Since starting the Facebook group ‘Ask a teacher’ only a couple of days ago, we’ve already had a number of members stating that they don’t want to be ‘that’ parent with regard to expressing concerns to teachers. I’m here, as a teacher, to tell you that we want you to be ‘that’ parent!

Overwhelmingly, teachers go into the profession because they have a caring nature and love working with children. Yes, part of that is about teaching ABCs and long division and Henry VIII’s wives, but the real joy, the real satisfaction, comes from getting to know a wonderful group of students and supporting them to grow and blossom as learners and young people. It’s definitely not the work-life balance 🙂

This means we are interested in the well-being of the whole child. We want to know if they had a bad day yesterday, or if something important is happening at home like a new sibling or a death in the family. Working together is the absolute best way to ensure your child flourishes at school and at home.

So… here’s some tips for being a great version of ‘that’ parent when communicating with the school.

1. Do it in person

Some schools have email systems but this isn’t the best way to communicate about something important, particularly if it needs to be a back and forth conversation. I also know that teachers are overloaded with paper work and emails so this is another job on the to do list. Face to face is more personal and effective. And quick!

2. Go to the teacher first

Your child’s teacher is the person who knows them best and spends the most time with them. Even if the concern is with them, it’s best to go to them first. There may be a very simple explanation for what you are worried about. Going straight to the headteacher means that the teacher may feel undermined or ‘told’ on. Maintaining a good relationship with the teacher is the most important thing! Occasionally, there may be a reason why the teacher can’t solve the problem, or is struggling themselves. In this case, it may be appropriate to sensitively speak to a member of senior management.

3. Choose an appropriate time to chat.

If the concern is urgent, you may need to speak to someone straight away. The busy morning isn’t always convenient but you could try grabbing a teaching assistant or popping a note in the bag for the teacher to call you. Failing that, there should always be someone else available (such as a deputy headteacher) to have a quick chat with. If it’s non-urgent, ask to speak after school or book an appointment.

4. Don’t bottle it up.

If something happens that you are worried about, don’t wait and see what happens or spend lots of time chatting about it to other parents or in WhatsApp groups. Deal with the situation immediately. If the problem continues, keep a log of what is happening with times and dates.

5. Be inquisitive rather than accusatory

Many things can be lost in translation in schools, especially with young narrators! Go into any meeting with an inquisitive nature and avoid blame. Some teachers may be worried about repercussions from above and be immediately on the back foot if you go in with all guns blazing. Remember that it is very likely that the teacher cares a lot about your child too. Work together to find answers.

6. Smile and be grateful

Teaching is amazing but also hard. We have a little place in our heart for each of our students and want the best for them. Tell us what you and your kids like about what we do and smile. It works wonders for our confidence too!

Join the discussion on ‘Ask a teacher’.

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