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7 things to tell the teacher about your child

When your child heads back to school, it's a great time to start talking with his teacher.

By Emily Graham, PTO Today

What can you tell a teacher that will help him do his job better? You might be surprised. While your child's teacher is the expert in education, no one knows more about your child than you do. It's just as important for parents to tell teachers about issues at home that may affect school performance as it is for teachers to report how children are doing in the classroom.

Students do best when parents and teachers work together as partners. The start of a new school year is a great time to open a dialogue with your child's teacher. Not sure where to start? Here are seven things teachers wish you would tell them. Sharing this information with a teacher will help her better understand your child's needs and lay the groundwork for a cooperative relationship throughout the school year.

Health conditions:

If your child is diabetic, uses an inhaler, is allergic to peanuts or has a serious health condition, her teacher should know. It's also helpful to let the teacher know whether your child has been diagnosed with conditions like ADHD, which may affect behavior and concentration.

Family issues:

Fill in the teacher if your family is going through a major change that could affect your child, such as a divorce, a death in the family or a move. Even if your child seems to have adjusted well, alert teachers so they can watch for behavioral changes.

Personality traits or behavior issues:

Maybe your son is painfully shy and is worried about making friends at a new school. Or perhaps your kindergartner has been having tantrums at home and you're concerned she'll do the same at school. It's best to make teachers aware of these issues before they become a problem at school.

Strengths and weaknesses:

Your daughter is a star student in math but is embarrassed to read aloud. Your son loves language arts but struggles with science. If you tell teachers these things up front, they'll have more time to help your children improve in the areas they need it most.

Learning style:

You've spent years teaching your kids, from potty training to tying shoelaces, so you have a good idea of their learning styles. If your child learns better through hands-on activities than through listening to explanations, mention that to his teacher. Also share any teaching strategies that you've found work well with your child.

Study habits:

Does your son speed through math homework but labor over reading assignments? Do your daughter's grades suffer because she spends so much time at skating lessons? Tell teachers about your children's study habits and any issues they face in completing the work. Teachers often can offer suggestions to make homework time go more smoothly.

Special interests:

Knowing more about your child's hobbies or interests can help the teacher forge connections in the classroom. Let the teacher know that your young son loves a particular comic book superhero and that your middle school daughter is a gifted painter.

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Comments from readers

"I think you should get to know your childs teacher before you but at any information. My grandson's kindergarden teacher loves to tell the other teachers and parents what she knows and thinks about you. The kids do pay the price if you don't have a great teacher."
"I agree with 3 other moms who say kids were singled out. Same thing happened to us with several teachers in a row now, so we don't disclose anything anymore except for medical. Even though we weren't reporting, we found out that teachers share the info with the next teacher, etc. Also found out that parents badmouth children to teachers and teachers believe every word. Kicker is that my kid never had a behavior problem to begin with. He was completely normal for his age. Those with the obvious abnormal problems were never corrected or disciplined - and their parents were teachers! I highly recommend parents keep everything to themselves or be prepared to get a ton of nit picky / petty negative feedback on your child and have a ton of conferences where you'll have to defend your child - then the teachers will turn around and say your being disrespectful or treating them like they don't know what they're doing."
"Yes,seriously,it is not so hard to spot some of those kids having behavior problems. We were at the play ground, one of those just started to curse away.Sadly no one wanted to play with him anymore.Sure enough, he is in special Ed. Of course,not all the problems started at home. My sitter's child was a little slow, some 'mean' kids start to tease him, he can not manage his emotion, and started to be destructive. Aren't some of those teen killers started like that too? Big problem. I am trying to teach my child to be tolerant,kind and be sympathetic."
" I regret so much, for not reading this article before beginning of this school year. Because, I too did the same mistake of telling the teachers (my Child has 2 teachers) about my child's behavior thinking they will help my child get better. Now, they are using my own words against my child and suggesting to get treated for ODD or ADD etc., and singling out the child. As some parents have mentioned, similar or more worser behavior/mistake by other children is not considered as anything while my child's is considered as the most offensive thing. If others did it, that's how children this age will be. Hmm.. why din't I get to read this article by August? "
"I used to be a director at a preschool. I made it a point to ask every new parent for a letter about their child. Remember, these are very young kids in a new environment: what makes them happy, what's their favorite activity, what are they afraid of? When I had my own kids, I wrote those letters myself, and their teachers appreciated it. My youngest is autistic, but mainstreamed full time in the third grade. I have written a letter every year to his teachers telling them what makes him 'tick' and what's the best way to get him to focus, or the best way to get him stop doing repetitive behaviors. I've been told those letters were invaluable. My kids go to such a wonderful school, I can't imagine any teacher using something against a child."
"I teach preschool~ and these thoughts are so true- all the way up through high school. Teachers are with the children all day long. They are mentors, teachers and sometimes very good friends. They just might be the only person to encourage the child in a particular manner to succeed! School is supposed to be a safe haven, fun and a place to learn how to deal with social situations. School prepares the whole child for adulthood. I encourage you to get to know your teachers without being invasive."
"Thank you so much for the suggestions. I am going to Open House tonight and this will really come in handy."
"I agree with several of the other parent responses that once you inform the teacher they are then singling out your child. A lot of teachers in my child's school talk to each other as well and for the last two years they claim my child does not pay attention and do his work independently. However, when he is at home I do not have this problem and never had a problem with him completeing his work independently or paying attention for that matter. "
"Thanks for giving this kind of tips. They are really helpful."
"Forgive me but I would not welcome a teacher into our private life by sharing information about a divorce, death or other major event. In my opinion teachers do not have the skills or education to bring value to the situation. Too often than not I find teachers intrusive and down right nosey. Do we ask teachers if they have any major events going on in their lives which would inhibit their ability to teach? Teachers are NOT social workers or psycologists. I for one do not expect them to be. If we could just encourage teachers to focus on teaching I honetly think we would see improvement in our childrens education scores."
"I've used a similar; getting to know you type information with our teachers. The first meeting I always make the same deal with the teacher. I won't believe everything he comes home and tells me about you if you won't believe everything he comes to school and tells you about me. That simple joke puts the teacher at ease and lets him/her know I intend to be their advocate not enemy. "
"I relayed information to my child's Kinder teacher last year and I felt that it caused him to be singled out, documented and unfairly treated by not only the teacher, but the other students as well as issues were stated openly to the class by the teacher. I volunteer in the class and now (a year later) and have observed my child being reprimanded while another child is doing the same thing yet it goes without a reprimand. I think we need to be VERY careful about what is relayed. Teachers are human too...I think some may be quick to act as judge and jury if they have information. I am also finding that our school system is NOT about doing the best they can for a student within their limits but about trying to maneuver within the extremely political atmosphere of the school."
"I am very impressed with all of the information that is provided by this Great Schools website, as well as receiving the very informative and inspiring information that comes along with your e-mails! I wanted to say Thank you for all the time and work that everyone puts into making such a great site!! I also appreciate the links that are always added with each profiled subject! Thanks again~ Deanna Ogden, Utah "
"This article is really helpful. I only have a draw back htat comes from bad experience. Few years back, one of my son's teacher pointed out his weakness after I have let her know that he is not organized . Later in the school year I got reports from the teacher that he needs to get organized( which I was trying to help him with but w/o success). Now my daughter is daydreaming at school. She does have issues with concentration upon her homework and I think that is the case at school too. I am afraid to tell the teacher this so she will not get singled out."
"I agree with the two moms who had their children ‘singled out.’ After sharing information with my son’s teacher last year about his behavior at home and personality, we also had nothing but trouble the whole year. I truly believe that if I had not shared that information with her, she would not have called me on every little thing he did in class. When I would go and sit in his class, I’d see other children acting worse than my son, but she never called them out about their behavior. This year I decided to inform his 3rd grade teacher of only the positive things and so far I’ve had no calls about his behavior."
"As an educator (speech therapist) I do find it helpful when parents let me know what types of activities their child really likes and helps me to tap into their strengths while working to improve their relative 'weaknesses'. In my job I do get good backround info RE illnesses, but that is very important for teachers to know, so that they can help in any emergency situation. After reading the other responses it is too bad that some families have had teachers that have used information against the child. This does not speak well of the educators involved and hopefully will not make the parents be more reticent with future teachers who may be willing to use the information appropriately to help make the educational setting more effective for all involved. "
"Thanks alot, this information was very helpful. I've just learned some things I new nothing about."
"I have to agree that where I come from it seems as though a small bit of information to a teacher ends up making it worse for the child. While I agree it is good to have open communication, I also think that if a teacher has one parent who will listen, they take advantage of that and your child does become a focus. Almost as if their daily frustrations come out and land on your family. While of course that isn't always the case, I have been through Kindergarten and First and that is exactly what happened in both classes with both teachers. Teachers in our area are resorting to public humiliation tactics and it will back fire as the kids will harden to this type of correction and become numb to it, which leads me to believe that gives the children a lack of concern for their actions, as they don't care any more,they are used to it. My opinion of course on my circumstances, hopefully not the rule...... "
"This is a great article, very useful. And I love your web site. Thank you! "
"I'm a mom and a teacher, so I appreciate this article from both perspectives. As a teacher, I prefer knowing potentially difficult things up front to help the year go much better. For example, I had a student who was a Jehovah's Witness get mad at me several months into the school year for having her child say the Pledge of Allegiance and do holiday art projects (her child was nonverbal). If she had told me up front, I would have been happy to accommodate their beliefs from the beginning!"
"thanks so munch to let me know all about how to do and work with my kid, or how to be involv as a parent. valeria"
"Last year we elaborated on our son's behavioral problems at home.It made the teachers 'single' him out and also labeled him!They went as far as keeping a journal of daily behaviour.I had numerous meetings to find a solution.They went as far as suggesting that he had signs of, ADHD and We should consider 'medicating' him.When we did'nt pursue these options.they reported us to ACS!Of course,ACS DID NOT FIND any maltreatment toward our son, muchless our daughter! As a matter of a FACT,they found him to be extremly ,BRIGHT and full of ENERGY.our son only needed to be challenged! Not BAD for our son,who was born at 22 -24 weeks gestation!!WOW....."
" I love your tips they are so helpful to me and my husband, they help my kids alot too! I think you should have a little more kid tips too!! -thanks, Morrales"
"It's a cool website."
"this article is very useful!"
"Fantastic suggestions! I've always felt it was important to meet and touch base with the new teacher about my children. I've found that it has always yielded positive results.Your article gave me additional subjects to consider for discussion. Thanks for an incredibly top-notched newsletter offered at a price I couldn't pass up (for free)!!!"
"Thanks for this article! My daughter's new teacher has asked that we write a letter about her and this has definitely given me more ideas on what to include!"
"Last year I shared some of my daughter's weaknesses at home with her teacher and instead of it being helpful, it seemed as though she used them against her. She was singled out the entire class year and we had numerous parent-teacher conferences as a result. She constantly referred back to that original conversation and couldn't seem to get beyond that. It was an extremely stressful year for all of us and the only time we've had a teacher consistently find fault with our daughter's behavior. I feel as though she took what we'd intended as a tool and used it as a weapon against our child. I'll NEVER make that mistake again. From now on, I'll pretend my child is perfect like most of the other moms out there."
"These are great tips... not only for the parent and child but also for the teacher"
"Thank you for these 7 suggestions on talking with my children's teachers. I will have something I can now talk to the teacher about as soon as I met them."