BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
An important part of being an involved parent is responding to feedback from your child’s teacher. The purpose of understanding and responding to teacher comments and suggestions is not necessarily believing everything the teacher says nor challenging the teacher’s opinions.
Instead, responding to teacher feedback means cooperating with teachers in order to push your child to his or her highest academic potential. In carrying this out, please keep in mind the following points in order to have positive and productive conversations about your child.
Teachers care about your child
Teachers have your child’s best interest at heart. Parents often think the teacher who contacts them the most, especially concerning poor student behavior, is the teacher who most dislikes their child. This is simply not the case.
An unfocused, distracting, talkative or shy student can fall through the cracks just as easily as a student who makes poor marks in reading or math. When teachers contact parents, they do so because they generally care about the well-being of students.
So when interacting with your child’s teacher, always work from the understanding that you and the teacher have one fundamental similarity: you both want to help your child.
Teachers appreciate your opinions
Teachers bring a wealth of knowledge about child development and student learning, but they also want to know your ideas concerning what works best for your child. Teachers look to you in order to find out what methods of discipline work best and what modes of learning best capture your child’s interests.
Therefore, if a teacher complains of your child’s talkative behavior in class, you might let the teacher know what you do at home with your child to get him to stay quiet.
If a teacher contacts you because your child constantly doodles during class discussion, you might let the teacher know your child learns best when using his hands.
By telling your child’s teacher what works for your child at home, it may help your child in the classroom.
Teachers want your support
In order to truly help your child, teachers expect your support and commitment. For example, if the teacher expects your child to write his spelling words five times every night for study practice, make sure it happens.
Sit with your child as he does his homework. If your work schedule doesn’t allow it, have your child leave the work on the kitchen table before he goes to bed so you can check it when you get home.
If you follow through with what’s expected of you, you will find that it truly pays off in the end.
Teachers desire your understanding
Please understand that teachers often contact multiple parents in one day. With this in mind, please limit the amount of time you spend on the phone or in a conference with your child’s teacher.
Discuss only the things that could be attributing to your child’s classroom difficulties (i.e., loss of a family member, illness, lack of sleep). Keep the conversation short and relevant.
For example, if your child failed a math test, tell the teacher how your child studied for the test before it was given. Do not, however, talk about how many math tests you aced as a kid.
In order to avoid long, drawn-out conversations, keep in mind the following rule: believe that the teacher you are speaking with has children, and your child’s teacher will be on the opposite end of a similar conversation in a few minutes. Therefore, give them time to recuperate from your discussion.
Teachers need to have pleasant discussions
Unfortunately, some teachers let the weight of the job affect their interactions with parents, causing them to speak in a negative or patronizing tone. If you feel for any reason that your child’s teacher does not communicate with you respectfully, politely tell them so.
Sometimes, that is all a teacher needs to put back on his or her professional cap. Likewise, if you are stressed from a long day or a particular life situation and your child’s teacher calls to talk, suggest he or she calls back at a better time to prevent yourself from saying things out of frustration.
Better yet, ask if the teacher can send comments via e-mail, and then respond when you are better able to control your emotions.
Knowing how to accept feedback from your child’s teacher will not only help your child become a better student, it will also help you communicate more effectively. This school year, use the points above in order to have more productive conversations with your child’s teacher.
China Hill is a teacher at KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.