A mom friend recently asked me how to contact a “prickly” teacher because of a confusing project grade her daughter received. My mom friend happened to call on my parent teacher conference day, so I was already prepping myself for parent teacher conversations.
There are many lists out there about constructive ways for parents and teachers to communicate. My list below is by no means complete. Since I see both sides, I listed the top three pointers that are most useful to me as a parent and the top three that work well for me as a teacher.
The Parent Side
- If you would like a teacher to review a grade, make the question about the paper or grade (de-personalize as much as possible). If you start out your message by saying, “You (teacher) made a mistake,” the teacher will probably feel defensive. Teachers are better at responding to notes that say, “We don’t understand why points were deducted from the conclusion of the essay; could you explain?” Or, “We rechecked question #3 on the test and think it may have been mismarked. Can you look at it again?”
- Allow teachers 24 hours to respond to a phone message or e-mail. If you contact a teacher on a Friday afternoon, wait until Monday afternoon before sending another note. After two or three attempts without a response, you might contact the administrator for your child’s class. Try to avoid contacting the administrator without making the teacher aware first. Teachers feel ambushed when that happens.
- If you get any comments about material management, using assignment books more effectively, or missing assignments, you may want to focus on organization with your child. Establish routines at home for how, when, and where homework is completed. Keep bookbags and school papers in one place at home and always use that same location. Items won’t get lost or left behind as easily.
The Teacher Side
- Keep a Parent Contact Log in your grade book. If you call a parent or speak to a parent in person, note the date and topics discussed. This helps
methe teacher be specific when a parent does not remember prior discussions about poor grades or disruptive behavior. If sending an e-mail, save that e-mail (and any replies) to a parent folder for the specific academic year. If it is taking two or three drafts to compose an e-mail, you probably need to just pick up the phone and call.
- Do not send home a failing grade on a progress report without contacting a parent first. In fact, if a child is going to fail a whole grading period, the teacher should have been in contact with the parent multiple times and have parent signatures on individual test grades and big assignments.
- Always start a conversation with something positive about the student. End the conversation with specific actions for the parents and/or student to keep improving. This is something I learned during student teaching, and it has always stuck with me.
Basically, it all boils down to showing respect. What are other successful strategies you have to avoid miscommunication between the parent and the teacher?