Parent-teacher communication plays a big role in helping your child to have a successful academic career. Since parents and teachers know different aspects of a child's personality, they must work together to solve problems or celebrate gains. Unfortunately, because teachers spend their time in the classroom with students, it may not always be easy to get in touch with your child's teacher. Knowing some of the Dos and Don'ts of parent-teacher communication can help you make that connection.
Keeping Parent-Teacher Communication Lines Open
Don't: Feel as though you're being a nuisance. Whether you have concerns, questions or just simply want to say "Great job," it's perfectly all right to get in touch with your child's teacher. That's what good parent-teacher communication is all about.
Do: Advocate for your child. His teacher may spend six hours a day with him and know him within the school setting, but you're with him the rest of the time and know him in a very different light. If there is something he needs or if something isn't going well, make yourself heard.
Don't: Wait until there's a problem to get in touch with your child's teacher.
Do: Make an effort to introduce yourself in person, in writing or over the phone, as a way to begin a good parent-teacher relationship.
Don't: Call your child's teacher during the school day and expect to be put right through to her.
Do: Let your child's teacher know what is a good way to get in touch with you and at what times. Teachers are busy teaching during the school day and often use breaks to use the bathroom, grab a quick lunch and/or prepare lesson plans. Thus, you may have to wait until after school hours to speak on the phone. However, if you let the teacher know that you can be reached via note or email or that early in the morning is a fine time to call, you have a better chance of speaking soon.
Don't: Say to the person who answers the phone "Tell her Jane Smith called" and expect the teacher to know who you are and that you would like a return call.
Do: Leave a message identifying whose parent you are and leave as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing about why you are calling. If you would like a call back, make sure to mention that in your message.
Don't: Call your child's teacher at home unless she has specifically indicated it is OK.
Do: Ask the teacher whether it's all right to reach her at home in the evening to discuss a problem your child is having. While many teachers prefer not to be disturbed at home, some don't mind and will provide their home phone number to a parent whom they know will not abuse it. If you have her home number, make sure to be respectful of the teacher's time, calling at a reasonable hour and only for urgent situations (usually problems that need addressing before the next school day).
Don't: Hesitate to request a meeting.
Do: Let your child's teacher know if you need a few face-to-face minutes with her. Just be sure to let her know why, whether you'd like other staff to be there and about how long you expect the meeting to take. That way she can set aside enough time for you.
Don't: Assume that phone calls and notes are the only way to speak with a teacher.
Do: Find out whether or not your school or school district has an intranet, which provides each teacher with a school-related email address. Email is a very quick and easy way to get in touch with a teacher and can provide a great parent-teacher communication platform in which issues or questions can be addressed without playing phone tag or setting up a meeting.
Don't: Send an unsealed note to your child's teacher and expect your son or daughter not to read it.
Do: Seal notes in an envelope or fold and staple them shut, so it's obvious if little eyes have been prying. Make sure to clearly print the teacher's name on the outside if it is for her eyes only. That way, if there is a substitute for the day the note will be set aside unread. Notes that deal with changes in transportation for the day or lunch money should be labeled as such on the outside. For example, "John's Lunch Money" or "Bus Change Information."
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Whether their summer was jam-packed with activities or filled with complaints about being bored with nothing to do, kids often have a tough time making the back-to-school transition.
Battling the Butterflies
As with any new or potentially unsettling situation — like starting school for the first time or entering a new grade or new school — allow kids time to adjust. Remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will all become an everyday routine in no time.
Emphasize the positive things about going back to school, such as hanging out with old friends, meeting new classmates, buying cool school supplies, getting involved in sports and other activities, and showing off the new duds (or snazzy accessories if your child has to wear a uniform).
It's also important to talk to kids about what worries them and offer reassurance: Are they afraid they won't make new friends or get along with their teachers? Is the thought of schoolwork stressing them out? Are they worried about the bully from last year?
Consider adjusting your own schedule to make the transition smoother. If possible, it's especially beneficial for parents to be home at the end of the school day for the first week. But many working moms and dads just don't have that flexibility. Instead, try to arrange your evenings so you can give kids as much time as they need, especially during those first few days.
If your child is starting a new school, contact the school before the first day to arrange a visit. And ask if your child can be paired up with another student, or "buddy," and if you can be connected with other new parents. This will help both of you with the adjustment to new people and surroundings. Some schools give kids maps to use until things become more familiar.
To help ease back-to-school butterflies, try to transition kids into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts. Also make sure that they:
get enough sleep (establish a reasonable bedtime so that they'll be well-rested and ready to learn in the morning)
eat a healthy breakfast (they're more alert and do better in school if they eat a good breakfast every day)
write down the need-to-know info to help them remember details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers' and/or bus drivers' names, etc.
use a wall calendar or personal planner to record when assignments are due, tests will be given, extracurricular practices and rehearsals will be held, etc.
have them organize and set out what they need the night before (homework and books should be put in their backpacks by the door and clothes should be laid out in their bedrooms)
Although it's normal to be anxious in any new situation, a few kids develop real physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, associated with the start of school. If you're concerned that your child's worries go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, speak with your child's doctor, teacher, or school counselor.