“I’m concerned about my child’s…”
Saying “I’m concerned about my child’s progress in math” is a lot less confrontational than saying, “You need to do more to help my son with math.” Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements can let the teacher know that you want to work together as partners and that you’re not playing the blame game.
“Help me understand…”
Even in moments when you disagree with a teacher, saying “Help me understand” is a constructive way to move a conversation forward. It also makes it clear that you’re listening and engaged.
“What was the goal of this assignment?”
It’s important to make sure you and the teacher are working toward the same goals. Clarifying those goals is key. It’s also important to emphasize that you share those goals. A good follow-up to this question would be to ask, “Do you have any suggestions for other activities my child could do to work on those skills?”
“Have you considered…”
This is a polite way to share information the teacher might not know. It’s also a good way to ask questions without making the teacher feel defensive.
This phrase allows you to share information and respectfully acknowledge that parents and teachers often see children from different perspectives. For example, you could say, “I’ve noticed my child can retell a story with more detail after she reads it aloud. Are there opportunities for reading aloud during classroom reading instruction?”
“It seems as if my child has a harder time doing _____ when _____.”
Seems and appears are useful words when trying to reach a shared understanding about a child’s strengths and needs. These words allow you to present your take on the situation without making a harmful or incorrect assumption. For example, you could say, “It seems as if my child has a harder time showing what he knows when the worksheets mix operations” or “He appears to not complete homework when the assignments involve multi-part directions.”
“Her IEP provides her with __________ accommodations. How does that look in the classroom?”
This is a good way to ask about accommodations without accusing the teacher of failing to provide them. Remember the goal is to work together. Try to avoid making assumptions that could damage your relationship.
“What can I do to help?”
Teachers have a classroom full of students. These five words let the teacher know you’re willing to play a role in your child’s education rather than just leaving it up to her.
Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for USA Today. She also writes the Asperger Ascent blog. Tucker is based in the Washington, DC, area.