Teacher Talk: Communicating With Your Children’s Teachers

Parteach 315

Q. How important is it for me to talk with my children’s teachers? Some of my friends call the school all the time. My children do so well I never thought it necessary to talk to their teachers, except at the regularly scheduled conferences.
— Noncommunicator

A. Frequent parent-teacher communication helps children succeed in school. Start communicating with your children’s teachers early this year. It will show them you truly want to be involved in your children’s education.

Communication with teachers does not have to be formal meetings. Brief notes, emails and phone calls are effective ways to communicate, too. But be sure to find out how individual teachers wish to be approached.

Informal chats also are very effective communication tools. Plan to volunteer for classroom activities and to attend school events. These are great settings for parents and teachers to get to know each other.

Mutual disclosure is important to parent-teacher communication. Parents need to tell teachers about anything happening at home that may be affecting their children’s classwork. And teachers should tell parents what is happening at school.

How often parents and teachers communicate with each other truly depends on whether there are any serious problems. Some may need to communicate almost every day. If children are handling school well, however, casual chats with teachers and occasional notes or emails help build a good relationship.

Q.? We have just given our daughter, who’s in middle school, permission to be on Facebook. How can we make sure she uses it appropriately and avoids being bullied?
— No Cybersurfers

A. Start by visiting the safety information site on Facebook (www.facebook.com/help/?safety). Read this information together, and be sure your daughter understands the consequences of using Facebook inappropriately. It can be very dangerous. You may wish to ask her if you can visit her page at any time to evaluate the content she is putting up and receiving.

Be sure to talk with your daughter about cyberbullying. Teens are old enough and smart enough to carefully consider their online actions. Judge Thomas Jacobs has written a book, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated: Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin?,” that you eventually may want your daughter to read.

Q. Our 11-year-old son just started the sixth grade. He always has relied too much on our help to do his homework. And, I’m tired of looking over his shoulder every night. Is there a rule of thumb on how much input a parent should have in a middle-schooler’s homework?
— Concerned

A. As a general rule of thumb, students should be able to handle their homework mostly by themselves by the seventh grade. Start working toward that goal now, but don’t pull your support right out from under him.

Begin by having your son read his nightly assignments out loud to you. Then have him explain how he is going to complete the work. Help him learn to plan the order in which he will tackle his assignments.

Next, he should read and explain the directions of the first assignment to you. Not knowing exactly what is expected can cause confusion. Ask him if he has any questions about the first assignment. After answering, either encourage him to complete this assignment independently, or watch how he completes the first item to see that he does understand the directions. Follow the same steps, if necessary, for all the assignments.

If your son repeatedly is not understanding his assignments, then you can encourage him to talk with his teacher before he leaves the classroom each day. Your aid never should include doing the work for him. Instead, you should pose questions that will help him figure out what to do, and, perhaps, give him clues as to what he’s misunderstanding in class.