Every new school year is a clean slate with a new teacher. So what is the best way to address concerns regarding your child with their new teacher? If your child has learning or behavioral issues, it is a great idea to have a conversation with your child's new teacher. There are some do's and don'ts that you should keep in mind however to make sure this conversation goes well and helps your child to have a successful school year.
Do reach out the first week of school with a friendly email. Teachers are incredibly busy especially the first week back. Teachers also can pick up on issues or concerns regarding their new students pretty quickly. So consider sending an email introducing yourself and explaining briefly that you have concerns. Then request a meeting be scheduled to discuss issues and needs more in depth.
Don't tell the teacher every single issue or problem your child has had in the past the first time you speak to the teacher. By doing this you will create a bad first impression for your child as well as for yourself. Some children mesh with certain teachers better than others. So if your child had a horrible year the year before, it may not repeat itself with a new teacher.
Do focus on building a relationship with your child's new teacher. You will not love every teacher your child has, however a positive relationship with your child's teacher is important to your child's success. Building a relationship means that rather than just making demands or expressing concerns regarding your child, ask the teacher about the needs of the classroom. Assist the teacher in getting what they need (i.e. classroom supplies). If the teacher is prepared and has the needed resources, then the classroom will be a better, more positive place for your child.
Don't make demands or expect special accommodations for your child day one. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan or 504 plan they are entitled to certain accommodations. However, coming in and making demands may get those accommodations in place but not help the relationship between the teacher and you or the teacher and your child. I have found that a positive relationship with your child's teacher will always be far more important to your child's success then an accommodation.
Do offer to volunteer or provide support to your child's new teacher. Dropping your child at the school's doors and wiping your hands of the problem is not going to help. If your child struggles, it can be extremely stressful and difficult to get daily calls about your child's behavior. However thinking about the big picture, by supporting the teacher in other ways you create a positive relationship with them. Similar to all relationships if you are supportive and helpful to someone they will usually act in kind. Meaning by being helpful, your child's teacher may be more patient with your child or at least more pleasant to you when they have to call.
There are exceptions to every rule. You may experience a situation where your child has a teacher that is burnt out or just not good at their job. These situations can be difficult. The best way to handle these situations is to reach out to other staff, consider a school counselor or administrator. Focus more on developing a relationship with that person so you will have an advocate rather than just make complaints about your child's teacher.
A school year is a long time. As a parent even though you are not in the classroom everyday with your child, you are still an important member of the team when it comes to school success. Understanding and communicating your child's needs, while important, should be done with a goal oriented mindset. Only stating complaints or demands will not help your child. Creating relationships, being supportive, and having a positive, strength based approach will benefit everyone.
Lastly, if you find yourself in a situation where your child's needs are not being addressed consider talking to an educational advocate. Your child deserves the very best for their education.
Amanda Be, LMSW, MBA is owner and counselor at Supportive Counseling Services in Grosse Pointe, MI. Amanda has been a practicing clinical social worker since 2005. She is passionate about helping others lead happier, more successful lives through her private practice, advocacy and volunteer work. Amanda’s main objective is to support others during life’s challenges and hopes these blogs will help. She writes and speaks on topics for parents, counselors and educators.