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Establishing Positive Communications With Teachers Beth McCullough, a former teacher and current public information officer for Chatham County Schools in North Carolina, says that by following a few basic communication rules, you can play a positive role in your child's education experience.
Getting to know your child's teacher, other school staff, and administrators early on makes difficult conversations easier later. Today's wide range of communication methods makes it easier than ever to keep open lines of communication between you and your child's school.
Be proactive. Voicing a concern means you care. Make contact early before a situation escalates.
Follow the chain of command. You automatically create a barrier between yourself and a teacher by going to the principal before you talk with the teacher. The same goes for calling the central office before you speak with school staff or administrators.
Abide by "The Golden Rule." One of the five rules of my classroom was "Give others the respect you expect." The same rule applies to us all. If you expect a teacher to keep you informed, communicate with the teacher regularly about matters large and small that affect your child.
Calm down. Wait until you are calm and rational before firing off an e-mail, calling the school, or going in person to confront staff. Sometimes it helps to talk it over with another parent who can give you an honest, objective point of view before you make contact with the school.
Little things make a big difference. Body language, tone of voice, and choice of words are crucial pieces of the communication puzzle. Voice your concern calmly and reasonably.
Stay focused. It can be tempting to bring everything that has troubled you all year long into a conversation or parent conference. But you'll get better results if you concentrate on the issue at hand and finding a shared resolution.
Consider the big picture. There are at least two sides to every story. Ask questions before jumping to conclusions. In addition to voicing your concerns, take time to listen carefully.
Be part of the solution. Ask the simple question, "What can I do to help?" Your input is wanted. Ask any educator. One of the greatest challenges they face is lack of parent involvement. A good relationship with your child's teacher is like any other relationship; it takes some work. However, it is well worth the investment of time and effort.
This article originally appeared in the February-March edition of Our Children, the National PTA magazine. You can find an expanded article online <http://www.pta.org/3804.htm> .