Talking to Your Child's Teacher

Main points

  • Having a purpose and being prepared for a discussion with your child's teacher will help achieve the desired outcome.
  • Working together with the school can benefit your child's learning in the classroom and at home.

Raising an issue

There are two types of conversations you could have with your child’s teacher: a short discussion over a simple, minor matter or an in-depth discussion over an ongoing issue or something more serious, which usually requires an appointment with the teacher.

Some common issues that are raised with teachers include:

  • how well my child is doing with their school work
  • improving my child’s reading
  • identifying my child’s strengths
  • improving subjects that my child is not strong in
  • how my child gets on with other children
  • concerns about things going on in your family.

Some things you can do to prepare for these discussions include finding the right time to talk to your child’s teacher and being prepared ahead of time for these discussions.

When asked how they’d like parents to approach them, teachers suggested that parents should:

  • be clear about what they want to discuss
  • have an idea of what they would like to happen or what outcome they would like to achieve
  • talk about current issues and try not to bring up things that happened in the past or are not relevant to what is happening now
  • come with a positive attitude with the understanding that you and the school will work together in a way that benefits your child’s learning
  • make a plan and decide together what the teacher will work on in the classroom and how you can help at home
  • decide how you will keep in touch with the school and your child’s teacher – by phone, email or follow-up meetings.

Finding the right time

To find the right time for having a discussion, you could start by asking your child’s teacher if they have time to talk or when it might be convenient for them to do so.

It may not be practical to have an extended conversation lasting more than a couple of minutes during drop-off and pick-up times at school. It is probably best if you arrange a time when you and your child’s teacher could sit down and discuss the issue in detail without distractions.

Make an appointment

To make a time to talk to your child’s teacher, you can contact the school office. You can let them know how long you think you’ll need and when the best time for you would be.

You can also be specific about what you’d like to talk to the teacher about. For example, you might say, "Lucy's been having trouble with the book sent home last week. She struggled with the book and had a lot of trouble with some of the bigger words. We stopped reading after 30 minutes because she was getting so frustrated. Can we speak about some things we can do to help Lucy with her reading?" This ensures that everyone is clear about what will be discussed.

You can also let them know if this should be a face-to-face meeting or over the phone. If you are not sure which type of meeting would be best, you can ask the school office for their advice.

You should be flexible about the timing of the appointment and recognise that while the timing may not be ideal, the fact you and your child’s teacher can have a discussion is a great outcome for your child.

If you need a translator, this should be arranged with the school at the time you make the appointment.

Being prepared

To help you focus your discussion with your child’s teacher on what matters most, some suggestions include writing a list of questions you wish to ask  And ranking these questions in order of importance or priority.

Keep in mind that the story you hear from your child may not be very accurate. Your child sees things differently from how an adult would. The situation may require your child’s teacher’s perspective as well as your child’s before the whole picture is clear and a solution can be formulated.

You should think about what you would like to see happen. Knowing what you want to happen or what outcome you’d like to see, and how long you expect that to take, is something you should consider when preparing for the meeting with your child’s teacher.

You should not expect your child’s teacher to propose all of the answers. By doing some research or thinking about the issue before you go you will be better prepared to make suggestions and offer solutions.

Teachers are more likely to be responsive if you remember that the purpose of your meeting is conversation and you’re diplomatic, tactful and respectful. Actively listening, taking notes and asking about specific ways you can help at home will help achieve an outcome that will benefit your child’s learning.

The teacher can define what your role should be in the problem-solving partnership, making sure everyone – your child’s teacher, your child and you – all have roles in achieving the desired or expected outcome.

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