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Talking with Teachers . . . Meeting in Person

Some approaches to consider if you want to talk in person with a teacher or other school official (or similarly situated adult in your child's life):

  • Ask for a specific time to talk rather than trying to address your concerns when you can catch him/her. When you do this, let the teacher know that you’d like to talk about your child’s experience with X and some questions or concerns you have, but hold off on content/details until you have protected time to talk.
  • Try to frame your interest in talking together in terms of shared commitment and partnership. One parent reported getting off to a great start with, “I’d like to work together with you to help my child . . ."? and emphasizing an interest in insuring consistency between home and school. Try to frame this approach to be consistent with the situation (maybe it’s not just about your child and you want to focus on the group, for example).
  • When you plan to meet with the teacher, ask if there is anyone else they think should be included e.g. principal, guidance counselor, etc.
  • At the meeting, outline your concerns clearly. Avoid blaming. Explain why you feel concerned (or angry or whatever you feel). Make clear what you think is at stake – what consequences, misinformation, assumptions, etc. may flow, directly or indirectly, from the incident/program/practice in question.
  • If you are prepared to contribute information, skills, and/or time, make this offer as a way of demonstrating partnership with the teacher.
  • If you are aware of a diversity committee or group in the school, explore whether that entity might be helpful in addressing the situation/issue. If you are not aware of any such body, ask if there is one and, if so, if they might be helpful.
  • Explore the presence or absence of support and resources for the teacher that would enable him/her to address your concerns effectively. If there are gaps, strategize with her/him about ways to fill them.
  • Before the meeting is over, identify an action plan and set a follow-up meeting. Again, check in to see if anyone else needs to be part of the follow-up.

Remember, if you see that a teacher or someone else from the school has taken positive action, you'll build a strong foundation for future partnership by acknowledging their effort, in person and/or perhaps with a thank you note.

Last Updated: 10/22/08