It’s hard to trust a stranger with your baby. Teachers get that. Teachers appreciate any information you think will help your child be successful in his/her classroom. But before you sit down to write that email, please consider the following suggestions.
Suggestion 1: If you are going to send a letter, don’t wait until the night before school starts.
Teachers, as a general rule, are Type A perfectionists. Their seating charts/classroom organizers, etc. are done at least a week, if not two weeks in advance. If you have particular requests, make sure to state them in a polite, non-confrontational way at least a week before school. Ideally, reach out to school shortly after you receive your teacher assignment. That way the teacher has all of the necessary information while they are standing in front of a blank slate of a classroom rather than a meticulously organized one.
The other option is to let your child live in the classroom for a week or two and then lend the teacher your support. Some teachers like to get to know a child before they learn all of the nitty-gritty details. Once again, the first week of school is paperwork heavy on both the teachers’ and parents’ parts and best to avoid if you are looking for meaningful communication.
Suggestion 2: Make sure to spell the teacher’s name correctly!
This seems silly to say but it is the truth! As the chorus/general music teacher in my building, I frequently receive emails addressed to “Dear music teacher” or “Dear Band teacher.” (I am not the band teacher!) You can’t expect a teacher to pay attention to your every wish if you don’t take the time to do your research. Take a moment and look up the teacher’s name and then check the spelling again before you press send. It can make all the difference in the world.
Suggestion 3: Keep it short
When you sit down to write the letter, it helpful to assume that every parent is writing the same letter. Now imagine that you are the teacher and have to read all 24-30 letters and be expected to memorize utilize and confer with families on the results. Are you overwhelmed yet? I am! The best approach to writing a well-received “I’d like to tell you about my child letter” is to keep it concise. Decide on the three major points you would like the teacher to be aware of. For example, address seating requests (proximity to teacher/need for space, etc), reasonable sensory breaks/techniques (gum for a sensory seeker, wall push-ups, puddy in the desk), and specific verbal cues the psychologist has given you to help your child deal with unexpected changes in routine. Include your phone number and e-mail and let them know you will check in after a few weeks to see if he/she has any questions. Finish it with a Kind Regards or Sincerely, and send it off.
If for any reason you can’t keep your letter short then a before school conference might be best where you can have a conversation with the teacher. Long emails get lost.
Suggestion 4: Don’t wait until Open House
I teach 450 students a year. Every year at Open House, I have several parents who want to discuss, in depth, how their child is doing. Unfortunately, Open House is not the time for deep discussions. Check in with the teacher and if necessary, schedule a meeting at a later date. If you are using all of the teacher’s time that evening, other parents are missing out on getting face time with the teacher.
Suggestion 5: Don’t forget the Music, Art, PE, Library and other specialists
Don’t assume that the classroom teacher is going to relay the information you give him/her to the specialists who also see your child. Once again, remember that the poor grade level teacher is trying to balance a lot of new bodies and needs. Help a teacher out and copy the other adults into your teacher letter. That way everyone is on the same page and you will start the year clearly. One year when I had a child with a severe peanut allergy, we had the parents go through all of our materials and confirm what was safe for her child to use. We looked at the paint the art teacher used and the instruments I used. She taught us the best way to disinfect items that had accidentally been shared and really set us up for a spectacular few years with her son.
Suggestion 6: Send brief updates throughout the school year
If something changes, let people know! Remind teachers that you are here as a resource. Thank them for the help they are giving your child. Teachers usually hear from parents only when something is wrong. We are humans, and like any human, we love a little praise now and then!
Hopefully, these suggestions will give you guidance as you set about writing this year’s challenging letter. Stretch your arms, crack your knuckles, and dig in! You’ve got this! I wish you all the best as you begin a new school year!