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Ages & Stages

Communicating Effectively with School Personnel

Parents should be knowledgeable about the educational program their child is receiving and should be actively involved with the school. The first step toward productive involvement is to know the members of the school staff. After all, these are the people with whom your child spends a large percentage of her life and on whom you and she depend for her getting a good education. Many parents meet their child's teacher, principal, and the school secretary during an open house at school or at the first parent-teacher conference. However, you might find it helpful to meet these individuals earlier in the school year. Demonstrate your interest and involvement early.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that the first few days and weeks of the school year are quite busy. So if you need more than just five minutes to introduce yourself and exchange brief greetings, respect the demands on the teacher's time by calling and setting up an appointment beforehand. Teachers cannot stop their classroom activities when a parent arrives.

During the first week of school many teachers explain their expectations for the child's work and classroom behavior, as well as the consequences of not complying with these rules. If you make sure your child understands the guidelines early, you can help her get off to a good start in the class. If she does not know what the teacher's expectations are after a week or two, contact the teacher. (Some teachers have the class participate in setting expectations for classroom behavior and consequences, so there may be a natural delay.)

Teachers vary in the way they communicate their plans for the year to par­ents. Some will send out a memo in the first two weeks. Others do not present that information until parents' night. Ask when you will be receiving informa­tion about the curriculum and plans for homework and various projects. If you feel you need the information sooner, set up a meeting or perhaps a phone call for a quick overview.

While most schools will encourage you to stay in touch with your child's teacher, be aware of some of the difficulties involved in doing so. There are ef­fective ways to deal with these problems. Sending a note to the teacher is an excellent way to establish contact about many issues. Let the teacher know specifically what you need. (This is preferable to "Please give me a call.") Teachers may have limited access to telephones. They must remain with their students most of the day, and many schools have only one phone in the office. Many times, teachers can send home a note with the information you want. If you would like to be called instead, let the teacher know your phone number and convenient times to reach you. During your first contact, ask how the teacher would prefer to be reached in the future.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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