Navigating parent-teacher communication



Students are more successful academically when they have support from their parents. There is also a fine line between being involved and allowing your child to carry some of the responsibilities related to school. A parent’s level of involvement will also vary based upon the age, ability and personality of their child. Parents may need to be more involved with school for younger children, helping them to learn healthy study habits, teaching children how to communicate about their academic needs and following up with teachers as needed.

It can be beneficial to start the lines of communication early before your child is in need or feeling overwhelmed. Many schools offer parent-teacher conferences, scheduled once or twice a year, where progress and concerns can be discussed between parents and teachers. These conferences may look different in the time of COVID, such as virtual conferences or phone calls rather than in-person meetings. Whether you are participating in a face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher or planning to reach out via a phone call or email, there are steps you can take to make the most of this conversation.

Before meeting with your child’s teacher or beginning that email, check in with your student about how they are doing in each subject and review their homework assignments, quizzes, tests and progress reports to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Discuss with your child any concerns or questions they may have for their teacher. Create a list of questions or concerns that you have to use as a prompt during the meeting, phone call, or as you draft an email.

If you are meeting in person, take a notebook and pen, or a laptop or other tools for taking notes during your meeting. Start the discussion by sharing a few details about your child, an interest or strength. Next, discuss your greatest concerns – keeping in mind that your child’s teacher is an instrumental team member in supporting your student and their education. By beginning with your areas of greatest concern, you ensure that if time becomes an issue, you will have addressed the most pressing needs first. Continue discussing any other areas of need, including academic progress, how your child may compare to their peers, interactions with other students inside and out of the classroom, or other supports that may help your child be successful at school. At the end of the conference, discuss a plan for follow-up with the teacher to check on progress and any goals established during your conference.  If you find that you have additional questions after the conference, follow up with an email to your child’s teacher requesting clarification.

At the end of the conference and at the end of the day, remember that you are your child’s strongest advocate; and your child’s teacher is an important team member towards academic success.

Deena Bodine, LCSW, serves as Youth First social worker at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville.