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Communicating With Your Child's School

Knowing how to contact the right person at your child's school can make you a more effective advocate.

By GreatSchools Staff

Knowing who does what in your child's school--and figuring out the best ways to communicate with school staff--can help you to be effective in supporting your child's success.

It used to be that parents called the school secretary or PTA president for basic information about what was going on at the school. While the school secretary still provides important information (see the article What Does the School Secretary Do?), many schools now have additional ways of communicating with parents.

For instance, a growing number of schools are using Web sites, voice mail systems and email to provide parents with information on upcoming school events, testing dates, school policies, and academic programs and more. An increasing number of teachers also email information to parents regarding homework assignments, field trip notices and class projects. At the elementary and middle school levels, many schools send home with students a weekly newsletter containing a full list of things going on at the school. At the high school level, the PTA often takes on the task of communicating with the parents.

Sometimes you'll want to talk to the school to address problems or express concerns. A good rule of thumb is to begin by communicating with the person closest to your concern. For instance, if your child does not seem to have homework, it makes sense to ask the teacher for an explanation. If you don't get an adequate response, try contacting the principal.

Sometimes you may want to call someone at the school about a highly emotional issue, such as a conflict your child may be having with another child. As a general rule, avoid calling when angry; always allow yourself a "cooling off" period before addressing a potentially divisive issue unless it's an emergency. And remember that no matter how the situation may feel, school personnel do want to work with parents to resolve problems for students.

Key Contact Information

At the start of each school year, gather the information in the list below; keep it on hand so that when issues arise you can go straight to the right person. Some of the information below can be found on a school's profile; other details you can learn by contacting the school itself.

  • School telephone number and school secretary name
  • PTA president name, telephone number and email address
  • School newsletter frequency
  • Principal email address
  • School Web site URL
  • Teacher email addresses and voice mail telephone numbers, if available

Comments from readers

"Is it okay to Facebook with your child's teachers? "
"To all parents who have isssues with the staff from schools which your child/children attends. Alot of parents think that they can't do anything and are afraid to speak up. Don't let the Principal, Secretary, Teachers, or even school aides fool you! You as a parent have the power! School officials have no right to tell you, you can't do this, you can't do that especially knowing that they let other parents do it. Maybe because they speak up and they voice out their opinion in what they believe is right and wrong. Parents have RIGHTS!!! If you don't have a school "Parent Handbook" request for one. Parents that have trouble with the school principal, bring it up to the higher ups! They do have people that are higher than them you know. File a complaint through the Board of Education, I would. Do not be afraid of anyone in your child's school, when you show them that your afraid, they will step all over you. Don't wait till something bad happens because you might just end up somewhere you wouldn't want to be. When my daughter was first grade, I wanted to meet with all her teachers. Her language arts teacher, math teacher, and reading teacher. The first and second teacher didn't have a problem with me staying in the room to observe how they teach and observe how other students act in their class. The last one though was a different story, her reading teacher. I walked my daughter in class then I found an empty chair in the back of the room. As I sat down, the first thing her reading teacher told me was "oh! Mommy, you can wait outside for your child". She wanted me to wait till the class was over! I responded with a "No, it's okay, I'll wait right here". She was in shock. I guess because I'm the first parent that actually disagreed with her wanting. She mention to me that she doesn't want her students to be distracted. I told her, don't worry I'll help you out by telling them to turn around. Of course word got around and things go around among the school staff to watch out for me. I was told by one of the school staff that I was different from the rest of the parents. Now my daughter is 2nd grade, the school that she attends knows me very well. When I do get down to walk her to class, I get this "Good Morning, Mrs. I! Is everything okay?" or "Is there a problem?" or even a "Haven't seen you in awhile!" Why? Because any little thing I'm right on it. And you should be too. My point is this: Take action now or forever complain to yourself or other people. Put your complain on black and white and send it off to Board of Education. SPEAK UP! BE HEARD! No one else is going to talk for you. I'm not trying to be mean but you'll never learn if you keep it to yourselves. "
"Excellent advice and information."
"New York City Schools have Parent Coordinators. Their job is to assist parents, encourage parent involvment and to support student achievement. They help parents navigate the school system. They are the best to contact first when you have a question or concern. "
"I wanted to take some goodie to my childs classroom for a holloween party and the office staff mem. did not allow me to take the goodies myself.I asked for a campus pass to take the party favors and was refussed to have a pass.Another time my child had for got thier lunch box,so I took my childs lunch box to the office and ask if I could have a pass to go on campus and give the lunch to my childs teacher,and again was refussed a campus pass.After the staff mem. had said no to me to have a pass,a parent came in and asked for a pass to give thier childs homework to that students teacher,which that parent was NOT refussed a pass.Then my child started to be bullied on the playground durning resses.I desided to talk to the principal about the problem,or if it would be a problem if I could watch my child on the playground from the otherside of the fence to see what was really happening to my child at resses,sence I had been refussed a pass every time.He said it would be o.k. to do! so,and when I did I got a phone call from the principal threating me that if I talk to his student from the otherside of of the fence he was going to call the cops.HOW SHOULD I HANDLE THIS PROBLEM W/OUT LOSSING MY COOL???These are just a few things that have happened,these problems been going on sence my child has been attending this school."
"I was living with my family for years and my child was attending the same public school for years. She is now in 11th grade. My family moved. I am told I can't continue to send my child to the same school since I don't live in the same public school district. If I continue to send her then I will have to pay over $10,000. To take her out of that school when she is so active would be to traumatic. What or who can help."
"i would like info as to if this school is connected with edline to review my child progerss online and to have connections to her teachers."
"I have a 10th grader whose has failed every subject the first two quarters. No one from the school has contacted me. What should I do or who should I call? "
"Not all teachers are great and not all teachers are bad teachers. The same goes for schools. Most teachers are glad for parental input when it comes to your child, however there are some who don't. It's hard to work with those who have a mindset in their manner of teaching a group of students as opposed to meeting the needs of your child. A certified letter to the school system will definitely get someone's attention. You are your child's advocate. It helps to go into a mtg. with your child's teachers with a good attitude. But nevertheless, know and have documented information about your child and know your rights as a parent and know the school's responsibilities for your child."
"A great teacher is one who will not tolerate bad behavior in class and actually calls the parent to explain the problem and also lets that parent come to that class with the child one day. This really works! Also she pays attention to those children who fall behind and she gets an older student to work with that child. "
"The article is good, as far as it goes. However, especially when dealing with some stronger issues, IE special education, bullying, harrassment, abuse, etc., complaints should ALWAYS be put into writing and sent via certified mail with a return postcard via the postal system. This provides documentation should a parent need to go beyond the school district's jurisdiction."
"Bravo Georgia! I strongly agree with your views regarding parental involvement in educating our own children. It is, through a conscientious awareness of their educational needs (both academic and social), that we must 'fill in the blanks' and bridge the gaps that span across the obvious, sometimes difficult gorges of life's questions and protocols. For those who rely solely upon the automatic, standard schedule of education, generally wind up with children with 'assembly line' qualities who often times fall short of yielding their full potential to society as well as their own personal success that eventually resurfaces down the road in their own sons and daughters. It takes little effort to utilize the 'Wash and Fold' offerings of our tax dollars these days. So if your feeling less than exhausted in tending to you child's educational needs, chances are your not doing enough. Jeff Murphy, Gilbert Arizona "
"Communication is not 'getting the anwer you want.' It is a discussion where the best interst of the child is what both parties are negotiating for. Simply complaining does not solve a problem. "
"This article sounds like a bunch of grown-ups whining! The only problem I see with our schools today, is lack of parent support. I do not send my children to a classroom of 25+ students with one teacher in the room, expecting that teacher to educate my child alone. It is MY responsibility to be aware of my childrens strengths and weaknesses as their teachers and I both educate them together...we are a team! If I do not understand an assignment, I write a note to the teacher saying so, and ask him/her to explain it again to my child. Education is a joint effort, the failing students are the ones without parental help. "
"Lafayette Parish High School: How can a parent communicate with teachers and administration when phone calls are never returned; or if you go to the school that person is not available at that time and still you are not contacted. What of phone calls daily with messages I'm still waiting on return phone calls and my oldest is 25 years old and my youngest is now 18. How long must I wait. "
"Here in Ascension Parish,Louisiana we have some of the greatest schools and with those schools we have great teachers that are there for the children.We thank them all. They are willing to talk to children and the parents at any time before school, during or after. We are growing all the time and are adding new schools so our teachers don't have to worry about the overload of children to each class and they can be more one on one if they need be. "
"My child went berserk on medication in grade one. I have had alot of experience working with teachers! My advice is to love them and treat them as you would like to be treated. If you do this at all times your course will be easier. Sometimes it is they that make mistakes and need to be forgiven. Other times it is you. Value your partnership. Speak gently. Take the time to listen. Consider the school as your 'broader culture'. It most certainly does take a village to raise our children. "
"keeping in contact with my child's teachers is someting that will alays be first priority.children may not give all available information about what's going on in school,particularly if there is a problem with another student or if they need help with something they don't understand.keping communication lines open between parents and teachers,positive or negative,is essential to our children's success.i have always felt more than comfortable talking to the teachers(and staff)at stony brook school in rockaway.the principal and 5 or 6 other teachers stand out front and greet the students when they get off the bus.they all know everyone's name!it's truly amazing at the amount of dedication and support from this school.i only wish that all schools could be like this one. "
"I Chose to send my son to a private Middle School after he completed a public Elementary School. His public Elementary School had great ratings from their MSSAP scores while his next (not in my lifetime) public Middle School had terrible ratings. So off he went to private school. I would really like to find a way for our community to turn this public school around and to begin a strict educational w/disipline program. I'm afraid noone will listen to me since I gave in to the system and left without trying. Any suggestions? "
"My husband and I were very skeptical about the public school system, as my husband completed 12 years of schooling, and was unable to read. Our skepticism disappeared with our first contact with San Andreas Elementary School. Our daughter,a graduating 3rd grader,has excelled. I have accompanied her, daily, to school, for the past 4 yrs, and find the teachers truly dedicated to the education of our children in the community! They are always available and encourage a true partnership between parents and teachers. The Principal of the school knows each and every child by name. How many schools can compare! "
"I am very saddened right now about the quality of my daughter's schools. I became aware in the first grade that the teachers were showing favortism to a particular group of students. I tried to become involved and was not accepted in their circle. Every time I went in to the school and questioned something my daughter was treated worse. One teacher said, 'I'm tired of you going home and telling your mother everything that goes on in this school.' She is at the end of the third grade now and guess what? The chosen children are going to the gifted program. I'm so discouraged, but not giving up. "
"The week before my 2nd grade daughter's holiday break the children were given no homework and watched 6 videos in four days. One of the videos they had watched in class was shown at night on a cable station and my daughter asked if she could watch it, because they had seen it at school. I was shocked at the inappropriate content and turned off the TV! I called the principal and asked about the frequeny/criteria for video watching at school. I asked the team teacher if this was the best teaching material available to them and why it was shown. Neither of them had answers, and I have been treated very cooly since. I work in the classroom every other week and am the homeroom parent. I do it for my daughter and for the other children in the class. If you show me parents who are involved, I will show you children who will succeed. I don't care if the teachers are upset that I called them on their very poor judgement or not! "
"What does a parent do when the same issues have been brought up again and again, yet no resolution? I have been extremely active in the school and district and frequently meet parents who feel the same as I. Unfortunately many of them leave the school/district and what's left are those students whose parents aren't involved or don't know that there are problems. I don't want to jeopardize my child's progress by continuing to press issues with the school. "
"From, Califoria 1/24/03: 'I completely agree that althought the emphasis appears to be on feedback and communication with your teacher and school staff,if the nature of feedback is not positive, then you may feel the wrath of the community of the school. Sadly, parents who truly are involved must hold back at times, picking their complaints carefully, in order to keep their same good standing and continue a good relationship with your teacher and school. I have comfronted some teachers regarding relative issues, however, I continue to show my appreciation and support no matter how the matter was resolved, because anyone teaching hopefull is there because they love the children and care about their learning experience. The bottom line is our children and their education. So parents continue to work towards improvement, even if there are a few barriers, but also value and be grateful for your teacher, even if they are still learning. "
"I am currently involved in a similar situation in regards to the 'Make Your Day' program with my children's elementary school. I appreciate the article you frankly state which I know as I go forward I will probably not be looked at as favorably by the school administration and staff. Is there any other parents who feel that the (MYD) program is not optimal for the student's self esteem? "
"I have had the occaisions (plural) to try to deal with problems regarding my child's education. Each time, the circumstance was related to the teacher's method of dealing with a problem. On one of these occaisions, I exercised my right as a parent to involve the principal. I met with the principal, and the teacher and the issues were resolved. I later became aware that the same/similar issues were resolved for other students in the same class. So, I learned that it was not just my child who was experiencing problems. At any rate, after that time, I found that I was not received in the same manner when I visited the school. The office staff were not as cordial, nor was the teacher, or principal. I felt this all occurred because I chose to stand ground for my child. My child has since gone from that school to the middle school. My child is looked upon well by teachers again, and I am well received by the staff and principal at this school. Because I have always been an involved parent, this is important to me. But......even though it is difficult for staff and faculty/principals to have to look at, and sometimes change, what they are doing....they should still be willing to look within. Aren't we, as parents, always trying to teach our children to do this? The message I have to share in this is: Sometimes the schools are avid that they want parent involvement and feedback....but when that feedback and involvement is not positive in nature, they don't like it. Yet, in reality, there is always room for improvement. "