keep you from forgetting what you want to say if the conversation becomes emotional or moves in an unexpected direction.
2. Use “I” statements.
Try framing your concerns from your perspective, using “I” statements. These statements are an empathetic way to share your thoughts. They help keep the teacher from taking your concerns personally.
For instance, a “you” statement, like “Why didn’t you tell me that Taylor wasn’t turning in any work?” may put the teacher on the defensive. This may shut down the conversation.
Instead, you could say, “I didn’t know that Taylor hadn’t turned in homework for the last month until I saw the latest report card.” This explains your concern and allows for more conversation.
3. Set expectations together.
Having a productive conversation is sometimes easier said than done. Setting expectations can help. For example, you can say that you’d like to hear the teacher’s perspective as well as provide yours. Share that you know you’ll each respect one another’s views. Suggest that you’re both allowed to speak without being interrupted.
4. Make a list.
One way to get the discussion going is to suggest that you and the teacher create a list together of things you agree and disagree on. Start with the positives by listing what you agree on. Then list what you disagree on. This can help clear things up for both of you. It can also help you come together around the common goal of helping your child.
5. Share supporting materials.
If you have sample schoolwork or other records related to your concerns, share them with the teacher. They can help provide context and support for your point of view. They can also help keep the conversation focused on your child’s needs.
6. Communicate clearly and look for solutions.
Be clear that you’re looking for solutions to your concerns. Or, if you just need to voice your concerns, make sure that’s clear, too. Ask the teacher for suggestions on what can help. Provide your own ideas, too. For example, if you’ve read about an you think might help, suggest it and ask for the teacher’s opinion.
7. Send a follow-up email.
A follow-up email gives you the chance to thank your child’s teacher for their time and input. It also helps you and the teacher process your discussion and summarize any decisions and takeaways.
The email is also a record of what you discussed in case you need that information at a later date. You can download a communication log worksheet to track these conversations.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Virginia Gryta, MS teaches and mentors students working toward master’s degrees and certification in special education at Hunter College.