Interfacing with my child’s school as a teacher parent
September 13, 2020 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been a teacher for 13 years, but this will be my first September in the school system where I am also a parent of a student. I find I have very mixed feelings about how to navigate this and would love some tips from the been there and done that teacher parents.

Slightly longer explanation: I guess I’m feeling some discomfort about what can sometimes be a fine line between advocating for your child, and being seen as ‘so and so’s annoying parent.’ For example, there was an online kindergarten orientation for my child’s school, during which I was one of the few to ask questions. They were necessary questions to ask (for example, clarifying what their policy was on children self-wearing epipens so I could train him to do this if they wanted him to). But then a month later, I was interviewing for a substitute teaching position and the principal of my son’s school was filling in for someone who couldn’t make it. He recognized me right away. It felt a little bit strange to have those worlds intersecting.

And now here we are on the cusp of a new school year, and I know that it’s a very strange one, and I know that the teachers are very overwhelmed and have been given very little notice about what they are supposed to do, what the expectations are, what materials they have available etc. so I feel like I don’t really want to bother his teacher with a big heavy thing right away. But I do have some things about my family situation that I need to touch base with his teacher about once I know who it is. I’m feeling somewhat apologetic about that because I know what’s going on behind the scenes. But also, I still need to do it...

So, how to best proceed as the parent who is also a teacher? If you are my son’s future teacher, what would be the best way to get off on the right foot with you?
posted by ficbot to Education (2 answers total)
 
"I appreciate everything you're doing for my child/Thank you for [specific thing] you've done for my child/I think [specific thing] was great. I'm getting in touch because I need to touch base with you on some things on a family situation that I'd like to make you aware about as the school year starts. When are you available to do that?" [...and then acknowledge the effort to meet up with you in person.]

You come across as a considerate and engaged parent. It's great you are considering the teacher's perspective and recognise that some teachers might feel defensive in this situation but this kinda thing happens sometimes and it's definitely navigable. And yes, it's intense and strange times but you don't need to apologise for giving your child's teacher information they need to teach your child well. Friendly, warm, but not too personal has worked for me in similar situations (as the teacher working with parents). One of the nicest ways a teacher-parent got off on the right foot with me when I was training was to congratulate me on giving his child a "yellow form" on the first day of school, which was the school's formal first-step warning sanction. I knew right then they had my back and trusted me to teach (and discipline) their child. This parent continued supporting me throughout the year and often took time to express thanks and appreciation. They still remain my dream parent-of-a-student.
posted by mkdirusername at 8:13 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


I was a school librarian for a time at a private school where my son was also a student. It was, as you would expect, sometimes complicated. I found that at times what made it complicated was not, in fact, anything that I did or said, but instead, other people's preconceptions about interactions with parents who work at a school that their kids also go to are supposed to be like. Sometimes it was other people expecting an interaction to be awkward that made it awkward, when it really didn't have to be. And I realized that there really wasn't anything I could do to fix that. So, keep in mind that, even if you think very hard about this and try very hard to be understanding and helpful in all of your interactions with other teachers and parents, probably sometimes this is just going to be weird, and that's not actually anyone's fault in particular, nor is it likely to turn out to be the end of the world for anyone involved. Just keep trying, and give yourself credit for trying.

(This is an aside that is technically off-topic for your primary question-- and in fact may encourage you to take action that will cause a teacher or administrators to perceive you as "THAT parent"-- but I nevertheless think it's important information to share. Every state in the U.S. now has a law that allows children to self-carry epinephrine autoinjectors in public school classrooms. If you want your kid to self-carry the school needs to let your kid do that regardless of whether it is their "policy" to do so, because the LAW says that they must do so. Thankfully, as a silver lining of the virtual school situation, that is possibly not a hill you will have any need to die on this year. But keep the knowledge in your pocket. Self-carry is almost always the safest option for kids at risk of anaphylaxis, even little kids.)
posted by BlueJae at 9:09 AM on September 14


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