Navigating parent-teacher communication

By DEENA BODINE
Youth First Inc.

Research has shown that students are more successful academically when they have support from their parents. Many parents are eager to jump in to help ensure success in the classroom, but it’s important to allow your child to carry some of the responsibilities related to school independently.

A parent’s level of involvement will also vary based upon the age, ability and personality of their child. Parents may need to be more involved with school for younger children, helping them learn healthy study habits, teaching children how to communicate about their academic needs and following up with teachers as needed.

It can be beneficial to open the lines of communication with the teacher early, before your child is in need or feeling overwhelmed. Many schools offer parent-teacher conferences, scheduled once or twice a year, where progress and concerns can be discussed between parents and teachers.

These conferences may look different in the time of COVID. Whether you are participating in a face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher or planning to reach out via a phone call or email, there are steps you can take to make the most of this conversation.

Before reaching out or meeting with your child’s teacher, check in with your student about how they are doing in each subject. Take a moment to review their homework assignments, quizzes, tests and progress reports to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

Discuss any areas of concern with your child and address questions they may have for their teacher. Create a list of questions or concerns that you have to use as a prompt during the meeting, phone call or as you draft an email.

Start the discussion by sharing a few details about your child, maybe an interest or a strength. Next, discuss your greatest concerns, keeping in mind that your child’s teacher is an instrumental team member in supporting your student and their education. By beginning with your areas of greatest concern, you ensure that if time becomes an issue, you will have addressed the most pressing needs first.

Continue discussing any other areas of need including academic progress, how your child may compare to their peers, interactions with other students both inside and out of the classroom, or other supports that may help your child be successful at school.

At the end of the conference, discuss a plan for followup with the teacher to check on progress and any goals established during your conference. If you find that you have additional questions after the conference, follow up with an email to your child’s teacher requesting clarification.

At the end of the day, remember that you are your child’s strongest advocate, but your child’s teacher is also an important partner in ensuring your student achieves academic success.

Deena Bodine, LCSW, is a Youth First social worker at Memorial High School in Vanderburgh County. Youth First Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 78 master's level social workers to 105 schools in 12 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after-school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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