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11 Tips for Getting Your Child’s Teacher on Your Side

Teaming up with your child’s teacher can mean the difference between success and failure in the classroom.

By Eileen Bailey

Be a Team Player

Your child spends six hours a day, some 1,200 hours a year, in a classroom with his teacher each year. When you and the teacher work together, your child will have a positive and successful school experience – educationally and socially. It takes effort, but make sure you establish a cooperative relationship with the teacher.

Start the Year Off Right

It is a good idea to initiate a conversation with your child’s new teacher.  Some parents prefer to send a letter introducing their child and giving information about their needs. Other parents feel a face-to-face conversation is best. Touching base with your child’s teacher early on lets her know you are caring and involved and will be a cooperative partner if problems arise.

Keep It Positive

Whether you are talking on the phone, emailing, or sitting face-to-face with your child’s teacher, make sure communication is positive and upbeat. Attacking the teacher makes her defensive, leaving her less willing to cooperate with you. Focus on the fact that most teachers want to help and to see your child succeed.

Communicate at the Teacher’s Convenience

Talking with your child’s teacher is much easier these days—emails, texts, phone calls, updates on websites. Early in the year, talk with the teacher to find out which method works best, so you can stay updated with what is going on in the classroom and homework assignments. Email may work one week, text another. Also determine with the teacher how often you should talk.

Do Not Take Things Personally

Parents get defensive when a teacher recites their child’s faults. If the teacher tells you your son is disruptive or doesn’t listen, empathize with her and work together to find a solution. Agree that your child can be a handful and move the conversation along to problem-solving.

Nip Problems in the Bud

Imagine realizing your child may fail a class with only a few weeks left in the semester. Avoid this by getting involved early and asking to be notified of problems right away. Set up a meeting with your child’s teacher during the second or third week of school to talk this over. (The first week is usually too hectic for a teacher.) This way, you can address missing work or poor grades right away.

Share What Works

You know your child better than anyone and the classroom strategies that have worked for him in the past. Sharing this information helps a new teacher better understand how to reach and teach your child. Don’t focus on your child’s faults; discuss what works. Instead of saying, “He doesn’t listen,” say, “I find when I make eye contact when giving instructions, Jack listens better.”

Come Prepared

Whether you are meeting your child’s teacher for the first time, or attending a parent-teacher conference, come prepared. Have a list of questions or concerns, samples of homework papers and tests, notes from former teachers, and accommodations that have worked. Keep the information in a binder to make it easy to bring along and share. Once your meeting is over, write down notes to add to your binder.

Show Up and Get Involved

Schools often rely on volunteer help and parent involvement. Join the PTA, volunteer in the classroom, office, or library, or chaperone a field trip. You can see how your child acts in school firsthand and get to know other parents and school personnel. You become an insider rather than an overbearing or demanding parent.

Resolve a Teacher Conflict

If you and your child’s teacher can’t agree on a solution to a problem or a teacher is not cooperating, ask what the next step should be instead of walking away angry. You might suggest that the school psychologist, guidance counselor, or principal be included in looking for a solution. Ask the teacher if she would like to set up the meeting.

Take Advice from the Teacher

Just as you share information with the teacher, she can give tips on how to help your child at home. Ask questions about his school performance and the areas in which he is struggling. Ask for tips and materials you can use at home that will help your child excel in school.

Show Your Appreciation

Everyone likes a compliment. If a child’s teacher does something a parent doesn’t agree with, parents often shoot off an email or call to complain. How often do you send an email to compliment the teacher or to say thank you for something she has done or said? When your child’s teacher goes out of his way to understand your child or help him feel accepted, make sure you show your gratitude.

Further Information

Working with teachers is an ongoing process and won’t stop until your child is in college. To help you, ADDitude magazine has lots of great information:
How to Team Up with Your Child’s Teacher  
8 Tips for Your First School Meeting

ADHD Teachers and Parents: Teamwork Tips
The Home/School Checklist: Helping Teachers Help Your ADHD Child ADHD School Help: Working with the Teacher

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