How to approach your child’s teacher

Reading time: 5 min

It is difficult to know when to contact your child’s school for feedback on their progress. While you don’t want to be too needy and over-involved, you also don’t want to appear distant or disinterested in your child’s wellbeing or schooling.

When should I make contact with my child’s teacher?

It’s important to strike an appropriate balance between involvement and letting go. Your child will likely require time to settle into the new year or term and it may take some time to gauge realistically how your child is doing academically, socially and emotionally.

Communicating with teachers too early could put pressure on your child to perform and not give a true reflection of their skills, as the early syllabus is often a recap of the previous year’s work. On the other hand, if you have a sense that your child is not coping it is useful to be in regular contact with their teacher. As a parent you want to know from early on if they’re struggling so you’re able to assist where necessary, and it is acceptable to expect this communication from your child’s teachers.

What level of communication can I expect?

There is no hard and fast rule about how schools communicate with their parents. It varies greatly and is dependent on the nature of the difficulty, the type of school your child attends, and the teaching method and school ethos adopted. It is worthwhile finding out up front about how a school operates, and to provide your own expectations too.

When your child is at school, the hope is that their teachers will communicate with you when necessary so that you don’t have to, but this may not always be the case.

“As parents, it’s important to rather find out information from the appropriate school channels, and to not take what is heard in the car park or at a child’s birthday party, as gospel.”

All schools will provide reports at some stage during the year or term. Some schools will give regular updates and as parents, you’re able to ascertain via homework diaries how your child is doing. Other schools host termly parents’ evenings to discuss the results of last term.

You may find schools who call parents in when a particular difficulty needs to be discussed, or who email general updates when necessary. Some schools will wait for parents to make contact, while others are more proactive in their approach. It is the school’s responsibility to inform you of significant difficulties and areas of improvement when they arise.

How to have difficult conversations

When you need to difficult conversations with parents or teachers – whether it be due to a particular situation your child is going through or a sense of dissatisfaction relating to something the teacher or school has or hasn’t done – it’s important to try and stick to the facts as much as possible. These conversations can so easily become heated resulting in someone being defended or defensive.

In situations where you are not on the same page, it may be worthwhile to engage with other professionals to assist, such as the support team involved at your child’s school. They will be able to support you and your family, as well as provide some insight from the school’s perspective regarding how your child is coping at school.

Car park gossip

Where there are parents and a car park, you will have car park gossip. As parents, it’s important to rather find out information from the appropriate school channels, and to not take what is heard in the car park or at a child’s birthday party, as gospel.

Information can often be distorted in a ‘broken telephone’ type of way and when it reaches parents informally it can be far from the truth. In the same way, caution against airing your negative feelings about the school or your child’s teacher to other parents. Airing your grievances outside of the appropriate channels can result in teachers or members of the school catching wind of your concern in the ‘wrong’ way, leaving the situation open to subjective interpretation.

What are the appropriate channels?

Some schools will operate differently from the following, but most will adopt a similar process.

  • If your concern lies with your child’s teacher, it is important to approach the teacher first.
  • In the event that your concerns are not alleviated and not met, approach the head of grade or phase, mentioning your previous communication with your child’s teacher and how your concerns have not been met satisfactorily.
  • Should you still feel dissatisfied, it is advisable to contact the principal of the school.
  • Lastly, it may be necessary to contact the governing body or board of the school in order to express your grievances and obtain some support or assistance.

In any of the above situations, remember to keep your child’s interests at heart and attempt to work with the school to ensure the best for your child.

Also read:

Lawnmower parents – Coming to a school near you
From playschool to big school: How to help your child successfully transition