How to respond to a teacher's note about your child

All too often a busy parent may disregard a teacher’s note sent home from school with a child. But sometimes those notes offer helpful insight into a child’s learning aptitude or information about potential academic obstacles.

To avoid missing out on these golden nuggets that can pave the way to your child’s educational success, here are a few tips about what to do with those seemingly endless pieces of paper sent home by the teacher.

  1. Search and destroy. Train your child to bring each day’s papers to a specific location by a certain time, for example, the kitchen counter by 6 p.m. At your convenience, quickly glance through the list to sort the vital from the pointless items. Forms requiring signatures, health record requirements, voucher slips, and other materials requiring feedback or your name should be placed in a stack for further action. Announcements about picture day, field trips, and “no school” days can be noted on the calendar and discarded.
  2. Address urgent items first. A handwritten or typed note from the teacher or an administrator requires your earliest attention. Read it through for the gist and ask your child for clarification if any is needed. If the teacher explains an academic procedure that may directly impact your children, such as the California Achievement Test (a national standardized test) or a skill assessment (such as reading, writing, or math), note it duly and file the form for later reference or discard it.
  3. If the note requires a response, set it aside until you can give it some thought, perhaps after dinner, or when the kids are in bed. The teacher may have expressed concern in little Sarah’s lack of concentration during class reading time or the fact that Sarah has displayed a host of allergy symptoms recently. Read the note carefully to find out what the concern is and how you are expected to respond.
  4. In some cases, a note is for information only to let you know something about your child that requires further observation. Personal behavior, social attitudes, or health symptoms fall into this category. Write a short note in response to thank the teacher for pointing out this concern. Indicate that you will keep an eye on the situation at home or would be willing to come to school and observe your child in the classroom.
  5. If the instructor is asking you to provide information or to come in for a conference, respond promptly and politely. Even though an appointment may pose an inconvenience to your schedule, your child’s well-being and educational success may depend on it. Plan to be on time and take the required information, if any is needed, with you.
  6. When a negative note comes home bringing bad news about your children, such as a problem behavior or a pending disciplinary action, stay calm. Rather than becoming defensive, remind yourself that the school must deal with hundreds of children each day, and staff undoubtedly remain objective in assessing each child’s needs and behaviors. Write a note in response to thank the teacher for expressing concern. Suggest that you are willing to work with the school to supply whatever support may be needed, such as a tutor for academic weaknesses or disciplinary consequences for disobedient behavior.

While it may be tempting to let the school handle your child between eight and three o’clock each day, a parent’s responsibility cannot afford to be lax at those times. With your school by responding to home-going information that has your child’s interests at heart.

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