Communication Can Head off Parent-Teacher Conflicts

Article excerpt

Byline: Karri E. Christiansen Daily Herald Correspondent

As summer winds down and children get ready for a new school year, many parents find they have to open themselves to a new relationship.

Much like a married couple, teachers and parents must find ways to compromise and communicate to ensure the health of the child - in this case, the educational health of the child.

Trust is key in the relationship between parent and teacher, and that trust comes with communication, several area educators say.

"We always welcome parents to call us for any sort of question," said Mary Kelly, a reading specialist at Hill Middle School in Naperville. "That's part of our school culture - that we have as much communication with parents as possible."

"We have voice mail for every teacher," Kelly added. "We try to make it easy for them to call us."

Irene Rahder, a third-grade teacher at Naperville's Elmwood School, said she strongly believes in personal "eyeball-to-eyeball" communication rather than sending notes home or leaving voice-mail messages on answering machines.

"We're constantly sending phone messages, sending reminders that something's coming up next Friday," Rahder said. When a truly important announcement comes home in a sheaf of notices and newsletters, she said, it can easily get lost in the shuffle.

"Most teachers are very amenable to a phone call," Rahder said. "Come to school, let's talk about it. I think that's where communication takes place."

Tracy McClure, who teaches fourth grade at Elsie Johnson School in Hanover Park, said parents must work with teachers, but also must speak up for their children.

"It's important to communicate early with a teacher if you are uncomfortable or if your student is unhappy, rather than letting conflicts build up," said McClure, who has been a teacher for nine years. "You are your child's advocate. If you need or want something for your child, it is your right and responsibility to pursue that."

Cathleen Hall, who teaches English at Lake Park High School in Roselle, agrees. She said a good way for parents to keep an eye on their kids and hold the line of communication open with the teacher is by attending conferences.

"I encourage parents to attend the parent-teacher conferences in the fall and in the spring, because it gives them a chance to get a first-hand look at the curriculum and some of the work the student has been working on," Hall said. …