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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Communicating With Your Child's Teacher

I think one of the things that is sometimes overlooked is the importance of communicating with your child's teacher, the importance of working with your child's educator for their overall benefit.

Recently, my son told me that he was kept in the classroom to do his corrections during recess. My son told me that his teacher had informed them that they were to remain in their classroom to do their corrections during recess. If they had a lot of corrections to be done, they should bring food so they can eat while they work on their corrections.

Now, I cater food for my son, so he could not bring food to his classroom so he skipped recess. I told my son that he should not skip his recess as it is important to have a snack. My son eats his breakfast at 6.ooam and lunch at 2.00 or 2.30pm. That is 8 to 8 1/2 hours without food if he skips recess. I told my son that he must inform me if this happens again so that I can speak to his teacher.

It happened again the next week so I informed my son that I will speak to his teacher.

One of the things to keep in mind when talking to your child's teacher are the feelings of your child. Will they be afraid, embarrassed etc? So I asked my son which he preferred. Would he prefer it if I called his teacher, wrote to her or saw her in person? He said to call. He didn't want me to write because he was afraid to deliver the note to teacher. He didn't want me to see her because he was worried about what his friends may think.

So, I called but unfortunately, I could not speak to her as the school recently did not allow parents to call during school hours, only during recess and it was not possible to reach her because the recess is only 15 minutes and the phone was either engaged or she was not at her place.

What did I feel at this moment and what could I do? I could feel enraged that the children are being punished during recess. I would feel anger that my child had to skip recess and could not eat for an 8 hour stretch not once but twice. I could post in forums and complain on facebook. I could go to school and scream at the teacher and demand to see the HM.

I spoke to my daughter and she informed me that it was quite common for kids to skip recess and do work while eating. All the std 5 are doing it she says. So when her std 6 teacher tells them to do it, she would say even the std 5 are doing it so why are you all complaining. That means the std 4 class teacher for my boy is not doing anything out of the ordinary for the school.

It is important to give the teacher the benefit of doubt when communicating with the teacher. So brushing my thoughts aside and putting my feelings on neutral, I went to see my son's class teacher.

When speaking to your child's teacher, it is very important to plan what you want to say. Don't blame or say things that will put the teacher on defensive. Then all communication will have gone down the drain. Instead always be polite, smile and think of working together with the teacher to resolve problems and do plan what you want to say.

So with that in mind, I went  to see the teacher. I told her that perhaps she was unaware because my son hadn't informed her that he was having food catered from the canteen by us so he couldn't bring his food and do his work while eating. I informed her about his mealtime hours and how important it was to at least have a snack in between the 8 hours. I told her this while smiling. She smiled back and acknowledged that he had not informed her and told me that she will keep an eye out on him and make sure he eats. I assured her that I will make sure that he completes any correction at home if he is unable to finish them at school.

Finally, I complimented her by telling her how she had been pushing the right buttons for my son by praising him for improvements and setting up competitions which he loves. Her praises and competitions in which he gets extra points for his group because he is weak (the weak gets more points for the group if they do well) has been motivating him. This was the truth and something I wanted to tell her. The conversation ended well. A relationship was established with the teacher and her work acknowledge and the problem was resolved.

I also want to mention that it is important to exercise care when speaking with the teacher. Exercise lots of tact. Some teachers may get offended by straight talking. Once, my husband and I joked with my daughter's teacher telling her how strict she was and how afraid my daughter was of her. We told her nicely that she should consider being a little more approachable. She laughed and agreed and told us that our daughter can go to her at anytime and not be afraid but the next day she told my daughter in front of the whole class. "Your parents said......." So do not be overly friendly with the teacher and think that you know them. They may be secretly offended by what you say. When talking to teachers always plan what to say and be careful in not hurting the teacher's feelings etc.

Back to the current issue, though I would have preferred that the kids get a complete break during recess, I think this will be harder to achieve as the directive came from the top and it is the school's culture. In fact, I do this myself, making the kids eat while they work because otherwise it becomes almost impossible for them to complete their school work. Unfortunately if you are in SJKC (not all of them are like that but some), this is the kind of culture you must be prepared to be faced with. This is the reality and it would be idealistic to expect to have your child be in a relaxed atmosphere saying kids should have fun while they are young, they must enjoy their childhood etc. I am afraid that in SJKC you have to be prepared to work hard, very very hard.

A brief recap. When communicating with your child's teacher....

  1. Consider your child's feelings
  2. Give the teacher the benefit of doubt if there is a problem
  3. Keep your own feelings in check
  4. Always plan what you want to say
  5. Be tactful but purposeful
  6. Work with the teacher not against her
  7. Establish and maintain good relations with your child's teacher. 
  8. Try to resolve problems that your child can't handle on his own immediately to show them that you back them and support them. 
  9. Do not see the teacher only during Parents Teachers Day. Make an effort to get to know them


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