Imagine that you are a consultant that specializes in learning. Because you are a superstar, your clientele list has grown significantly and you now have over 150 cases to manage. You see each case EVERY day and each one of those cases also has up to two people providing oversight. Can you imagine what a typical day might feel like? If so, welcome to the world of the high school teacher!
When you are worried about your child’s progress at school, are looking for advice, or have specific questions about grades or assignments, your child’s teacher can help. Make their job easier by:
- Keeping your email very brief (shorter than this blog post!)
- Providing a subject line that’s clear and specific
- Be positive – Show empathy and gratitude for what your child’s teacher does
- Emphasize your child’s desire to learn over the desired grade
- Don’t blame child’s problems on teacher’s ability or style
- Use bullet points or numbered lists whenever possible for easy-skimming (and quicker answers!)
- Allow time for a response (at least 24 hours)
Below are examples you can use to get straight to the point!
Situation 1: Johnny has missed homework assignments
Dear Mr. X.,My son, John Smith, has been struggling in Math. I truly appreciate your meeting with him after school after the last test. I checked online, and I saw that John missed a couple of assignments this past week. John reports that he “had no idea how to even start” the homework.My questions for you:
- Should John make an appointment to come in to see you or can he just show up after school?
- Is there any possibility that John could earn points for completing the missing assignments? If so, what would be the (new) due date?
- Lastly, if we decide to work with a tutor, do you have specific advice I can pass on regarding what concepts to start with, the next test dates, etc…?
Thank you for everything that you do!
Never assume a teacher will or should give points for late work, and tread lightly in requesting exceptions to any stated policies. If there are extenuating circumstances, definitely explain them (a death in the family or serious illness). You might consider calling and leaving a voicemail for the teacher.
Situation 2: Johnny is turning in homework, but performing poorly on quizzes/tests:
Dear Ms. X,
Recently it came to my attention that my son, John Smith, has not been doing well in Math. He has been able to complete and turn in his homework for full points, but quizzes and tests continue to be a challenge. John has struggled in Math for the past few years and we are worried that this year will be more than he can handle.
- In addition to coming to you for extra help during your office hours, do you have any suggestions on how John can best prepare for the chapter tests?
- Are there any online resources or other opportunities out there that he could reference?
Thank you in advance for your help. I know you’re busy and we really appreciate your time.
Situation 3: Johnny will be working with a tutor
Dear Mrs. X,
Recently you and I discussed options for John and we really appreciate your time and ideas. In addition to coming in for extra help, my husband and I have decided to hire a tutor. It will be only once a week and just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start.
Before our first session with the tutor on Thursday, I’m hoping that you can:
- Let me know what chapter you’re in (page numbers, if possible)
- Send me the (approximate) date of the next test
- Send me any information you think the tutor should know to make the session as efficient as possible. Of particular interest: the types of mistakes John makes on his test and any learning style differences you’ve noticed.
Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you before 4pm on Thursday (when they have their first session!).
There are times when a parent may want to CC the guidance counselor, but only do so if you feel you need to get them involved. They have an even greater caseload than most teachers, so ask for their help only when needed.
Teachers care about their students, and they especially like students who are able to advocate for themselves. Before you hit “send” on an email, ask yourself if your child could ask those questions himself, or if he could ask them with a bit of help from you. Self-advocacy is an important life skill and today could be the day you help him start!
Pacific Learning Academy is a one-on-one school offering single courses and dual enrollment, as well as full-time high school. We also offer tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including SAT/ACT diagnostic testing and prep, either in homes or local libraries across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…). See more at www.PacificLearningAcademy.com.