How to Talk with Your Child's Teacher

If you want to improve communication with your child's teacher, this episode is for you. The Public Speaker shares tips from educational leadership expert, Cynthia Compton, on how teachers, parents, and children can work together toward growth and learning--so that everyone benefits. 

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #262

It’s back-to-school time, so I thought I’d create a back-to-school episode! Today, I want to share tips for communicating more effectively with your child’s teacher.>

As a parent, today's topic is one that I wish I had a bit more guidance on. So I turned to reader, Cynthia Compton, who is a professor in the area of educational leadership.

Cynthia had written to ask me if I would write an episode on parent-teacher communication. It turns out that Cynthia has been in education since 1977, and has worked as a teacher in middle school and high school—and later, as a school administrator. She certainly knows quite a bit about education! I thought a collaboration would be perfect, so I asked Cynthia for a little help in creating this episode.

Here are our top tips for improving parent-teacher talks:

What is the Goal?

Cynthia told me that, as with any communication, it is important to first think about what you would like to have happen as a result of the having the conversation. Before speaking with your child’s teacher, think carefully about the goal. What is it that is most important to discuss?

Teachers are People, Too!

Next, keep in mind that teachers are people--just like you! They have families, they have work pressures, and they are doing the best they can. Today, teachers are often evaluated on how much growth your child shows from the beginning to the end of the school year. They want your child, along with the 19+ (if you are lucky) other kids in the classroom, to be as successful as possible, given the administrative constraints they must adhere to. Ultimately, it important to always keep in mind that you both have the same common goal: to ensure growth and learning for your child.

Make an Appointment

If the teacher contacts you, don’t get defensive or apologetic. On the other hand, if you want to speak with the teacher, don’t try to have a quick (or worse, an extended) conversation during drop-off or pick-up. Although it may appear the teacher is available, these times in the classroom are often busy. 

If a conference is coming up, ask yourself if your talk can wait for that time. If it’s more urgent, it’s better to schedule a time to address the issue. By making an appointment, you are being respectful of the teacher’s time, and you'll also ensure that you'll have the teacher’s full attention.

Oh, and if you call or send an email to set up an appointment, don’t expect an immediate response.--teachers are in the classroom all day, and may be coaching or tutoring after school, so give them at least a day to respond. 


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.