Note or Conference? Communicating With Your Child’s Teacher

school classroom

In today’s society, it is no longer acceptable for parents/guardians to just walk into a classroom, unannounced and unexpected, to discuss their child’s progress in school. Currently, schools are run more like a business in that before you can see your child’s teacher, you must make an appointment. Not every circumstance requires a parent-teacher conference, though. There are certain situations where a note will suffice, and there are times when a conference call is more appropriate. Beyond the open houses and mandatory parent-teacher conferences, how can you tell which is the proper response in order to keep those lines of communication open? Let’s start by defining the basic three forms of communication available to parents/guardians.

Communicating with the Teacher by Note

Sending a note to school is more suited for minor, FYI types of communication: missing or being late for school, upcoming appointments, other events that will affect your child’s attendance, or something that happened at home that may effect the child’s behavior for that day or the next (such as them being up really late the night before). These notes should be short and to the point. There is no need to go beyond absolutely relevant details or explanations. If you feel the issue requires more explanation, or feedback from the teacher, then consider writing a note to request that the teacher give you a call to discuss it.

Communicating with the Teacher by Phone

Talking to the teacher over the phone is necessary when an major issue arises. One reason for calling would be significant personal matters such as parents/guardians getting divorced, the death of a close family member or beloved pet, or moving. Life-changing events such as these can have lasting and sometimes devastating effects on children. It is much easier to explain the situation, and how you’ve noticed or anticipate it effecting your child, over the phone. A second reason for calling a teacher would be if your child is constantly being verbally or physically attacked by another student(s), or is the one doing the attacking. This is unacceptable behavior that definitely needs to be addressed with more than just a note. Another reason would be if your child’s grades seem to be slipping, or if your child is putting in a lot of effort (possibly including your help), yet their grades or scores are not reflecting that effort. A final reason would be if your child seems to have an ongoing conflict with that teacher. When you talk to the teacher on the phone, you have the ability to discuss in greater detail exactly what is occurring, and then the two of you can formulate a game plan on the most effective way to help your child handle it, including determining if instituting outside help like tutoring or counseling would be necessary.

Communicating with the Teacher by Conference

Meeting with your child’s teacher face to face should be reserved for ongoing or very concerning situations. If you have tried writing a note and discussing the situation over the phone, yet it is continuing or getting worse, it’s time for a face to face meeting. If it has been discovered that your child is involved in potentially dangerous activities or extreme behavior you should definitely have a sit-down with the teacher, and possibly the principle as well.

When trying to determine which form of communication to use, consider the situation, your child, and your past dealing with the teacher and this issue. If you still aren’t sure about the best way to deal with an issue, write a note and ask the teacher to contact you if they feel a call or conference is necessary. Always go through the teacher first to resolve or address any situations or concerns you have. If you feel that the teacher is either not willing to work with you or your child, is not adequately handling the situation according to your determined game plan, or it is beyond the teacher’s abilities or intentions to deal with the issue, then you should schedule time to meet with the school principle. Make sure that you let them know the original situation, all the efforts you and the teacher have made up to that point, and your desired outcome.

Teachers and schools are also making tremendous efforts on their end to keep parents/guardians informed as to what is happening with their students. Behavior charts, progress reports, and report cards are sent home regularly with information regarding scheduling parent-teacher conferences. In addition, educators send home notes, call, and request conferences if they determine something is happening that the parent/guardian needs to address or be made aware of. Additionally, information is regularly sent home regarding school and extracurricular activities, upcoming testing and test scores, and available services, programs, and resources for those students needing additional help.

As parents we need to remember that there are around 20-25 students being instructed at one time in each classroom. This means that classroom instructors are unable to give our child, or the parents/guardians, constant personal attention. If this becomes the case, it will more than likely be recommended that your student either receive outside assistance, such as tutoring or counseling, or that they be transferred to a different type of class that can address their special needs. Keep in mind that while teachers want and welcome parent/guardian involvement, it should be handled in a way that is not disruptive to your child, the other students, or their ability to do their job. Most teachers agree that educating a child is a partnership between them and the parents/guardians. We each have a very important role to play to maximize a child’s learning potential and progress. That begins with establishing good communication with the person responsible for educating your child.

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