Communicating with Your Child’s School

Schools are busy places.  Sometimes it can be hard to determine how or with whom to communicate different concerns or questions.  In our electronic culture today it is easy to find phone numbers and email addresses; however, that information alone does not tell a parent which questions to direct where.

If your question is about a grade, an assignment, or expectations in a specific classroom, you should always begin with your child’s teacher.  I have found that many questions or concerns can be answered and resolved at the classroom level.  The teacher in the classroom knows best what assignments were given and are the first hand observers of anything that may occur during a school day.  It is fine to send an email.  Most teachers try to check their email at least at the beginning and the end of the day.  Do not be upset if a teacher does not answer an email during the school day.  Their first job during the day is to teach their students.

Many schools now have phones in teachers’ classrooms with extensions for each teacher.  Again, if you choose to leave a voicemail, be patient as the teacher may only check their voicemail at the end of the day.

It is not a good idea to show up in the school office and expect to be able to meet with the teacher without a prior appointment.  This holds true for other school employees as well.  Teachers have classrooms to take care of.  Administrators have other scheduled duties, appointments and meetings, some of which may take place outside of the school building.  If a meeting is needed with any school employee it is always best to have an appointment first.

All schools follow a chain of command that begins in the classroom.  This is why you should begin there.  When a school principal or assistant principal is called his/her likely first question will be whether the teacher has been contacted first.  If the answer is, “No,” an experienced administrator will refer first to the teacher.

If you feel you still have a question or if your question is about something that has happened outside of a classroom, you may want to call a building administrator.  Depending on the size of your child’s school, you will be calling a principal or an assistant principal.  If your school is large enough to have one or more assistant principals, calling the building office will usually connect you with a secretary who will be helpful in directing you to the administrator best able to help you.

In addition to being responsible for the day to day operations of a school building and its staff, principals and assistant principals are also responsible for student behavior issues that are outside of the classroom or which have risen to a point of concern beyond normal teacher correction.  If you have a question about a classroom or a teacher that was unresolved via email or a phone call to the teacher, your next step is a building administrator.  The same procedures regarding email or phone calls as described for teachers applies with administrators.

If you have a concern that a school employee has behaved inappropriately or illegally in their interactions with a student, your first phone call should be to the building administrator.  If your concern is in regard to the leader of a school building, you should contact your school district’s board, or central office.

Knowing who to contact in your child’s school and how schools handle their chain of command is the first step to getting your questions answered.

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