If you’ve noticed that your child is showing new struggles with his or her schoolwork, a great first step is to talk to their teacher. An open and honest parent-teacher relationship is key to a child’s success. They want to hear what you are seeing at home! But there are some important strategies to keep in mind to address the topic and engage in a productive dialogue.
Don’t Catch Them Off-Guard
First, it’s important that you schedule a time to meet with teachers. Catching them for a minute at arrival or dismissal should be reserved for quick messages like an early pick-up, or to tell them your child has a bump on his head. Bigger conversations deserve the teachers’ full attention, which they definitely can’t give while getting a room full of students settled! Set up a time to meet or chat on the phone. Tell them generally what it’s about so they can be prepared. “I’ve been noticing that x is struggling with reading more at home than usual, and I’d like to talk about it,” is plenty for the teacher to get a sense of the nature of the meeting.
No matter what your past experiences have been like with teachers, try to remember that you’re on the same team. It can be difficult to talk about our children’s struggles. All we want is for them to succeed! Facing their lack of success can be hard. This sometimes leads to parents coming off as defensive and/or accusatory, which is understandable, considering the emotional toll these conversations can take. But the most productive way to have this conversation is to come from a place of mutual respect and trust. Believe that your child’s teacher has the best intentions and truly wants to help your child succeed. Why else would they be in this profession?
Don’t Worry About “Bothering” Them
If you have established a positive, communicative relationship with your child’s teacher, then they will be more than happy to meet with you. But do be discerning in how often you ask to meet. We all have “off” days, including children. Don’t assume there are big underlying issues every time your child has an off day.
Plan Your Talking Points
To make the most efficient use of time, come prepared with exactly what the issue(s) is/are. Be as specific as possible so that the teacher can provide the best advice or suggestions. (But keep in mind that she or he might not have the answers right away!)
If the issues you’ve been seeing at home are significant enough and also present in the classroom, the teacher may recommend that your child be evaluated. The steps for initiating this process vary from school to school, but generally, it requires a written request submitted to the school in order for the evaluation to get underway. You also have the option of having an outside agency administer the evaluation.
No matter the outcome of your conversation, remember that you and your child’s teacher both want what’s best for your child–even if you don’t necessarily agree on what that means. As the parent, you have final say in any formal steps that are taken to get your child support, but teachers are trained professional, and have qualifications for whatever advice they are giving. So hear them out!