Communicating with your school
Teachers talk about the importance of staying in touch with your child's school.
At a glance:
- Helping out when you can also builds good relationships and aids communication.
- Notes, email or phone calls are all good.
- Make an appointment to discuss issues.
- Stay calm when discussing problems.
- Take a support person with you if you need to.
- Inform the school knows of family issues affecting your child, such as illness or divorce.
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Staying in contact with your child's school is really important. Here's how to make it easier for busy parents.
Communication is probably one of the most important parts of the relationship between the school and home.
Don't be afraid to call the school if you have even the simplest of problems. We deal with this every day – small and big issues.
Some people are quite busy. Parents might find it easier to email the school. Whether it be absentee notes, or whether they have questions for the principal or the teacher.
Often parents – if they can't get us on the phone, we've had parents send us emails, which is great because we can answer those straight away. They'll send us a fax – we'll answer that. There's more than one way to keep in touch with the school.
Lots of parents can feel daunted and I guess it could come from their own experiences at school.
I'm a parent as well. My daughter comes to the school. I guess that gives me a little bit of inside knowledge but, by any means if I have any worries or if she's displaying aspects that she's having trouble with her school work, I definitely would feel comfortable speaking to a teacher about it.
As a parent it's much easier to have difficult conversations about your child's behaviour, with the teacher, if you've established a relationship with them at the start of the year.
We need parents, really, to build a community, as that's what our school is. I encourage parents to be part of the school life.
Coming in and helping out with reading, maths groups it might be or even art in the afternoon. You might have a talent in art, talk to the teacher and say "I'd love to come in and do some art lessons". Quite often that's a good way of very casually talking to the teacher, seeing what's going on in the room.
Each school has a P and C, to be part of the P and C is a great way to meet other parents within the school environment, form friendships and to be part of that school culture.
If you can't help on a regular basis in the school, there are other things you can do during the year just by offering your time and the teacher will always be grateful of that. Things like covering books, helping out to make costumes for perhaps an item that's coming up.
We run "meet the teacher" nights. Come along to those, they're good nights. A lot of schools have a barbeque that night. They're very, very informal nights and they're a good way to meet your child's teacher on a one-to-one, friendly basis as well.
It's important to go in for those parent-teacher interviews that are at set times, but I think it's very important to keep that relationship open at other times of the year.
When there's a problem at school the parents get very anxious and agitated if something's happening with their child. We encourage them to come in and talk to us about it. Now if they can't come in personally, a phone call is all they need to do.
There's an appropriate time to speak to teachers. In class is not a good time, but there are break times, there is always after and before school and most teachers will make themselves available to do so. We can come in early – that's not a problem.
I'm happy to talk to parents over the phone- or carers- to sort it out. Sometimes we get stories mixed up, and we need to see both sides.
We tell our parents here all the time "If they come home and react in such a volatile way, ring the school first and you'll probably find out it's not as big as it was – always contact the school.
It's often really a good idea when approaching a school not to go there with ‘guns blazing' go in and say, "This is just how my child feels"
When you've got a problem or an issue with your child , think about what's the outcome you want to see achieved by the school.
It's really important when there is any change in a family's situation, they let us know. Just a phone call will do, just say "look, this has happened."
If you change your phone number, let us know straight away. With split families we like to know when the children are with mum, when the children are with dad, so that we can make allowances if they've left homework or they've left gear behind, we can assist them with that.
When it comes to newsletters, we'll often send two newsletters home, to make sure they've both got a copy.
When there's a parent-teacher interview, we're quite happy to have separate interviews. If there are any copies of court orders or special requests, bring them in and we'll photocopy them, so that we've got a copy.
Ben van Aanholt
One of the things that I would like to think principals have an understanding of is there's no expert in parenting, there's no one right formula.
Most of us are parents too we've been - or are – on the journey and we know it's complicated and we are there to help you. Our job is a helping, supporting role.
Communication between the school and parents is really important. Sometimes your child may not be thrilled about the fact that you would like to be in touch with the school but we would encourage parents to do that, to call or make appointments to speak with teachers about what's happening with their child.
Ben van Aanholt
My suggestion is that if you personally feel uncomfortable about contacting the school or going to the school, ask somebody to come with you. A family member, a friend.
Principals are used to having support people come, and they understand that it's not easy to go to the principal's office.
My advice to parents: "Don't be scared." It's a partnership.
And you'll find more videos and articles about being involved in your child's school life at www.schoolatoz.com.au
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