How to Hear Concerns From Your Child's Teacher
If your child’s teacher has requested a meeting to share observations with you, you might be feeling a number of different emotions. Confused–about the purpose of the meeting, angry–that your child is being viewed a certain way at school when this is not how they act at home, frustrated–that your child is being singled out. Would you be feeling glad–that your child’s teacher feels so passionately about your child and their well-being to reach out to you? Could you feel validated–that the teacher is also noticing things that you have been noticing at home? Is it possible that you might be feeling worried–that something is “wrong” with your child? All of these reactions (and more) totally make sense and are valid reactions! It’s ok to feel these different emotions.
Approaching a meeting with your child’s teacher from a positive perspective can help the meeting go more smoothly and allow for collaborative discussions about how to help your child. If you already have a positive, or at least a working relationship with your child’s teacher this process may be easier to navigate. If you do not yet have a relationship with your child’s teacher, there are steps you can take that will help. An essential first step is to remember that you and your child’s teacher are part of the same team with the same goal–doing what is best for your child. Keeping this in mind through what may be difficult discussions will hopefully allow for more effective conversations. Below is a more detailed list of reminders when listening to what your child's teacher has to say.
Remain calm. As we’ve shared in previous posts, entering a conversation from a place of calm, as much as possible, can help the conversation go more smoothly and ultimately, benefit your child. If you notice yourself starting to feel upset, take a couple of deep breaths and remind yourself that you and your child’s teacher are a team.
Be prepared to share, as you are comfortable, anything that is happening at home that could be impacting your child. If there has been a change to your child’s typical routine and home environment, this could impact school and will be helpful for your child’s teacher to know about. With this information, your child’s teacher can be on the lookout for possible changes in your child at school.
Be ready to talk honestly about your child. Your child’s teacher may have questions about how things are going for your child at home and may wonder if you have received similar feedback from a teacher before. Honestly answering questions and sharing information can be beneficial for everyone, especially your child. If you feel as though the questions the teacher has are too direct, ask why it will be helpful for your child's teacher to know that information. Your child’s teacher may want to know about your child’s behavior in other settings to know if how your child is behaving at school is “normal” for them.
Remain open. Try to go into a meeting with your child’s teacher with an open mind and without assumptions. Being open to hearing what the teacher has to say about how things are going at school (which may be different from how they are going at home), can help make it easier to create a plan together.
Allow your child’s teacher to share about school without interrupting. Giving your child’s teacher space to share about school, their classroom, and your child can help you gain a clearer understanding. Your child may have already shared some of this information, yet hearing more about it from another person can create a clearer picture. Having as much information as you can will help in future steps, when discussing possible options. Giving your child’s teacher space to share will also improve your relationship with them.
Listen. Listen, listen, listen. As humans, we are often thinking about our responses or internally reacting to information we are hearing, instead of just listening. While listening, try to understand the teacher’s perspective. In order to do so, you may need to ask more questions or gain clarification if something is unclear.
Focus on practical outcomes. What will next steps look like and what will everyone do in the meantime? Depending on the concerns being shared by your child’s teacher, there may be steps the teacher will be taking at school, steps you will be taking at home, steps that your child may also be taking, or a combination of steps. Checking in about how these next steps have been working at a later date, to see what has changed, will be helpful to know what is working and, potentially, what else needs to happen.