Sometimes as parents, we can be timid when it comes to communicating with our children's teachers — even when advocating for them. But as a former K-12 teacher and current college instructor, I can assure you that most teachers welcome communication and advocacy for your children. You see, that's why us teachers are there: to help and watch your child flourish in the best ways possible. And we appreciate your guidance on how to best do that.
In the beginning of the school year, I always had a few parents shoot me emails or leave me messages about their kids. Most of them wanted to talk with me directly about their child's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or learning or emotional disability. These parents felt it was necessary to make sure I was on board with any special services their child needed and wanted to warn me to watch for any specific behaviours. The parents would tell me about their child and their diagnosis (if they had one), then we'd chat leisurely about their child's educational history and their personality. Most importantly, they wanted to help me help their child. And I can tell you this: their communication made a world of difference.
I remember one child specifically — let's call him Alex. Alex's mother called me during the first week of school. He had dyslexia. And in an English classroom, she knew things could get tricky. So Alex's mom gave me some tips on getting him excited about reading and shared some pointers that might help him read, too. Due to his own hard work and his mother's communication with me, he left my class with an A.
Overall, after speaking or even emailing back and forth with parents like Alex's, I felt much more prepared to teach their child. I was more than happy to take the time during my lunch or prep hour to chat with those parents so I could better teach their kids. I never grew annoyed or bothered. And while the parents I spoke with were beyond grateful for my time, I felt even more grateful for theirs. I mean, I was merely doing my job; they were the ones going above and beyond. The communication I shared with these parents was a game changer for how I could help their child succeed the entire school year.
The best part was the parents who contacted me at the beginning of the year grew comfortable with emailing me with any questions or check-ins through the year, too. I was honoured to give them any insights into what I was seeing in my classroom. One thing to note about these parents is they didn't email me daily (and I think that makes a huge difference). They followed their gut and only checked in if they felt something needed to be addressed with their child. Then, they'd shoot me an email or pick up their phone. They valued my time and didn't take advantage of it. The parents never talked down to me, were hostile, or overbearing. So parents, don't be afraid to do that for your child, especially if you approach the teacher in a collaborative way. Remember, your teachers are there for your child.
And as a mother myself, I've advocated for my child. My son was a late talker, and in kindergarten, I asked his teacher what she thought of his speech and if she thought he could benefit from a screening with the speech pathologist. Turns out, calling me was on her to-do list, so she was happy I had emailed her — just like I was when Alex's mother called me. The school got the screening done, and while it turned out he did not qualify for an IEP, I was so happy my son's teacher and school had listened to me. Just like I did when I was a teacher, too.