Our children spend so many hours each day with their teachers, it makes perfect sense that we, as parents, should get to know those teachers as best as we can.
However, it's important to remember that communicating with teachers is a bit different than communicating with other adults. Or at least it should be.
What must every parent know about talking with teachers?
- Teachers are professionals, so they should be treated as such. Addressing teachers as "Mr. Alverez" or "Mrs. Pitsilos" is imperative. Teachers should not be addressed by their first names, especially when children are nearby. It sets an example of respect for students when they hear parents address teachers by their surnames.
- Teachers follow schedules. It is imperative that parents schedule a time to talk or meet with the teacher rather than just showing up at the door expecting to talk. Most likely, there are 20 or 30 students waiting for that teacher at any time of the day; a teacher's schedule does not allow the kind of flexibility that some other professions do.
Teachers are busy. Teachers are so busy. They attend school-wide meetings, department meetings, and team meetings. They participate in IEP meetings, parent conferences, and professional development courses. They research, plan, and prepare each and every unit, lesson, and activity. They assess every student and evaluate that child's strengths, weaknesses, and needs and are constantly doing what they can to see that each student meets certain social and academic benchmarks. So if a teacher doesn't respond immediately to your call or email, it's probably for a good reason. Be patient.
That being said, even if you get ahold of a teacher on the phone, most do not have the time to chat with you for two hours as you wax on about your awesome child. The more specific, concise, and quick your conversations can be, the better.
- Teachers care. If they didn't care about children, they wouldn't be in the business. Keep this truth at the front of your mind during all interactions and know that most every teacher proceeds with the best of intentions. They want your child to succeed, to exceed his or her potential, and to enjoy school. His or her life would be a lot easier if this happened.
- Teachers are human. Really. They are. Most of them have a home and a life and a family away from school, which is what every human being needs. Teachers occasionally make mistakes, just like normal human beings do. So if a paper comes back graded with a mistake on it or a handout has a typo, or if he or she calls you by the wrong name at some point, relax. And give the teacher the second chance he or she deserves.
Remember, too, that a little bit of kindness goes a long, long way, especially in a profession that can be fairly thankless at times. Be a great parental support—in and out of the classroom—and throughout all of this teacher talk, be sure to be a great listener.
It's amazing what we can learn sometimes when we let someone else do the talking.
Next: Talking to Parents: What Every Teacher Needs to Know
Read all posts by Amy Mascott.
What have we forgotten? What do you think is important to remember when communicating with kids' teachers? We'd love to hear it! Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find Amy on Twitter, @teachmama, and let's continue the conversation!