Families of color and communicating with teachers

Before kids even set foot in a classroom, they’ve learned so much from their parents and families as their first teachers. But as a parent, your role in your child’s learning doesn’t stop once school begins. And it isn’t limited to what happens at home. 

You’re a key factor in your child’s education and how things go at school. Advocating for your child starts with having good communication with teachers. That’s especially true if your child has learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD. Still, if you’re a parent of color, these conversations may not always be easy.

As a former educator, I know how uncomfortable it can be for families of color to communicate with teachers and schools. Here are some common reasons why it happens. 

1. Negative personal K–12 experiences

If you had bad experiences yourself as a K–12 student, it might be triggering to connect with your child’s teacher. If you or your family were judged, brushed off, or not taken seriously when you were a student, it’s understandable that you might be concerned about having the same experience as a parent. 

It’s important to know that there are teachers who are aware of this history for some families. They’re ready to support you as you work through the emotions that can come with school-related trauma. And they know the impact of institutional racism in schools and society. 

2. Negative messages about families

When I became a new teacher, and later on when I worked on teacher development, I unfortunately became aware of some negative attitudes that some educators have about students’ families. I often heard comments like: 

  • “Parents are not educated enough to help their children with homework.”

  • “Parents are too busy to help their children with homework.”

  • “Parents don’t come to open houses and conferences, so they don’t care about their child’s education.”

Some teachers certainly hold these beliefs. But there are many educators who fight against these negative messages, and who are excited to partner with you on your child’s learning journey. 

3. Concern about how teachers perceive families 

You may just be finding out about your child’s challenges and types of supports at school. Being new to the process can make it feel intimidating to talk with your child’s teacher. 

There’s a lot of terminology to learn. There’s also a lot to be aware of when it comes to making sure your child is getting the best support possible. 

It can be hard to avoid worrying that teachers may judge you for what you may not yet know about how to advocate for your child. But in my experience, there are many educators who are prepared to meet you where you are. 

You may also find that as you gain knowledge, you can explain things that the teacher isn’t aware of or doesn’t understand. Plus, you have important insights to share about how your child learns and who your child is.

Like many parents, you have so much to offer as your child’s first teacher. Your voice is needed in the school, in the classroom, and as part of your school’s Parent Teacher Association and site council. It’s important to remember that you are a vital partner in your child’s experience as a student. Your voice is powerful, and your experiences and perspectives matter. 

Explore strategies for parents and teachers to make sure families of color are heard by the school. Get conversation starters to talk with teachers about a range of topics. And listen to The Opportunity Gap, a podcast for families with kids of color who learn and think differently.


Explore related topics

Read next