How do you write an email to your child’s teacher? Seems simple enough, right? Just type up your thoughts and hit send. But you might be surprised at the handful of oddly worded, grumpy, or just plain mean emails even an amazing teacher, ehem.. like myself, might receive.
I feel I have a unique perspective on the matter: I have been teaching for the last 7 years and I have a child who recently started attending school and has unique needs. In reality, parent-teacher communication is a part of my daily life, on both sides of the fence. While I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert, I do have a few thoughts on the matter.
As a Teacher
Awhile back, I received and email that started out with “Don’t you realize….” and proceeded with a large list of complaints that ended with a demand.
Here is the context: I received this email on my phone. I saw it pop up on my phone at 7:30am as I was walking my own child to his classroom to start his day. I was immediately flustered, and fought the urge to view it right then. Instead, I focused on my kiddo’s normal routine, rushed to my school to be “on duty” and then start my first period class. But with three simple words, a parent immediately set me on the defensive, regardless of the content that followed. As I read the email, I realized they had read my last email wrong. I send out weekly emails to all my classes. I wanted to be snippy and reply “Do you realize this email was intended for ALL of my 130 students and their parents as a reminder of their homework” but I took a breath, held my tongue, and decided to type a point by point response on my planning period.
Less than an hour later, the head of one department politely interrupted my class. She had received a phone call from a parent. “Had I responded to their email yet?” “No”, I replied, “I’ve been teaching all morning.” It’s rather embarrassing to have a parent “go over your head.” In the end, I typed my response, the parent seemed satisfied, and the student’s needs were being met. But I did spend the majority of the morning rather tense.
Truth: Teachers have feelings and we take our job seriously. And we honestly love your kid, even when they are tough. – I lose sleep worrying about your child. I feel deeply. My job often interrupts my personal life.
As a teacher, I try to remember this:
- That child is the center of that parent’s universe. The fact they contacted you means they care, even if they reacted out of emotion. They are their child’s advocate and safety net. It’s a big job and it’s tough. (These words were on repeat in my head as I read and re-read that particular email)
- Be both professional and sensitive when you choose your words. The behaviors and struggles you see with that child, are often worse and harder at home. (This was actually advice a teacher gave me when I first started teaching, and has proven time an again to be true)
Flip side – As a Parent
I email my son’s teacher on a weekly basis. But, a few weeks ago, he went from doing really well to three epic meltdowns in three days. One was bad enough they called my husband, who happens to be the primary contact since he can actually answer his phone and leave work during the day. By the third day, I wanted to scream, “What’s wrong! What changed! Why is my little boy so angry!” Instead, I took a deep breath and thought back to how I wished more parents would respond to me.
I structured a response using a few guidelines I set for myself:
- Don’t take an accusatory tone. Placing blame won’t solve anything and immediately places a teacher on the defensive. Just say what happened.
- Let them know what you noticed and ask them what they suggest as solutions. Remember: You are the expert on your child but they are the expert in the classroom. Feel free to offer suggestions, but sometimes what works at home is hard to adapt to the classroom environment.
- End or begin each email with some form of gratitude or appreciation. Most teachers are trying their absolute best even on a rough day.
I have a friend, who posts on her social media all the amazing things that her child’s teacher does to meet his individualized needs. Yes! Your teacher would love you to brag on them when they go above and beyond, not just gripe when we mess up.
- After your email is sent, allow processing time. Our district asks us to respond to parent emails within 24 hours. I’m sure other’s have similar rules. Don’t expect an immediate response, even though you might get it. The teacher is in a classroom full of students. We rarely have time to use the restroom, except on our designated planning period. If it’s that urgent: call the teacher. And don’t go over their head until you have given them time to respond.
So, my email looked something like this:
Thank you for keeping us updated and handling the meltdowns this week. Since he had three meltdowns in a row this week and none last week, I’m not sure what is different. I noticed, each day he had meltdown, he didn’t each his lunch. Is he eating the school snack? At home, his meltdowns are worse when he doesn’t eat much. Could this be a factor? What could we do about it?
We actually had about three emails back and forth, but in the end the teacher suggested he take a sensory break before lunch. And it helped. Problem solved… until the next one arises.
In the end, I’m glad to be working for a district whose motto is “To love every child.” I’m doing my best to follow that in my classroom. In return, my hope is that my child will be loved and cared for by his teachers. After all, It takes a village!
Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!