Do you feel intimidated when you think of talking with your child’s teacher? What if your child complains about problems with his or her teacher? What do you do then?
And what if your child is a virtual learner this year? Communication between home and school could be even more complicated than in years past.

I’m a parent and a teacher, so I’ve been on both sides of the teacher’s desk. I’ve also felt the challenges teachers and parents feel while navigating remote learning. Here are some tips to help you communicate and connect with your child’s teacher even during unique times.

Get to know the teacher

Try to introduce yourself and talk to the teacher face-to-face or on a virtual call. If this is not possible, it’s never too late to send an introductory email and offer your support to the teacher. That way, if a challenge does present itself during the year, a teacher’s first encounter with you isn’t a call about behavior challenges or academic struggles.

Be involved

One of the best ways to get to know your child’s teacher is to be involved in what is going on in the classroom and school. This can be difficult if your child is a remote learner. Even so, find creative ways to volunteer. Ask if you can read to your child’s class via Zoom. Volunteer to be a room parent. If volunteers are limited at your child’s school, you can still organize signups for supplies and send in prepackaged craft items and snacks for class parties or events. If your career is related to something your child’s class is studying, offer to answer questions face-to-face or virtually. Many employers build in time for employees to volunteer in schools so they don’t have to take time off from work.

Ask if you can cut out items the teacher has laminated or track down supplies for a lesson. Come to after-school events, school productions and parent-teacher conferences either face-to-face or virtually so that you are visible and can touch base with your child’s teacher. Even if your school is learning remotely during the year, stay tuned in to what is going on so that you will be in the know.

Keep communications open and positive

Teachers welcome questions and concerns and are proactive. As a teacher, I would much rather know about a problem early so that I can deal with it in the best way for all concerned. Your child’s teacher should be open to your questions and suggestions, so don’t be too intimidated
 to ask.

Keep up with written teacher notes, permission slips, report cards and any other written communications the teacher sends home. Sending a quick response to the teacher’s requests makes the teacher’s job easier.  Remember to keep communications positive. If you have concerns or think the teacher has dealt unfairly with your child, don’t dash off a negative note or email and send it first thing in the morning. For sensitive conversations, call and set up a time to meet after school.

Of course, encouraging notes brighten a teacher’s day!

Try to understand both sides

Teachers have a lot to manage in their classrooms, and with twenty-five or more students to supervise, sometimes they make mistakes or don’t see every problem. Your child may think something happened in class that wasn’t fair, and it’s easy as parents to react emotionally and blame the teacher. But support the teacher as much as possible while you gather information about what happened. Try to help your child see the teacher’s point of view, and talk about how people can have differences and still work together to succeed.

Advocate for your child

Don’t be afraid to speak up if a problem in your child’s class becomes pervasive. If your child’s grades start to slip, he or she is continually unhappy or you suspect your child is being bullied by a classmate, work with the teacher to devise a plan to help.

Make a change as a last resort

Sometimes children have personality conflicts with their teachers. This actually offers an opportunity for growth if teachers and students can work together in a respectful and productive manner. After all, this is what children will need to do when they grow up. But if problems persist, it may be time to request a change to another class. Discussing your options with a school counselor or administrator may help you navigate a tough year.

Understand that teachers are human

Most of the teachers I know are caring individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. Often, they are parents too, and although it is hard to imagine, at one time they were students who lived through awkward growth spurts, problems with peers, lost homework and braces. They understand what parents and kids are going through, and they strive to build a positive connection between school and home.  Ψ

Be an A+ Chaperone

One way to connect with your child’s teacher is to help chaperone a field trip. Teachers really appreciate the help of parents when they venture outside school grounds with a group of students, and spending a day with your child’s class not only gives you time to get to know the teacher better, it will probably give you a better appreciation of what he or she does.

If you do volunteer to chaperone, show up on time so you can get information from the teacher and meet your group. If possible, take a picture of your group so that if someone becomes separated, you know what they are wearing and can show the picture to other helping adults. Learn the names of all the students in your group, and encourage them to pay attention, be on task and stay together. If a child is consistently ignoring the rules, alert the teacher. Take head counts often, especially after bathroom breaks and lunch. Keep your cell phone with you at all times. Get the teacher’s number and numbers of other parent chaperones so that you can stay in contact if you split up. And remember, you are there to help the teacher and students foremost. While you should model participation and have a positive attitude about the trip, don’t slip away to that new exhibit you’ve been dying to see and leave your group.

Janeen Lewis is a teacher, writer and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country, and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales.