It’s past midyear in the school cycle, and time to check in again with your child’s teacher if you haven’t. Most likely you have only had one official “Parent / Teacher Conference” up to this point. That just may be the only one you get! (If your child attends a school with more than one scheduled conference, you are lucky. Still, check in with the teacher between conferences.) It is incumbent upon you to reach out to the teacher to find out what’s going on and how your kiddo is doing. Don’t assume that because you haven’t heard anything everything is fine. Find out. Particularly in the elementary years, you must reach out to the teacher from time to time to check in (and not only when there is trouble or concern.)
Here’s how to do it:
- Contact the teacher: Ask to make an appointment to talk. You can meet in person or speak over the phone. If you are unable to fit this into your work schedule, you can interact via email.
- Bring coffee to an in-person meeting: Or tea. Obviously this is not necessary. But it’s nice. It helps set the “we’re on the same team” tone that you want to have with your child’s teacher. Let them know you’ll be bringing a warm drink for them, and ask for their preference.
- Know what you want to say or want to find out: You do not need to have an agenda, but you should know what your goal is. It could be as simple as, “At our conference in the Fall, Janey seemed to be doing very well in math and reading. I’m checking in now to know if everything is still going smoothly or if there’s something in particular to pay attention to.” Or maybe things are a little more complicated. “Johnnie seems fine when he gets home from school, but just before bed he often gets upset and says he doesn’t want to go back to school the next day. Are you seeing anything in class or at recess that might explain these feelings he’s having?” (Note that both of those “openers” can easily be sent via e-mail, too. They can then lead to an in-person meeting or online conversation.)
- Ask to see some of your child’s work: This is particularly important if your child attends a school that doesn’t give homework or send home classwork during the year.
- Thank the teacher: This is obvious, right? Right. Thank the teacher for taking the time to talk. It’s good manners.
Here’s why you should do this (in case you need reasons or a little kick in the butt to get it done):
- Making this effort demonstrates to your child that you are paying attention. If you are taking the time to connect to her life at school, then it must matter. That is a very important message.
- Making this effort demonstrates to the teacher that you are paying attention. Connecting with the teacher helps both of you understand your child and his learning style better.
- It lays a foundation that will help you deal with issues at school should they arise.
- You will know better what is happening at school, rather than relying on the parent rumor mill. (Never rely on the parent rumor mill in your child’s schooling. Always go right to the source.)
Why maybe you don’t want to meet with the teacher (and why you need to get over it):
- You think the teacher is too busy. (Yes, the teacher is busy. Everyone is. Doesn’t matter. You have the right to speak directly to the teacher.)
- You think you don’t really know what’s going on and that the teacher knows best. (Yes, the teacher is a professional who knows a lot. You know a lot, too. You have the right to ask questions.)
- You have talked too much to other parents and think you already know what’s going on in class. (Maybe. You won’t really know, though, until you talk to the teacher. Talk to the teacher.)
Okay. That should be enough. Now contact your child’s teacher and set up a time to talk.
(Mathematically…you can use a meeting with the teacher to ask about the math curriculum. Not sure what to ask? Start by asking how it differs from how you learned math at school. Ask the teacher to demonstrate a short lesson for you. If there are materials and manipulatives being used in math class, ask to be introduced to some of them.)