Question: I want to be proactive and work with my son’s teacher. But how can I tell if I’m being too proactive? I don’t want to annoy her with too many emails and requests. When it comes to communicating with teachers, how much is too much? What do teachers really want from parents?
As a parent, I’ve wondered what you’ve been wondering. And as a teacher, I’ve thought a lot about this too. Here are some helpful ways to communicate with your child’s teacher.
Send an “all about my kid” letter. It’s good to do this right before school begins, or as early in the school year as possible. In my welcome letter to parents, I always ask them to send me a note about their child. Sure, I’ve read the IEPs and 504 plans and analyzed the test scores and other school info. But what I’m actively seeking is the parent’s point of view.
As a parent, you have unique insights about your child that can help his teacher understand his strengths and needs. Your candor and humor will be much appreciated. Trust me: As teachers, we are ready to read about the good, the bad and the ugly.
If your child’s teacher doesn’t ask you for an “all about my kid” note, I recommend you send one anyway. That’s because this kind of letter sets the tone for open, honest communication throughout the year.
Ask about the teacher’s preferred method of communication. Mutual respect and trust are important to all relationships. This includes the relationship you want to cultivate with your child’s teacher. That’s why it’s important to find out which method of communication suits your child’s teacher the best.
Personally, I prefer emails. For one thing, I may not know there’s a nice, handwritten note tucked in the darkest regions of one of my students’ book bags. It’s also possible for handwritten notes to get mixed in with tests or turned-in homework that might take me some time to work through.
Try to be brief and to the point. Most teachers expect and welcome parental communication. And there may be a time or situation that calls for a long email or letter. But try to save that kind of lengthy correspondence for issues that really call for it—or send an email to request a face-to-face meeting so that the issue can be given the depth of discussion it deserves.
Keep in mind that your child’s teacher probably won’t be able to focus on your correspondence until her school day is done. She’ll most likely be reading your message at home, where other responsibilities await her time and attention. Receiving several long emails in one given day can really have an impact on her evening. That’s why I say frequent emails are OK as long as you try to keep ’em short!
Use emoticons. When we communicate electronically, our words or intentions can sometimes be misread. To keep this from happening, I insert a lot of “smiley faces” and other signs of warmth and encouragement.
Remember that teachers want proactive parents. A positive relationship with your son’s teacher will help your son feel good about school and be successful. But before you hit “send,” look over your messages and make sure they’re respectful of the teacher’s time and also of her efforts to help your child. It’s great for you to ask questions and make suggestions as long as your messages convey your trust that the teacher is performing her job ethically and responsibly.