Conversations with your child’s teacher

Andrew Wake Newsletter, Parenting

Vanessa and I have just sent the manuscript for “The Good Enough Teacher” to our wonderful editor Miriam Cannell, so hopefully it will be coming out this year sometime.  Thanks to all who have given feedback on the initial drafts, or who attended the teacher seminars and gave feedback.  It didn’t happen over night…but it did happen.

Communicating well with your child’s teacher can be useful when things get tricky for your child at school.  Here are a few ideas on addressing concerns with the teacher:

  • Start the relationship well by giving them appropriate respect.  They are trained professionals in a responsible position.  Be friendly, but don’t try to be their friend.
  • If you discover a problem, approach the teacher cooperatively, not combatively.  Assume you both want what is best for your child.
  • If you are anxious or angry about your concern, calm yourself before you try to converse with them.
  • When you approach the teacher don’t go straight into the topic.  Permission ask first: “Is now a good time to talk about …”  If it is not a good time, follow up with: “So when would be a good time?”  This is an obvious thing to do, but can get lost if you are emotional about the problem.
  • Gratefulness goes a long way to fostering cooperation.  If there is something you can be grateful for, let the teacher know that prior to addressing your concerns.
  • If the teacher says something you don’t agree with, don’t become defensive.  Rather, take the conversational approach: “That’s interesting what you’ve just said.  Help me understand it a bit more, as I’m not sure I quite understand”, and then listen curiously to what they have to say.  (If you don’t want to understand the teacher’s perspective, then the conversation will become combative)
  • Once they are done ask, “Would you like to understand how I see it?”  Permission asking means you are entering the conversation from a cooperative rather than combative position, so everyone is less likely to get defensive.
  • Once you both agree that you understand each other, ask what their plan to create change is.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help the teacher make that change happen.
  • Finally and most importantly, you need to agree on a time when you will both review the plan to see if it has worked, and then run with the plan.
  • As my first consultant in psychiatry said to me, “There are no perfect plans.  Just one that you make, you follow, and then you review to see if it has worked or not.  And if it hasn’t make a new one”.