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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

I’ve been a teacher for several years, and I’m also a parent of three, so I can say with some measure of authority what’s wrong with parent-teacher communication these days, and how it can be made better. Parents, of course, are very concerned about how their children are doing in school, and teachers want their students to succeed just as much as their parents do. As such, good parent-teacher relationships are absolutely essential for the success and well-being of school-age children. As a former teacher, here’s some advice for parents on how best to communicate with teachers:

1. Schedule meetings with your child’s teacher during their office hours. Respect the teacher’s time.
When I was a teacher, it was often the case that parents wanted to talk to me throughout the day, during lunch breaks, between classes, etc. Of course, I would try my best to talk to a parent whenever I could, but the most effective parent-teacher communication occurred during scheduled meetings. Every teacher has time during certain days of the week to visit with parents, so be sure to email or call the teacher in advance to set up a meeting.

2.     Avoid criticizing the teacher.
Being a teacher is a tough job. It was ten times harder than I thought it would ever be, and the stress is part of the reason I quit teaching eventually. Of course, being a parent is a tough job, too, and when things aren’t going well in school with your child, it’s natural to blame or criticize the teacher. While some teachers aren’t very involved with their jobs, I would say the vast majority are extremely passionate about their work. As such, don’t come into any meeting with a teacher with the intention of criticizing. Rather, come in with the attitude of collaborating on a solution to any problem together.

3.     Ask the teacher to clarify expectations regarding work and behavior.
Students, especially young children, are not always great at communicating with parents what teachers expect of them in the classroom. Next time you meet with your child’s teachers, be sure to clarify what the homework and behavior expectations are in the classroom, so that your child can’t come up with the excuse that they “didn’t know.” Clarifying expectations is also helpful in that it makes it easier for you to help your child succeed in school through your informed support.

4.     Always thank the teacher for their time.
Of course, this goes without saying. But instead of merely saying thank, send a short thank you email or note. It’s these little things that make a teacher more appreciative and eager to communicate with next time.

Parent-teacher communication doesn’t have to be difficult. By effectively speaking with your child’s teachers, you’ll understand how student success is, in the final analysis, all about collaboration and communication. Good luck!

Jillian Terry is a freelance writer and former educator. She enjoys writing about parenting, education, and health. Check out more of her writing at www.teachingdegree.org. Jillian welcomes your comments below!

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to communicate effectively with teachers.