How fast should I expect to hear back from my child's teacher? | Ask Mrs. Brooke

Dear Mrs. Brooke,

How fast should a parent expect to hear back from their child's elementary school teacher? Also, does it matter if the request is sent via email, phone call, or a note sent in with a student?

I know that teachers are busy and their most important job is to teach. However, is it unrealistic to expect to have a reply within one school day?

For example, suppose my first grade daughter tells me that she is having trouble seeing the board. I send an email to the teacher asking if he has noticed anything on Monday night.

Is it reasonable for me to expect an email response by Wednesday? Maybe not a full answer to the question, but at least an initial acknowledgement that he is looking into the issue?

So many families now have both parents working in this downturn so it's hard to meet with the teacher face-to-face. Also, many parents on the Eastside work for technical firms where four-hour responses to email are expected, so  given all of the this, what is the best way to communicate with my primary school teacher?

Thank you, Jackie

Dear Jackie,

Thanks for your question. It is a great one! These days email is the best form of communication for most teachers.

Saying that I would definitely ask your child's teacher personally if her/his preference of communication has not been clearly communicated after attending parent orientation.

I prefer email and most teachers I know do as well, however every teacher is different so it is important to find out right away how your child's teacher prefers to communicate as good communication is so crucial to your child's success.

As far as how long you can expect to wait before receiving a response, it depends. I know if parents send me an email late at night or early morning I may see it before school starts, but may have not have time to respond.

I always try to respond to parents immediately, but I know that doesn't always happen. Communicating with parents always takes priority with me (as with most teachers), but even then it can be difficult to immediately answer every request, question, and comment made by parents.

I welcome another reminder a day or two later. I know many teachers who share this same opinion.

To encourage a quicker response I recommend keeping your emails short and to the point. If it's a bigger issue, definitely discuss with the teacher in person. Most teachers are more than happy to set up a time to meet with you.I love that you understand that teachers are busy and their priorities are the students in the classroom.

Especially at the beginning of the year, we teachers are often doing all we can to get to know and bond with each individual student, create a community of learners, and provide an environment conducive for learning.

I also applaud you for being proactive by wanting to know the best way to communicate with your child's teacher from the beginning. It is crucial to create a positive and open line of communication from the start with your child's teacher as you create a relationship with a person who will be integral in your child's learning this school year and an important role model in your child’s life.

At the same time, as a parent I understand how discouraging it can be to not hear back right away regarding an issue that is troubling your child, and therefore your whole family.

If you feel like your teacher is not communicating in a timely manner or at all after a couple friendly email reminders, a note, a call, and/or a conference - meaning after exhausting all possible efforts you feel you need more help - you may always contact the principal about your concerns.

In most cases however, I bet your child has already been questioned, observation notes taken, and needs are being met with preferential seating and a carefully written email sitting in an inbox somewhere ready to be sent.

Try to do all you can to learn how to best communicate with your child's teacher and try to keep the communication positive. As parents we send so many emails to the teacher with our concerns, but it means more than you know when a teacher receives a simple “thank you” or when you share a short story from home where the teaching at school affected your child’s learning or behavior at home.

Like my favorite poem states, “Behind the home stood the school, and behind the teacher stood the home." We are in this together. Help create a positive relationship with your child’s teacher.

And always remember this new person in your life is a teacher for a year, but you are your child's first and most important teacher for a lifetime. Do all you can to make it the best year yet!

Thank you for your question, Mrs. Brooke

Joy Brooke is the first and most important teacher of her 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. She resides in downtown Kirkland with her husband and two children. Brooke is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy: Reading- Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood, holds a B.A. in Educational Studies and a M.A. in Educational Policy and Management from the University of Oregon. The opinions provided in this column do not reflect that of the LWSD or any other organization she is affiliated. "Like" Ask Mrs. Brooke's Facebook page.

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