Sooner or later all parents must communicate with school officials. Whether a child is being bullied, experiencing learning difficulties, has been disobedient, or involved in other issues, parents must often work with school personnel to resolve problems. Communication can be difficult when parents work during school hours. By the time that many parents of school age children arrive home, most school offices are closed. Face to face discussions are always best but there are times when this is not possible. If unable to set up an appointment to talk with the teacher or principal during school hours and if phone calls are not connecting, parents should consider writing a letter about the issue.
The first contact should be the child’s classroom teacher. If problems exist within the classroom, it should be the teacher’s responsibility to work with parents to solve the dilemna. Notes sent to school via children have an unfortunate chance of becoming lost; the same holds true for notes sent home from school. Since teachers are in the classroom during the day, it can also be difficult to talk by phone. A letter mailed to the school might have a stronger chance of reaching the teacher than a note.
If attempts to contact the teacher have failed or if communications with the teacher have failed to resolve the issue, it may be time to move up the ladder and contact the principal. The school principal is the boss, the supervisor over the teachers in a particular school. Most principals are eager and willing to work with parents – it’s not uncommon for principals to encourage open communication with parents. If getting in touch with the principal proves difficult, a letter can bridge the gap.
Although a simple mailed letter would be sufficient, parents may choose to send the letter by certified mail. This will provide a receipt to acknowledge that the letter was received. Take the sealed letter to the post office and inform the clerk that you want to send it certified mail with return receipt requested. Someone at the school will be required to sign for the letter and the parent will receive written confirmation.
In writing the letter, be polite. School professionals want to work with parent as much as possible and will usually be open to parental suggestions. Writing a letter that is accusatory or even insulting will not help resolve the issue that involves your child. Be polite. Use clear terms. In the first paragraph identify yourself as the parent, “I am Suzie Q and my child, Cutie Q is in the third grade at your school. Her classroom teacher is Mrs. Instructor.”
Next, briefly outline the nature of the problem at hand. If a child is being bullied on the playground, say so. If the child is teased because he wears glasses or she is overweight, state the facts. Should you have consulted any other professionals about the problem, inform the principal. “Cutie’s doctor said that being teased about her weight can be emotionally crippling” carries weight beyond the parent’s own opinion.
If the parent has made previous attempts to contact the teacher but was unable to resolve anything, state this but avoid complaints or accusations. Efforts to contact the principal should also be documented – “I’ve called your office several times but the secretary has informed me you were out of the building (or on the playground.”.
Work schedules should be noted, as in “I work from 7 until 4:30 each weekday so it’s been difficult to touch base” is honest. If the employer isn’t willing to allow time off from work to visit school during the day, ask if an after hours conference is possible. Or, inquire if an after hours phone conversation can be made.
Remember basic rights. Every child in the United States has the right to an education…..and should not be subjected to being bullied or face learning difficulties that remain unaddressed. State your rights – make sure the facts are correct – in an informational but never threatening manner.
Outline in the letter ways to be contacted – current telephone numbers, cell phones, e-mail addresses, etc. along with the best times to call. Mention available times for a face to face conference.
Wait a few days so that the letter can arrive. If no contact has been made by the teacher or principal after a reasonable time, make a phone call. Keep it simple and brief.
When contact has been established, make the most of the opportunity. If the child’s discpline is an issue, ask for suggestions to combat the problem at home as well as at school. Ask if there are ways to boost falling grades or other learning issues at home. If bullies are attacking the child, suggest ways that the school might limit contact with the bully. Be honest. Remember your manners and keep in mind that parents and educators have a common goal for children. If possible, ask that both the teacher and principal are available for the meeting.
If a letter to the principal fails, consider moving up the academic ladder to contact the Superintendant or other authority. In most cases, this will not be necessary – school staff will take steps to remedy the problem within the school.
Education is important for children so prepare to use every skill possible to ensure that every child has the optium classroom experience.