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Oregon Family Magazine

Don’t Be “That Parent...”

01/01/2019 11:14 ● By Sandy Kauten
I taught elementary school for over thirty years and enjoyed my relationships with both the children and their parents. However, thinking back over the years I remember a few times when parents really stepped over the line in their efforts to communicate with me. These parents lacked judgment and infringed on my privacy. In one case a woman asked if I would take her child out to eat over the weekend to “build the child’s self-confidence. She didn’t offer to pay! In another case a parent called me nightly to discuss the same topics over and over again. After three or four of these conversations I had to tell her my evenings were reserved for my own family.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved it when parents wanted to communicate with me about their children’s progress in school. Parents and teachers need to convey important information back and forth between home and school. It can be crucial information about illness, or failures to understand subject matter and it can even be mundane things like being late for school due to a dental appointment. But there are ways to communicate that are acceptable and ways that are not. Here are some guidelines to ensure that your relationship with your child’s teacher remains healthy.

Sending Notes

Teachers usually have a system for receiving notes from parents in homework folders or some other clear and consistent way. Parents can convey a great deal of information quickly and easily in a short note. A note is just that, a few sentences conveying information on Johnny’s upset tummy or the reason that his homework looks like it was run over by a truck. This isn’t the time to send in a long dissertation on the reasons he is failing in math or is below grade level in reading.

Phone Calls

Most teachers don’t mind making or receiving phone calls from either school or home if they are infrequent and meaningful. Sometimes a phone call can solve an on-going problem in the classroom or help to explain some unusual behavior or circumstances that are affecting a child’s learning. Teachers can convey to parents their observations in class and some plans can be made to improve difficult situations. These calls need to be made on a professional level, respecting the teacher’s right to a private life.

E-mails

In a day when most parents work, e-mails are another quick and easy way for parents and teachers to “talk” to one another. Again, these e-mails should be on a professional level, be brief and necessary. Teachers are very busy and don’t have time to send messages back and forth on a friendship level. If the e-mails are sent to the school, teachers are under restrictions to limit their messages to school business. Your school may have a website on which to communicate. These work well.

Face to Face

There are times when it’s definitely in everyone’s best interest to meet face to face. Aside from parent conferences several times a year, parents and teachers may never see one another in person. Behavior issues, serious learning problems, and other important topics related to a child’s success in the classroom need to be addressed in person. In cases of serious behavioral or academic problems it’s advisable to have a third party present as well, such as a principal or specialist. The conversation should be documented in writing to be sure all parties are aware of subjects covered and plans made to solve a problem.

Yes, teachers are busy people. They’re also people who have chosen a relatively low-paying career because they enjoy helping children learn. They want to know of problems at home or anything else that may impact your child’s ability to learn. Often just one conversation can help to head off difficulties in the classroom or convey information that will help the teacher to do a better job of teaching your child.   

So, be sure your communications don’t infringe on classroom teaching time, be clear in the messages you send and respect the teacher’s privacy, but don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s teachers because they welcome your efforts to communicate.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and writer. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.