By Mairead Leong
How to Introduce Yourself to Your Student’s Teachers
The start of another school year brings the usual host of high pressure events: making sure your student has school supplies, finding a sufficiently “cool” book bag, re-establishing a school year schedule, and, of course, meeting your student’s teacher or teachers. While the other tasks are important, establishing communication with your student’s teacher is a critical step in helping your student succeed.
When Should I Introduce Myself?
This is a key question and is very much dependant on the age of your student. If your student is in the lower grades (pre-K, kindergarten, first grade), sooner is definitely better. If your student’s school will allow you to walk your child to class, plan to do so and get there 15 to 20 minutes early. This way, you can briefly speak to the teacher without disrupting a lesson.
If your student assures you that s/he will die of embarrassment should you set foot in the classroom, visit lunch or after school and speak with the teacher then. If this is not feasible, call the school and leave the teacher a message with your name, phone number and/or email. If your school arranges Parent-Teacher Nights or Back to School Nights, be sure to attend and meet the teacher in person.
Most middle and high school classes have a syllabus. Many teachers put an email address on the class syllabus; it is worth emailing the teachers of any subjects in which you think your child may need help or have difficulty. Since middle and high school students are more independent, it is generally considered acceptable to wait for Parent-Teacher Night or a PTA meeting before introducing yourself to the rest of the teachers. However, if your student has medical issues or an IEP/504, do call the school and schedule earlier conferences with your child’s teachers.
Why Do I Need to Introduce Myself?
This teacher is going to spend a year working with your student. The teacher will be the one grading your student. The teacher will see your student in a capacity you cannot — interacting with his/her peers in class. By introducing yourself to the teacher and establishing yourself as a concerned parent, you are giving the teacher a clear message that you want to be a part of your child’s education. You are also giving the teacher a way to get in touch with you, should the need arise.
If the teacher notices something (depression, bullying, a talent that your student should look into developing), you want to know about it ASAP. Likewise, if your student has completed precisely zero assignments and is causing trouble, would you rather know before or after a report card comes home? If you have given your student’s teacher a phone number or email address, you will have a chance to work on the problem before it reaches critical mass or to receive good news about your student.
What Should I Say?
The important thing is to strike a balance between candor and oversharing. The teacher does not need to know your student’s favorite flavor of ice cream and shoe size. However, the teacher does need to know if your student has medical issues, trouble with reading comprehension, or difficulty in certain subjects. If your child is on an IEP or 504, share that information as well. (The teacher should have a copy, but schools sometimes misplace the paperwork. Check to be sure the teacher has it!)
End the conversation on a cordial note: “I’m so glad we got a chance to talk. Here is my phone number and here is my email address. Feel free to call or email if anything comes up!”
Talking to your student’s teacher is an important component for being part of your student’s education. By letting the teacher know that s/he can contact you if things go either poorly or well, you can get advance notice of problems or successes. Initiating contact with your student’s teacher can greatly improve the student’s chances of success in that class.