Have you been wondering how to have that conversation? How to talk to your child’s teacher about concerns? Let’s talk about that today.
First off, let’s start with some perspective about teachers. Little insight into the psyche of the teacher and that’s going to help us to approach them.
Teachers Are People Too
Number one – “teachers are people too” That should go without saying. Right? But that’s going to be important as I share some tips with you about how to approach them. They are people; they are human beings with real feelings and with history and with families and with a background.
You may not be aware of what some of that is. But remember that as we talk about how we’re going to approach them.
Teachers Are In It For The Money
Number two – “teachers are in it for the money.” Not! Right? This is a traditional problem that we have in the education system. Teachers are some of the most underpaid professionals in the whole world. They’re not in it for the money. That might beg the next question. What are they in it for?
And my experience with teachers, overwhelmingly is that they are in it for the difference that they can make in this world. They’re in it for the love that they have for children and the education of those children. These people tend to be passionate about what they’re doing, and they are not in it for the money.
That’s why I wanted to make that point. They’re probably not paid even close to what they’re worth and thank you for those teachers who are reading this article. Thank you for your diligent service to our young people.
Teachers Sincerely Want To Assist Your Child To Succeed
The third point that I want to make here. Ties right into what we just talked about. By and large, I know that there are notable exceptions here and there. But probably it’s not your teacher, so get that out of your head. Teachers sincerely want to assist your child to succeed. They frankly wish to that. That’s what they’re working for.
Now, with all of those assumptions in place, it’s going to help us to come up with an effective way to talk to that teacher about a concern that we have.
It remembers that first point that teachers are people. They are human beings with real feelings. Treat them with respect. Remember what works for you. Start and open. This is my first tip. Start with appreciation. That’s where you begin.
So that you’re sharing, “you know, I appreciate what you did with the class recently as you did that special project. That must have taken a lot of work on your part” Now, whatever that special project was, isn’t important. What I’m saying is get specific about something that teacher has done for your child. Express the appreciation for that. You open with gratitude and appreciation.
Stay in front of your but
That’s number one. The little point about this real quick stay in front of you but. But spelled B-U-T, okay? Because read carefully this, “I appreciate everything that you’re doing for my child.” What’s the next word? “But”… No! People that destroy the communication. Stay in front of your but. Meaning, when that but word comes up, stay in front of that.
You don’t have to say what was coming after the but. I know you have a concern. We’re going to bring up the concern, not after we say the word but.
When you say but, it means, “forget what I just said, here’s what I mean” And it tends to bring people’s defenses up. It completely invalidates what you were about to say. So rather than saying but, stay in front of your but. Express appreciation, lead with that gratitude and then pause for a moment.
Where he had chill for a sec, you don’t have to keep talking. Pause and let that teacher feel your appreciation, your gratitude for who they are. This is strategic too.
Okay, now I want it to be genuine. Don’t pretend because they’ll see, right through that. It’s genuine, but it’s also strategic, and the strategy part of this is you’re going to align with that teacher. You’re going to get on the same page so that we can address the concern more effectively.
Now, after leading with the gratitude and the appreciation, being authentic about that, staying in front of your but, aligning with that teacher. Now we can get to the concern, and we’ve created an environment where it’s more likely to be received.
Think about it. If you skip the gratitude part and you jump right to the concern, what kind of response are you likely to get from that human teacher? Defensiveness. Okay, they’re working their guts out to help these kids including your kid, and if you approach them first with a concern, they’re going to be like. “whoa!” If you approach them with the appreciation and you acknowledge and respect them as a person, who is committed to serving your child, that’s going to create this warm connection that you can bring up the concern.
Now, when you bring up the matter, describe what you have observed without blaming and without criticizing. Leave those parts out. It’s merely a behavioral description or an observation of what you’ve observed.
For example, I’ve noticed that Johnny comes home upset about math class. Okay, we’re not blaming or criticizing anyone. Or here’s another example. You know my little Lauren came home the other day and she reported that Billy had been stealing things out of her desk. Okay, so we’re not blaming anybody. We’re not criticizing anyone — especially not the teacher. We’re merely observing and describing as accurately as we can what we have observed.
So that would be step number two – Use an apparent description without blame and without criticism.
Invite Teacher To Join With You
Now, let’s get into step number three. This is so powerful because we’ve been working up to this. What we’re doing is creating an alliance with that teacher. So step three is that we will “invite the teacher to join with us in solving the problem.”
Notice we’re not going to dish it off on the teacher. We’re not going to demand that they change something. We’re not going to dictate how this is going to happen from now on because we’re the parent. We’re going to invite that teacher to collaborate with us on the same team to solve this problem.
One great way to do this is to ask at this point for their input or their observations or their ideas about what might help this concern.
Here’s an example. “So what have you noticed or what have you observed that you think might help Johnny with this issue?” And then you pause again, You back off. You listen. Be sincerely interested in what that wise teacher has to share with you. If you esteem them as a wise teacher, they’re going to feel that and they’re going to step up.
This is all about the psychology of interacting with someone who’s already enrolled in the success of your child. They want their student to succeed as much as you want your child to succeed. So let’s team-up. That third step is an important way to collaborate and invite the teacher to join with you. I think we can handle those concerns.
Let’s see what we can do to communicate those in a way that’s friendly toward that teacher and has us on the same team.
Teachers are people too, aren’t they? You might want to share this with your child’s teacher, or someone else who you think would benefit. Please share.