As we begin the new school year, I want to encourage communication between parents and schools, as well as teachers. It is important that school personnel are familiar with parents. Find an opportunity to introduce yourself and to communicate any special issues that your child might have that should be known. This may be physical in nature, such as food allergies, or it may be emotional, such as a recent loss in the family. Some of our teachers are new to our communities. Please don’t assume that they are aware of a situation that is considered to be common knowledge.
If there is a need to communicate with a teacher because of a concern, I suggest that this communication occur face-to-face. USD 113 teachers are very good about communicating through e-mail, but there are shortcomings to this method. A large percent of communication is non-verbal. Electronic or even telephone communication may lead to misperceptions. Here are some suggestions for effective communication with teachers:
1. Teachers and administrators are extremely busy and are with students the majority of the time. Please set up an appointment. Almost every minute of a teacher’s day is structured and it is not possible to leave a class of students for an impromptu visit.
2. Follow the chain of command. If a parent is unhappy with a teacher (or administrator), visit with that person. Complaining to co-workers, family and friends does not help solve the issue and it can damage the positive learning atmosphere for our kids.
3. Try to keep the emotion out of the conversation. We are all passionate about our kids. Having a logical, effective conversation requires emotional control. As emotions escalate, effective communication decreases.
4. Write down the main items to be communicated and questions to be asked. This helps to provide clarity to the issues and helps to establish specific objectives. Try to discuss these important issues first.
5. Focus on the issue at hand and avoid digressing to issues from the past that are not in the control of the individual you are visiting with or are not relevant.
6. Prepare a solution. Propose the outcome you are wanting.
7. Recognize that there are two sides to every story. As a high school principal, I witnessed numerous situations of children venting to parents at home, which ended up in meetings where parents heard “the rest of the story.” Kids are not being dishonest; rather, there have been omissions of information to gain a sympathetic parental ear. If age and subject matter appropriate, have children available to join the meeting.
8. Educators realize that parents are students’ first teachers. The education of our children is a team approach. It is important that children not perceive divisiveness between the authority figures in their lives.
Effective communication doesn’t just happen. It takes focus and effort. Teachers and parents have the same goal, the success of our kids. Communication is the responsibility of all involved. By working together, we can continue to strengthen the education of our children.