What Parents Need to Know Before Talking With Teachers

Last summer I went to an open house at my daughter’s school.  I had a chance to meet her teachers for the fall semester.  As I listened to my daughter’s math teacher tell me about what to expect from my child while taking her class many questions came to mind.  One, why is this teacher telling parents that students typically get their first C in her class?  Another question was why does she seem proud about giving C’s since it reflects her teaching?  Finally, I wondered if I would get through the semester without having to meet with her?  I already knew the questions that I would ask if we met. 

The parent-teacher relationship is an important one.  Research supports that there is a positive relationship between parent involvement and academic achievement.  Jeynes (2005) stated that in urban schools the “relationships between academic achievement and parent involvement hold across gender, race, socioeconomic status (SES), and academic ability of students; these positive relationships demonstrate statistical significance not only for overall academic ability, but for GPA, standardized tests, and other academic measures” (Smalls, 2010).  One of the most basic forms of parent-teacher interaction is having parent-teacher meetings.  I suggest developing a relationship with school personnel before having a parent-teacher meeting is necessary, if possible.  Let school personnel see the “I’m part of the school community” side of you before seeing the “you are messing with my child” side.  At the start of the year join the PTSA, volunteer for a school event, join the Athletic Boosters, or find some other way to be active in your child’s school.  Doing this gives school personnel a positive image of you before you have the heart-to-heart meeting with a teacher or administrator.  Things go easier doing the discussions when there is an established relationship, at least during the early talks.  Be sure that your child has approached the teacher about the issue before your visit, if appropriate.

Go to the teacher-parent meeting with your questions, expectations, concerns, and possible solutions ready to share with the teacher or administrator.  I am not saying be dogmatic, but I am saying be prepared for the meeting, know what you want, think about how you are going to say it, and keep an open mind as you dive into the issues.  Be sure to keep your child at the forefront of the conversation.  If you have concerns about teaching style, discuss with the teacher why the style is not working for your child instead of saying “you suck as a teacher”. Have examples ready to share with your child’s teacher to support your position.  Once you have shared your concerns and expectations with the teacher or administrator listen to his or her response with an open mind.  Think about the response, consider the validity, and respond in a calm manner.  If you lose your temper the meeting will go astray, and the teacher or administrator will focus on your behavior more so than on what you are saying.

It is okay to pressure school personnel as an advocate for your child.  However, don’t be a “when the wind blows” advocate, in the building for everything and anything.  The mad parent effect wears off after multiple times of bringing your “pissed” game and you become known as that crazy parent.  Like I said, sometimes “I’m pissed” is needed if not overdone.  If overdone, no one will want to talk with you, their goal will become to engage, listen, and exit you as quickly as possible and just skip to the lawyers.  If your concerns are not met, don’t worry about the number times you have to go to the school or Central Office to get the issue resolved. I am talking about the helicopter- parent that goes to the school for everything.

As a parent you are in the driver’s seat because you are the customer.  You have a right to be in the school asking about your child’s academic performance and academic needs. Good administrators and teachers will want to help you.  I say this to note that you should not feel ashamed about being in the school advocating for your child or feel that you are doing something wrong.  Some parents let the teacher take over the parent-teacher meeting and send the parent home with nothing really being achieved.  It becomes a listening game and then the question comes,” how else I can help you?”  Avoid this by having your questions ready before the meeting as stated earlier.  Most topics discussed during a general parent-teacher meeting fall under grades, behavior, assignment completion, how to provide support for the student, parent-teacher communication, and the curriculum to be taught so it is just a matter of thinking about what questions you want to ask in the given areas.

Meeting with school personnel can be intimidating.  It should not be.  Teachers and administrators are just people.  If they are great educators, they will do what they can to help you and your child.  If they are bad educators and do not have the best interest of your child at heart, then your child needs for you to serve as their advocate.  One thing to remember, Keep An Open Mind.  If your child is contributing to the issue, don’t blame the teacher for everything.  One thing that educators hate meeting with is the parent that is snowed over by their children.  Such a position is unproductive and teachers feel defeated while trying to meet the needs of a parent that believes his or her child can do no wrong. Parent involvement in school is essential. Be sure that you have regular two-way communication with teachers, participate in school activities, and stay active in your child’s education at home and at school. Doing so will help your child academically, behaviorally and emotionally.

P.S. – I made it through the semester without having to meet with the teacher:)

References

Smalls, S. (2010). The Impact Of Parental Involvement On Academic Achievement And Behavior of Urban Middle School Students. Orangeburg: South Carolina State University.

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