What Parents Should Tell Teachers

Right as the March holidays were beginning—and as I was getting ready to relax alongside my kids—I received two rather lengthy e-mails from my daughter’s teachers.

Both e-mails contained specific and useful feedback about how my daughter’s class was doing as a whole. However I could sense the teachers’ concern as well as their anxiety, which was not unwarranted, given that my daughter is in her PSLE year.

Both teachers wanted to see more motivation and initiative from the students, and more effort to turn in better quality work. I was impressed by the teachers’ level of commitment—they were more than willing to put in extra work themselves, offering additional lessons and after-school help via WhatsApp and e-mail.

Yet, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for my daughter, as I reread the e-mails and recalled the advice of an occupational therapist that I’d met at a workshop—that we need to be advocates for our children, especially in school.

After some thought, I wrote a letter to both teachers, hoping to provide them with fresh insights and ideas as we move into the new term. As a parent, this is how I think we can work with teachers to improve our children’s learning journeys:

Help teachers to see life from your child’s perspective.

In my letter to my daughter’s teachers, I wanted them to know that she wakes up at 5.30AM on weekdays to catch the 6AM school bus, and that there are four days in a week where she has to stay back in school for extra classes or extracurricular activities, which means she gets home at 4PM, 6PM, or 7PM. I thought that if her teachers were aware of her daily routine, they would see that what she needs most is more rest.

Ask teachers to tailor their feedback to your child’s needs.

In conversations with teachers, we tend to focus on our children’s weaknesses or areas in their work that require improvement. Teachers often highlight these as well, and as adults, we know that such feedback—even if it is accurate—may not always be what we need to perform better. For instance, novices tend to prefer positive feedback, while those already competent in an area may seek feedback to improve.

If you sense that your child is resistant to a certain subject or task, changing the feedback cycle may help to reignite your child’s interest in the work. To encourage a healthy feedback cycle in the classroom, ask your child’s teachers if they have noticed any good points about your child, and request that they highlight these strengths to your child, or praise his or her efforts to improve.

Let teachers know how they can better support you.

Think about where you most require support from your child’s teachers. For instance, if you are helping your child with homework, it might be helpful to know how much time should be allocated to each assignment.

In another common scenario, a child told to “revise” his work may have no idea of how to go about doing so. A teacher could help by asking the class to think about what revision entails, and to give examples of the tasks that they would have to carry out during revision. (Research has shown that being made to think about study strategies could have a positive impact on a student’s grades.)

Provide feedback about class assignments.

You should alert teachers if you feel that an assignment is not beneficial for learning and development—because it is age inappropriate or requires skill sets that your child does not already possess. But do be tactful.

Be generous—share resources that may benefit the entire class.

If you have used an app or a web site with your child and found it beneficial in helping your child to retain information, grasp a difficult concept, or improve a skill, do let your child’s teachers know, so that they can assess the resource and share it with the class if they find it useful too.

Contributed by Evelyn, a freelance writer, trained counsellor, and parent blogger.