It can be difficult to determine just when and how often you should be in contact with your child’s teacher. Many parents may opt to wait for the quarterly or bi-annually sanctioned Parent-Teacher Conferences, but you can actually contact their teacher at any point in the school year if you feel it is necessary.
Remember, you know your child better than anyone and your input can ensure your child is receiving the personalized attention he deserves. If possible, contact the teacher in writing so that you have a record of the conversation and the topics discussed. If you prefer to talk to the teacher in person, keep a journal of the times you spoke with the teacher and the topics discussed. We often recommend parents send a follow-up email to a teacher after a conservation. The email can briefly summarize what was discussed and thank the teacher for taking the time to look into the proposed issues.
Having a record of these discussions is important because schools often attempt to excuse their failure to help a child by claiming they were unaware of the problem. It is far easier to convince the school to take action when you can show an issue has been persistent and has been consistently brought to the teacher’s attention.
We know, it can be a bit intimidating at first. However, your input can call attention to problems that have been overlooked in the classroom setting. Speaking with a teacher about issues you notice at home encourages the teacher to pay closer attention to your child. Also, remember that the general education teacher is usually not an expert in Special Education or the programs offered by their School District. Just because a teacher tells you something is not possible does not mean that is true. It is often the case that the Assistant Principal, or school district personnel, are more familiar with the options available to assist your child. We also recommend speaking to an attorney to ensure you are aware of all of your options.
Here are a few signs that it might be time to call your child’s teacher:
1. Your child is suddenly acting out or behaving differently.
Children, especially young children, are not the best at articulating how they feel. If your son or daughter hasn’t really had a problem with behavioral issues before, then this could be a sign that he or she is anxious about something. Be sure to ask the teacher whether or not the behavioral problems start at a particular time of day or if they happen to be all day or random. If your child tends to act out before a certain subject or activity, then perhaps they may feel intimidated by the subject. If your child’s teacher claims she doesn’t notice any changes in school ask them to pay closer attention to your child and then regularly check-in with the teacher for updates.
2. Your child seems to have trouble paying attention and struggles with focus.
If the teacher shares that they also struggle with getting your little one to focus, ask what the teacher is doing to ensure the child’s focus is reset. Options include, changing seating, more personal attention, modifying the curriculum, or exploring a number of other interventions to ensure your child is learning. Remember, the school has an obligation to ensure your child is making progress. It may also help to take your child for a visit to their pediatrician.
3. You suspect your kid may be being bullied, or may be bullying other children. The effects of bullying can sometimes show itself in a child’s school performance. In this case, it could be useful to bring this to the teacher’s attention so that they can come up with a plan of action to ensure your son or daughter feels safe while at school. It is completely unacceptable for your child to feel unsafe at school. We never recommend a child be sent into an unsafe environment. If the school is unwilling to provide a safe environment for your child we recommend contacting an attorney immediately. This also applies if your child is bullying another student. The school has an obligation to ensure no child is a danger to other students.
4. Your child never wants to go to school.
Maybe something has happened that you missed, or one of the above reasons is troubling them, but a good way to get to the bottom of this feeling is to discuss it with your child’s teacher, who may already be helping your child deal with the issue or has also noticed a lack of motivation from your student.
Oftentimes, the rough patch can be remedied and solved with a lot of teamwork between parents and teacher. The best thing to do for not only your relationship with the teacher, but also for your child’s relationship with their teacher, is to stay calm and ask the right questions. In fact, come with a list of questions already written out so that you don’t miss anything and you can ensure all ground is covered. Remember that the teacher is not the last stop when attempting to obtain assistance for your child. Most times, discussing issues with the teacher is the first step in a long path to obtaining Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child.
Lastly, remember that if you feel that your child is entitled to more special education services than they are currently receiving, the attorneys at Holloway & Kimberlin, LLC are happy to offer you and your family a free consultation. We can also discuss information you have been given by your teacher and evaluate if it is correct. We recently had a client who was given completely incorrect information about IEPs from the classroom teacher. Our experience in Special Education can aid parents in navigating our complex system of public education.