Help! I Can't Talk to My Child's Teacher

Why good communication is critical for the classroom

As a beginning teacher, I assumed the role of expert in child development, teaching and learning, and behavior management. Unfortunately, I frequently neglected the most experienced and knowledgeable child experts: Their parents.

As a parent myself, I realize the gravity of this common mistake. Parents have intricate knowledge of their child that can provide teachers with critical keys to unlocking his or her learning potential.

So, effective communication is vital in building relationships both inside and outside of the classroom. The ultimate success of a child’s education pivots on your ability to effectively communicate. Communication is not an isolated act; it encompasses being involved in all aspects of your child’s educational experience. Your ability to express your thoughts and concerns effectively is important.

In all honesty, communication between parents and school personnel is often anything but easy and effective. There are many reasons for this: A lack of communication, miscommunication, fear, a lack of understanding of school policies, and an unwelcoming school climate. Some parents are even reluctant to visit a school because of their own negative experiences.

Regardless, when issues arise in the classroom, you should share your concerns with your child’s teacher. Trassey Boone, grade-level administrator at Dexter Middle School, believes fostering an “open door policy” is one of the best strategies educators can use to ensure that parents have a voice.

When asked about the importance of parental involvement in the well-being of a child, guidance counselor Carlos Sample from Dexter Middle says, “It is the cornerstone for the survival of any child.” We asked teachers and administrators to share their wisdom on how parents can communicate and become more involved in the education process. Here are their responses.

What does parental involvement mean?

Parental involvement means being involved from the first day of registration to your child’s final day of school. This includes helping with homework, assisting with disciplinary issues, fostering responsibility for assignments, and working collaboratively with teachers. It means developing good rapport with the teacher and a positive working relationship with your child so no one feels alone. Parental involvement is when parents are 100 percent committed to the successful education of their child.

How important is establishing open lines of communication?

Very important. Good communication must be maintained throughout the year, with everyone being open and direct. Teachers should get to know parents and be approachable. Sample believes when teachers and parents aren’t communicating, it creates opportunities for students to take negative risks. Their desire to make wrong decisions increases because they view noncommunication as a way to bypass consequences for their actions.

If you feel the lines of communication have closed between you and your child’s teacher, involve a mediator, usually an administrator. Boone says the administrator’s role is to help rebuild and strengthen lines of communication.

What leads to communication breakdown and how can it be resolved?

Breakdowns occur when we lose focus of the child’s need, when we communicate angrily, and when we disrespect each other. Breakdowns occur when parents feel threatened or teachers become defensive.

Tiffany Williams, a teacher at Northaven Elementary, believes it is important for parents to know that teachers are not out to get your child, they are looking out for your child’s best interest. To prevent breakdowns, stay focused on what’s best for your child. Williams says communication about students with their parents should be laced with positivity.

What can parents do to maintain open lines of communication?

You can get to know your child’s teacher through various means of communication: phone calls, email, texts, and written notices. Find out his or her preference. Be readily available and demonstrate a caring attitude about your child. Arrange meetings, volunteer, be visible at your school.

What are the best practices parents can follow to avoid conflict?

Become more knowledgeable of school policies and procedures that are described in the student handbook. This helps ensure your child is compliant with school policies. It helps you better understand daily school operations. Always be willing to share your concerns. Keep your communication child-centered instead of focusing on the weaknesses of the teacher, school, or administration.

When situations arise that cannot be resolved at the school, how should parents proceed?

When common ground cannot be achieved between the teacher and the parent, an administrator should always be a mediator. If issues remain unresolved, you can proceed to student services within the Board of Education. Parents have the right to advocate for their children.

What advice would you offer parents who are fearful of talking to teachers?

Do not be afraid. You have every right to ask questions, express concerns, and be actively involved in your child’s education.

Children need parents and educators to work together to ensure the best possible outcome. Learning to effectively communicate only improves with practice. The more positive communication takes place, the more opportunities students, educators, and parents have to grow and learn together. It really does take a village to raise a child.

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