Nine tips on how to talk to a teacher (Part 2)
In my last post I listed four tips on how to talk to a teacher. Here are five more tips for that parent-teacher meeting:
Do not wag your finger at the teacher or otherwise speak to the teacher as if she is a child. Teachers are trained professionals, no matter how little they get paid. You need to keep them sweet or they’ll stop teaching, and then where would we be? Teachers deserve your respect – yes, even the brand-new, inexperienced ones!
- And speaking of keeping them sweet, don’t wait until the teacher does something wrong to speak to her. We all need positive feedback, and teachers get very little of it, not because they don’t deserve it – they do – but because parents don’t tend to give it (although children often do). Parents tend to contact the teacher only when they have a complaint. Instead, tell the teacher the positive comment your child made about her over dinner. Thank the teacher for the extra tutoring she gave your child in a free hour. A bouquet of flowers or a thank-you note wouldn’t go amiss. Teachers receive praise so rarely that we treasure it. Sometimes it feels more important than food.
- Do not bypass the teacher to complain to the principal or headmaster before you try to discuss the matter with the teacher directly. Going straight to the principal might make you feel like something will be done about the matter more quickly, and it might, but not without negative effects. The teacher will be put much more on the defensive, for one thing. Going to the principal may even threaten the teacher’s job, in some cases. Is it really worth getting a teacher fired? Does the incident you’re angry about really cancel out all of the good teaching that person has done for your child and many others, perhaps over many years? And does the principal even know your child anyway? In any case, speaking directly to the teacher is much more likely to get a result that’s right for your child.
- And speaking of results, keep in mind that the teacher is not dealing with your child in isolation, but rather as part of a group of children the same age, often a large group. You can be sure that the teacher cannot spend as much time focused on your child as you’d like, and you’ll just have to accept that. Any extra tutoring that the teacher gives your child may be in her free time: lunch break or after school, for example. Do not expect such extra help, and if your child nevertheless receives it, do not take it for granted! And what might be a desired outcome for you and your child might be detrimental to other children, so it may not be possible. The teacher has to think practically about how to balance the individual educational needs of each child with the individual educational needs of the other 30 children at the same time.
I hope these nine tips will help your parent-teacher meeting go better next time something comes up in your child’s school life. I think if I needed to sum up all of these tips in one sentence, it would be: “Remember that you and the teacher are on the same team.”
If there are more tips you’d add to the list, please comment below!