Talking To Teachers When There’s A Bad Progress Report

In our last post, we discussed ways to speak with your child in the event that his/her progress report is disappointing.  Sometimes, contact with your child’s teachers is warranted as part of an overall plan to ensure that your child is in the best position for success.  We’d like to share with you some tips for approaching your student’s teacher when his/her grades turn out to be not what everyone was hoping for.

Here are 4 tips to help turn things around:

  1. Don’t.  Resist the urge to contact the teacher until you have made certain to put your child in the central communication role.  “I want you to talk to your English teacher about your poor test grades.  Ask if there is any opportunity for make-up or extra credit.  See what (s)he can suggest to you about how to improve your grade.  Will you have a chance to talk with him this afternoon?”
  2. Consider using email to contact the teacher rather than calling.  However, be sure to consider the following:
    • Remember that teachers are inundated with hundreds if not thousands of pieces of paper and messages each month.
    • Use email sparingly.  Do not email frequently.
    • Do not expect an immediate answer.  Emails that ask for response within a week would be appreciated more than an email about tomorrow’s field trip.
    • It’s okay to write a really long email if you have a lot of things that you feel you need to convey.  Do not do this often.  Do not expect an immediate response.  Do not expect an elaborate response.  An email such as this might be appropriate at the beginning of the year, for example, to explain any special history or concern about your child.
    • Do not ask a teacher for an explanation via email.  See (a.) above.  Use email to ask a specific question that can be answered in a single sentence.
    • If you want to express something that could be interpreted as negative, critical, sensitive, etc., do not use email to do it.  It is really easy to misinterpret emotion in emails.
  3. Use email or voicemail to request the opportunity to speak with the teacher in person, or ask in person when a good time to talk further might be.  Suggest a range of times that the teacher can reach you or that you could commit to meet with the teacher.
  4. Say something positive!  Even if you are contacting the teacher about a problem, pad it with positive.  For example, “I’m concerned about Carly’s poor grade on her recent test.  She tells me she likes the class and wants to improve.  I know she benefits from the notes you put on the board, so thank you for that!  Is there any chance that Carly can get any extra support at school in the way of help sessions at lunch or after school?”

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