Are you having trouble communicating with your child’s teacher?

Many of us around the country are about six weeks into being quarantined at home with our families. Some families have adjusted well and have fallen into a routine of successfully balancing the new norm. However, some parents are still struggling with helping their children complete remote school assignments. In addition to extra housework, parents have found themselves feeling completely ill-equipped to help their children do their school work and it’s simply just not working for any member of the household. Overwhelmed parents have expressed that they are at their wits end with non-communicative teachers and their sea of seemingly endless assignments.

So, what is the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher?

I came across a complaint from a parent expressing her frustration with her child’s teacher. I’ve paraphrased to protect the parent, child and school district’s identity but the gist of her grievance is:

I’m so over my son’s teacher. I emailed her to contact me days ago and I still haven’t received a phone call. In my email, I stated that I found some of the assignments confusing and told her that she needed to be meeting with my son and his class at least twice a week.

She finally replied via email and told me that she taught the kids how to complete the assignment while in class so she doesn’t know why I’m confused. Obviously, I wasn’t sitting in class when she covered the subject matter. I’m sitting at my computer and I’m so irate with her condescending tone. I really want to give her a piece of my mind!

I’m able to see both sides here. I’m a parent, educator and founder of Kid Care Concierge, where a big part of my job is to supervise teachers. Here are 4 tips that will lead to better communication with your child’s teacher while under quarantine.

Ask very specific questions in order to get a direct answer. Instead of expressing that you’re confused, it might be more helpful to reword your reply to say that your child doesn’t understand x concept and you don’t want to further confuse her so you’re requesting the teacher to either send you step-by-step instructions of how to s/he’d like for you to teach her. You could also email the teacher to request a time to speak with him/her to go over the concept so that you can assist your child with the assignment. As tempting as it may be, cursing the teacher out will do nothing except further escalate the situation. Instead, be firm, direct and intentional in your communication with your child’s teacher.

A little understanding goes a long way. It’s safe to say that the world has a collective newfound appreciation for teachers. Quarantined parents everywhere are wondering how teachers are able to supervise and educate 25 students at one time, day in and day out. Be mindful that your child’s teacher may be teaching your child while trying to manage to keep his/her own children quiet in the background.

If the teacher has a “fiery” personality or just has a smart mouth, s/he probably didn’t take too well to the parent demanding how often she should meet with children. I agree that meeting with the child more frequently may clear confusion and there is never a reason to be non-communicative within a professional relationship, but the teacher is not going to make that extra effort if a parent is going back and forth with him/her.

If the school day normally ends at 3:00, don’t expect a reply from the teacher after that time. Realize that other parents are likely confused, frustrated and have contacted the one teacher numerous times. Some teachers are teaching full classes of students, totaling over 100 students per day. Some teachers are without help with childcare or may have lost a friend, family member or student while being quarantined and are unable to properly grieve but continue to be there for your child and others. Teachers are still required to plan and write lesson plans, grade tests, write report cards and attend virtual meetings with their superiors all while caring for their own children, cooking, cleaning and trying to navigate getting essential groceries after they’ve finished teaching each day.

Here’s where you woosah, grab a glass of wine or mediate before replying to the teacher.

School districts provide a service to the school community. Teachers are on the front line so they get the pleasure of having to respond to irate parents who are oftentimes frustrated by a system the teacher did not create and cannot control.

I’m going to share a little secret with you. Everyone except for teachers and parents who were homeschooling prior to novel coronavirus is winging it. Homeschooling is different than virtual learning. Trust me, I’ve written homeschooling curricula and it requires experiences that parents cannot provide while being quarantined. School districts had no intention of teaching virtually on a consistent basis; therefore, they did not prepare for it. Scaling a half year of a full curriculum into a virtual curriculum in less than two weeks while in the midst of a pandemic without some missteps is unrealistic. So what have districts done? The best that they can. Since I’m being completely honest here, let’s take it a step further and realize that although teachers are true heroes, they are human. Some adapt extremely well to change and will go above and beyond to make the transition as painless as possible for families. Others oppose change and shut down when it’s imposed upon them.

Some districts are telling teachers how often and how to meet with students. Others leave it up to the teacher. Some school districts are requiring students to log in by 9 and work throughout the day, while others are simply requiring students to complete under two hours of work per day. In the example above, I’d email the teacher during school hours to request that s/he virtually meet with the child to clarify questions one additional day per week for extra help. Most teachers normally hold some form of office hours to provide extra help to students, so it’s not unheard of for a parent to make such a request.

If the teacher is flat out non-responsive, contact the principal/district to gain clarity on how often they expect teachers to meet with students. Make sure that you keep a log of time and dates that you’ve attempted to reach out to the teacher and the nature of their reply. If the teacher is not doing what s/he is supposed to by district standards, then you’ll have an email thread to share with her supervisors showing that you’re a concerned parent who is not getting the help your child needs.

Educationally speaking, we’re navigating uncharted territory. Clear communication is the only way we’re going to make it through this unprecedented time. We are all stressed out for a variety of reasons. Venting to a teacher and directing them how you want them to virtually teach your child may fall upon deaf ears. When contacting your child’s teacher while under stay at home orders be specific regarding requests and understanding when it comes to limitations, also keep in mind that the parent-teacher relationship is professional in nature and correspondences should be sent and recorded accordingly and be realistic.

xo, Natasha

Chambrie P.