To share or not to share … What your child’s teacher needs to know

December 7, 2011 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years | with 0 Comments

No one knows your child better than you do. From her personality traits and learning style to how she deals with challenges at home, you have “insider information” that could be vital to her success in school.

So what should – and shouldn’t – you divulge to your child’s teacher? Consider this rule of thumb: If the issue could affect your child’s ability to learn and participate socially in school, speak up. Sharing relevant information can help your child’s teacher(s) steer her toward a positive school experience. What, and how much, you share can depend on your child’s age. Your son’s preschool teacher will want to know if he has developmental delays or is petrified of dogs – the former for assessment purposes and the latter so she can give you a heads up when the local vet is scheduled to visit school with his loveable golden retriever.

By the time your daughter reaches middle school or high school, she can in most cases share information on her own. But if it’s an issue she doesn’t want to talk about – she was the victim of a crime or her favorite uncle died over the summer – you may want to step in to alert her teachers.

How you approach your child’s teacher – or teachers – can be dictated by your child’s age as well. In the case of a preschool or elementary age child, it’s often easiest to contact a teacher directly to set up a meeting. For middle school and high school students, you may need to call a guidance counselor who can set up a meeting with your child’s teachers or convey necessary information. Contact your school to find out how to best share information about your child with teachers.

It’s as important for parents to share information about a child outside the classroom as it is for teachers to provide insight into what’s happening in the classroom. Think of your child’s teacher as your business partner: Equipping her with the right information can increase the likelihood that your child will have a successful school experience.

What to share? In general, teachers and administrators want information about three areas: health, family dynamics and learning challenges.

Health

There are the obvious health issues you should tell a teacher about, such as food allergies, asthma or a chronic condition such as diabetes or a seizure disorder – particularly if a teacher needs to make accommodations for an allergen free zone or watch for signs of crisis. But you should also inform your child’s teacher(s) if your child takes any medication that may affect his concentration or behavior. Even if he’s on a short course of medication that has side effects (sleepiness, upset stomach), consider giving the teacher a heads up.

Family dynamics

Let the teacher know if your family is going through a major change that could affect your child, such as a move, birth of a new sibling, deployment of a military family member, divorce or death in the family. Although your child may seem to have adjusted to the change, notify teachers so they can keep an eye out for behavioral changes. Custody issues should also be discussed. Whether you have shared custody and either of you can pick up your child or there’s a complicated arrangement in place, the school needs to know what’s going on.

Learning challenges

There are many factors that can affect your child’s ability to learn, including his learning style and temperament. If your son is a whiz at reading aloud but embarrassed to do math problems on the board, arming a teacher with this information enables her to be sensitive and help your son improve in that area. His temperament – how easily he adapts to new situations, how much sensory input he can take and his typical mood – can also affect learning. An adaptable child who is eager to try new things learns differently than a child who becomes anxious at the idea of change.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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