How to be effective and build collaboration
Parents I work with know that their ability to communicate well with their children’s teachers has a significant impact on their children’s success. After all, getting an accommodation written into an IEP or a 504 is a win, but the real win is a teacher who understands your child’s needs and implements those accommodations well. Below are some tips to cultivate the kind of relationships that creates space for teachers to better understand your child’s pedagogical needs.
Engage your child’s teachers at the start of the year and make clear that you’re looking forward to working with them. Make an effort to have positive interactions either by asking how you can contribute to the classroom or by letting them know when you notice something they do that works well for your child or reinforces an idea that you believe is important. Real communication is consistent throughout the year, not something that occurs only when things are going poorly. Just as you don’t want to hear from a teacher only with bad news, teachers are more likely to hear your concerns if they’ve already gotten to know you.
Assume good intentions & expertise
When you do have concerns, start by asking questions – and listen to the answers!
Anyone who ends up in teaching cares deeply about children and has gone through a rigorous education and certification process. As you work with teachers to make sure your child’s needs are met, give those teachers the opportunity to share their ideas and tell you which strategies they have already tried. If classroom expectations or state standards don’t make sense to you, ask your child’s teacher to explain them. Like parents, teachers want to see kids succeed, and you’ll both feel better when you know that the teacher is working hard to help your child.
Avoid putting yourself or a teacher in a situation where your communication is rushed. Be mindful of how and when you communicate. Sometimes you need to communicate in writing so as to provide a record, but there are times when you should set up a phone call so you can be sure you won’t be misinterpreted. That said, teachers are more likely to give a conversation the attention it needs if it’s planned for a time they are truly available. It’s also true that you should always keep in mind your right to ask for additional time to process new ideas or documents before responding to or signing them
Though it might seem daunting, when you take time to build an authentic relationship with your child’s teachers you gain access to an invaluable resource: an ally who can give you insight into district policies & terms with which you aren’t familiar or who can brainstorm appropriate accommodations & pilot them in the classroom before formally documenting them.
If you need practice identifying low-stress times to reach out to a teacher or if you need someone else on your team, we’re happy to help. Reach out to let us know how we can support you.