As a teacher, it's inevitable that you'll have to talk to parents about concerns at some point during the year. Whether they are behavioral, academic, or social concerns, these conversations can be uncomfortable. With these tips for discussing concerns with parents, you can be sure to make the experience as positive as possible for everyone.
Discussing Concerns With Parents
Tip #1: Document
When it comes to discussing behavioral, academic, or social concerns with parents, it's important to document what you're noticing in detail. This allows you to have a running record to support your concern.
You'll also be able to see if there are patterns with the concern. You may notice that the student is acting out on Mondays, after the weekend at home. Your documentation may show anxiety when schedule changes occur. A student may have trouble academically with certain concepts.
By documenting, you can learn more about the student and what may be happening and provide detailed notes and scenarios to parents when you discuss the concern.
Tip #2: Call on professionals.
It's very important when discussing concerns with parents to not label students, diagnose them, or suggest there is something wrong.
If you do think there may be something causing behavioral, academic, or social concerns, be sure to reach out to a professional to help you.
Call on your school administrator, school psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, counselor, etc., to come in and observe the student and document what they notice.
Together with your administrator and support staff, you can share your observations and thoughts and determine the best way to approach and discuss this with parents.
Tip #3: Collect data.
When it comes to academic concerns, the best way to track progress and see patterns is by collecting data and progress monitoring often.
By having consistent data to show parents, you'll have a stronger understanding of where the student is struggling. This will also help you determine a plan of action for helping the student grow in that area in which you can present to the parents.
This data can come in the form of student work samples, progress monitoring scores, or teacher observations.
Tip #4: Communicate often and early.
Positive communication is key when discussing concerns with parents. You can't communicate too often or too early when discussing concerns with parents.
It's better to make them aware as soon as possible so they aren't blindsided at parent teacher conferences or several months into the school year.
Let parents know early on what you're seeing and noticing with their child. Ask them if they're seeing the same things at home as well. You can share your observations and data, but be sure to speak to them in terms they'll understand.
For example, if you're sharing a chart of progress, be sure to use terms such as “your child is below the level we'd like to see them for this time of year,” instead of “your child is in the 30% percentile amongst other students of this age according to this benchmark test.”
You can provide frequent updates on their child's progress, which is a great way to keep them in the loop. Be sure to celebrate any wins or student growth as well!
Tip #5: Make a meeting plan.
If you need to discuss concerns with parents in a meeting, be sure to make a plan. You want to go into the meeting confident, with all of your data and documentation, and a plan for how to help their child.
Write down the positives you see in the student and the growth they are making in any area. Follow this up with your concerns. Reference your documentation and the observations of the administrator or support staff.
You can even ask the administrator and/or support staff to attend the meeting with you. If they do plan to attend, let the parents know ahead of time so they don't feel intimidated when they enter the room and multiple people are waiting for them.
Share you and your support staff's professional opinions and ask them to share their opinions and observations as parents as well.
Offer your ideas for solving the issue in a positive way. You want parents to feel hopeful and excited about the solutions you have suggested and trust you to help their child.
Take some time to ask parents to share their thoughts about what may work best for their child. Based on everyone's suggestions and insight, offer ideas for them to help at home and set a date to follow up.
Be sure to end the conversation on a positive note by complimenting the child and pointing out a strong suit they have.
Tip #6: Provide frequent updates.
After the meeting, be sure to put your follow up date on your calendar. Follow up frequently, providing updates to the parents about their child.
Share any improvements you're seeing and what is working well at school. Ask them to share what they are doing at home and how that is working.
Be sure to celebrate the little victories, even if it is one small moment of positive behavior, social improvement, or a slightly higher score academically. It's important to focus on the child's growth individually, not compared to others.
Tip #7: Have a teamwork attitude.
Parents feel much more comfortable and at ease working with teachers and support staff when they feel like they're part of a team working towards the greater good of their child.
Throughout the entire process of discussing, meeting, and communicating about concerns, be honest, positive, and approach it with a teamwork attitude. This will help parents feel empowered to take part in their child's education.
Thank parents often for their openness and willingness to work with you to support their child. Let them know how much of an impact their efforts at home are making on their child's progress at school.
I hope these tips have given you more confidence as you discuss concerns with parents and communicate throughout the year. I'd love to hear your takeaways from this blog post in the comments below!