8 Tips for Better Parent/Teacher Communication

8 Tips for Better Parent/Teacher Communication

My whole life I have been in or near a classroom. Both my parents are retired educators. My wife is a current educator (thoughts and prayers). A lot of my friends are educators. I am a former educator. So when I tell you I know a thing or two about teachers and education, I promise it’s not lip service.

Since I left my teaching career to come work for Teen Life, I’ve found out one thing is crystal clear:


When emotions are high, parent-teacher communication can be a minefield leading to really damaging conversations. Below are just a few reminders for teachers AND parents on communicating with each other.

This first part is for the teachers.

Teachers, I know that little Johnny has used up all his tokens of grace. I know that you are being asked to move mountains while juggling chainsaws with a smile. But hear me out.

  • REMEMBER THE SECOND BACKPACK – one of my former principals (shoutout Shannon Gauntt) used this metaphor during my career and it is perfect. Every person in that building is coming in with a metaphorical second backpack. It could range anywhere from “I didn’t sleep well last night” to “I haven’t seen my mom in a week because she works the night shift”.
  • BE A BEARER OF NOT JUST BAD NEWS – It’s really easy as a teacher to always contact parents when you’re having a behavior issue. Try to balance your conversations with good news and positive interactions as well.
  • CONSIDER THE TIMING – Some parents might be at work when you’re calling. Some may have just gotten off of a long shift. If it’s possible, it might be a good idea to set up a time when they can call you or meet with you and be at their best.
  • AVOID GETTING EMOTIONAL – This is pretty self explanatory. It’s kind of like on The Office when Roy comes after Jim. It can escalate quickly. But chances are your school does not have a Dwight Schrute in waiting with a can of mace.

Alright, let’s move on to the parents:

Parents, I know that having these conversations is hard, but here are a few tips for successfully navigating difficult conversations.

  • REMEMBER TEACHERS HAVE BACKPACKS TOO – These last couple of years have thrown everyone into a learning curve they don’t want to be on. Remember to communicate with patience and understanding.
  • THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES – I have experienced this as a parent and a teacher. Johnny may be giving you correct information but it may not be the full scope of the situation. Before you jump to send a scathing email to the administrators, sometimes a simple phone call or email to the teacher can give you perspective on the incident.
  • BE OPEN TO LISTEN – The teacher is with your student more during the day than you and chances are they have a good idea of what they need. It may be hard to hear problematic behaviors about your student but I promise the teachers want what is best for everyone.
  • AVOID GETTING EMOTIONAL – Same as the teachers. No one wants to see the Hulk in these scenarios. Everyone is better off talking to Dr. Banner.

This obviously will not fix every parent-teacher interaction but it’s a good starting point.

Most importantly, remember that life is already challenging enough for our teens. Teachers and parents should be the first line of support for them.

If you model good communication with each other, it will help drive their success in school and the future.


For more from Teen Life on School Communication, listen to episode 21 of the Teen Life Podcast: School Communication & Acronyms or episode 39: Athletics & Monetization of YouTube (coming January 25).

Tobin Hodges

Tobin Hodges

Program Director

Tobin graduated with a Bachelors of Music from Texas Tech University. A teacher’s kid twice over, he taught for 13 years before coming to Teen Life. His entire career has been centered around helping students and teens from all walks of life become the best version of themselves

The Importance of Asking…Twice.

The Importance of Asking…Twice.

This post was written by one of our facilitators, Sarah Brooks. Sarah is a blogger, mom of 3 boys and social media expert! She has spoken across the country at various groups, churches, and schools about social media (the good, the bad, and the confusing), most of which stemmed from a post she wrote called Parents: A Word About Instagram. Sarah currently facilitates a High School Support Group in Fort Worth ISD.


I had a mild panic attack the morning I was set to lead my first Teen Life group. When I started looking over lesson one, I was shocked by how personal the discussion questions were. There was no building rapport, no easing in to sensitive topics with these people. No – right out of the gate, they expect me to walk into a group of teenagers I’ve never seen before, teenagers who are presumably hurting and/or experiencing significant life crisis, and ask questions like,

“On a scale from 1-10, how do you feel about yourself?”


“How much do you feel others care about you?”

For real??

I’m a wealthy suburban housewife facilitating a group in one of the lowest performing, lowest income high schools in our area. I knew these teens would be skeptical of me before I even said a word, but after reading lesson one I was afraid they’d actually be mad at such a blatant invasion of privacy.

None of it made sense….except that it worked. All the questions. None unanswered.

How? How is that possible?

I think the answer is in something I heard from a different group of teenagers a few weeks ago.


During a small group discussion at a church student conference last month, a group of high schoolers and I were talking about the topic of friendship. What it looks like, the difference between online connection and in-person community, etc.

I asked them what traits they looked for in a friend.

“Authenticity.” one said. “No judgment.” said another.

Then one girl said, “I want a friend who will ask me how I’m doing….twice. Once for the fake answer, then again for the real answer. I want a friend who will wait and press for the real answer.”

(*pause to slow clap for that answer*)

I knew exactlywhat she was talking about, because over the past several months I’ve been conducting a social experiment I find hysterical that my husband is ever-so-slightly embarrassed by.

It goes like this: we’re eating a restaurant and the waiter comes up and asks one of a few standard questions, either “How are you tonight?” or “How was your food?”

Something along those lines.

My husband answers “Great!” at the same time I answer a loud “MEHHHH” with a noncommittal shrug. Sometimes if I’m feeling extra obnoxious, I say, “Not great!”

I’ve done this countless times in countless restaurants with countless waitstaff and not a single personhas a) heard me or b) asked a follow up question.

Nobody hears me because nobody is actually listening.

I mean, it’s dinner at a restaurant. Who cares, right? I don’t need to be best friends with Olive Garden James.

But I’m beginning to realize we do this a lot in regular life, too.

We ask all the right questions – because we’re interested and polite, of course – but we don’t actually listen for the answers.

How many times have you had an entire conversation with someone in which you didn’t hear a word they said?

You say, “Hey! How are you?” and as soon as the person starts answering your mind bounces to your work inbox and how you need to pick up the dry cleaning before they close and how your kid has that weird science project with the apples and – oh! he’s finished talking I should ask another question…

We live in a culture with really long to do lists and really cheap communication. We get so busy we forget to actually stop and listen.


And this exactly why my Teen Life groups work. This is why those first students didn’t storm out on day one.

The curriculum we use provides practical, helpful tools for teenagers about how to live life better. It’s incredible.

But more than that, these students know that in a world stuffed so full of “connections” we’ve somehow disconnected ourselves from real conversation, they have a place once a week where they can come and be heard.

Even better, they’re heard by an adult who isn’t paid to talk to them, who didn’t give birth to them, and who apparently has no better hobby than to drive across town every Thursday to listen to what they have to say, simply because she – and the rest of the Teen Life team – believes in them.

We stop and we listen. (Curiously. We listen curiously.)

In today’s society, with today’s teens, that can make all the difference in the world.