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:

EVERYONE IS SWAMPED AND EMOTIONS ARE HIGH.

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

Restorative Practices with Sarah Sampson

Restorative Practices with Sarah Sampson

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What are restorative practices and social/emotional learning?

In this episode, Chris and Karlie talk to Sarah Sampson about the basics of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Restorative Practices. Sarah gives some great insight into how to use belonging circles and sentence stems to have difficult conversations around race and privilege. She talks about some practical uses for restorative practices in the home and at school while also giving advice on how to advocate for SEL resources at your students’ schools.

Here are some good conversation starters:

  • A time I felt left out was…
  • I’m most conscious of my race when…
  • I cope with the difficulties race creates for me and others by…
  • I experience privilege by…
  • I make others feel more welcome by…
 
Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers – difficult conversations are uncomfortable. But it is important to empower teens to have these discussions by giving them a safe place to practice. Let’s give teenagers a place to grow and learn!

 

We are not asking to solve the world’s problems….but what we can do is empower teens to have these conversations – to give them the language and practice to do so.
Sarah Sampson

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Sarah Sampson

Sarah Sampson

Special Guest

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Have a question?

If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

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5 Areas of Focus for Social Distancing

5 Areas of Focus for Social Distancing

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What can help protect the mental health of teens while social distancing?

Here we are…still social distancing! In this podcast episode, Chris and Karlie discuss 5 different areas of focus that can help shape this unique time of social distancing.

They will talk about the importance of…

    • Physical movement
    • Mindful moments
    • Self-care
    • Tech breaks
    • Generosity

It is so vital that you take care of yourself and encourage teenagers to do the same. We might have to change our expectations, and that is OKAY. But let’s make the best of this time of social distancing due to COVID-19! While we hope that life can return to “normal” soon, we want to continue to equip teenagers to grow, learn, and thrive today while also maintaining hope for the future.

 

Ask a Teen

What is something good in your life right now?

Resources:

In this interview, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Have a question?

If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

Follow Us

More Resources You Might Like

Not Your Average Teen Drama: Life in the age of Covid-19
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Average Teenage Behavior or Warning Sign?

Average Teenage Behavior or Warning Sign?

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How do you know what is average teenage behavior or a red flag that should cause concern?

Adolescents are constantly changing and it is difficult to know when to ask questions and how to recognize warning signs. In this podcast episode, Chris and Karlie discuss symptoms of mental illness that also closely resemble typical teen development, like withdrawal, need for privacy, and change in interests.

Join the conversation on how we can encourage and talk to our teenagers about mental illness and signs of concerns. As a caring adult in the life of a teenager, you will find practical tips and questions to engage teenagers in a positive conversation about life changes. This is an episode you won’t want to miss as Chris and Karlie tackle a topic that so many young people face today.

 

Symptoms of mental illness can often appear similar to average teen development.
The Yellow Tulip Project

Resources on teen mental illness

About Us

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Have a question?

If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

Let’s be friends.

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A Common Sense Intervention That Saves Lives

A Common Sense Intervention That Saves Lives

Growing up in a rather sheltered environment and experiencing the “military brat” existence of moving every 3-4 years, I never really understood or heard a lot about mental health issues amongst my peers as a teenager. We didn’t watch a ton of TV or movies, and most of the music I listened to was pretty tame compared to what was out there at the time. Plus, when you move a lot, most of your time involves getting to know new people – not necessarily understanding the challenges and stresses facing your friends. I didn’t really understand what depression or anxiety looked like, nor really cared much to talk about it. I was too busy trying to keep up and worrying about myself.

It wasn’t until I started learning how to play guitar that I heard much at all about depression and suicide. There was a ’90s Christian band called “Caedmon’s Call” that featured a dark (by Christian music standards) song called “Center Aisle” lamenting a friend’s suicide. I remember being enamored by the complexity of the chords as I was learning guitar, but I was more struck by the intense emotions of the chorus line:

 “What crimes have you committed, demanding such a penance?

Could have waited for five more minutes and a cry for help.” 

This was the first time I had ever considered that suicide could become an option for a person feeling distraught or out of options.

It made me wonder if any of my friends had ever considered suicide as an option. While I have experienced seasonal depression, I haven’t ever gotten to the point where I wanted to end it all. But, the more I learned, the more I understood the dark places people go to when they feel there are no other options available.

The World Health Organization estimates suicide as the second leading cause of death of people 15-19 years of age. As someone who works with and loves teenagers, that isn’t just maddening – it’s a mandate for us to take action. For those so young in life to think there is nothing else to live for is an indictment on so many things. But instead of pointing fingers, let’s look at what could be some very promising research with a surprisingly simple conclusion.

In a recent JAMA Psychiatry article, research was outlined on a study of 448 adolescents admitted to a psychiatric hospital for suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Within that group, they formed a control group (this group received no treatment other than hospitalization) and a treatment group. The treatment group was asked to identify four adults in their lives that they perceived love and support from moving forward. Those four adults were then trained in suicide education and support measures and asked to check in on the teens after they left the hospital. These adults also received coaching and support from the study writers throughout the process.

After ten years, the study checked back in on the control and treatment groups and while statistically small, the results were impressive. The control group had 13 deaths while the treatment group only had two. When you break the numbers down, even conservatively, the death rate drops by over 50 percent!

I have to stress again that the numbers are way too small to draw any definitive conclusions, but for me it speaks to something incredibly important about our (yours and mine) work with teenagers – ADULTS MATTER.

I think this study important for the following reasons:

  1. The students selected the supportive adults
    • It is so easy to feel alone as you struggle through depression and suicidal thoughts. To be prompted to identify people who care in and of itself is a healing exercise. And by selecting these adults, a connection is made that cannot be easily broken.
  2. The adults accept the invitation
    • No one is forcing these adults to participate. But, if a struggling teen asked you to be a part of their recovery, wouldn’t you help?
  3. The adults learned how to support the teenager
    • So many adults feel like they know what is best for a teenager. We were teenagers once, right? But a learner is a leader in this case. The presence of an adult who is willing to do what it takes to support the struggling teenager has significant influence.

To me this isn’t just about suicide, though if it saved more lives, I would be screaming this from every platform I have. But, if the presence of a caring, informed adult can potentially save a life, how much more can it help a struggling teenager? The life of a teenager can be overwhelming and full of pressures. If more adults looked and saw the opportunity to learn and ask good questions, imagine what an encouragement we could be!

I encourage you to read further on this study and the implications here and consider partnering with organizations who are putting volunteers out in the field like Teen Life here.

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.