Communication 101: UT Expert Offers Tips on Talking with Children’s Teachers

As schools gear up for parent-teacher conferences, it’s important for parents to share concerns to ensure children have the greatest chance of academic success.

Matt Devereaux, a child development specialist and an associate professor in the UT Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, offers the following suggestions to help parents navigate conversations with teachers during the conferences and throughout the school year:

Share—Communicate early and often. Parents should share as much as they can with teachers, particularly about home or life matters, like divorce, that may affect a child’s behavior in school.

“If a teacher is aware of that, he or she can pay more attention to the child,” he said, adding that “teachers are basically surrogate parents while they’re in school.”

Prepare—If a matter troubles you, bring it to the teacher’s attention right away.

“Don’t let issues boil up,” he said.

But know what questions you’re going to ask and why you’re asking them.

“You need to be able to back up your concerns,” Devereaux said.

Trust—Trust that your children’s teachers do know what they’re doing and have a youngster’s best interest in mind.

“Give them a chance,” he said.

Stay informed—Read everything that comes home, from newsletters to announcements.

“There are so many parents who do not read them,” he said. “They’re out of the loop.”

Volunteer—The best way for parents to stay in communication with the teacher and school is to help out in the classroom or participate in school functions.

“It’s also a great way to find out who all the kids are, from the troublemakers to the sweet kids,” he said.

CONTACT:

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lola.alapo@tennessee.edu)

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