Dads of Teens: Communicating With Your Teen’s Teachers

KAGOY – “Kids Are Growing Older Younger”

ages & stages treeIn this age of KAGOY – “Kids Are Growing Older Younger”, a social phenomenon known as “age compression” (Manz Simon, 2006), teenagers are faced with multiple stimuli and environmental factors which expose them to adult issues or behaviour, from an earlier age. Alongside this, our teenagers face a very different set of experiences and concerns, as compared to a decade ago.

Among many other issues, these range from widespread usage of internet technology and being very technology-savvy; exposure to online social networking with wide usage of sites like Facebook and Twitter; more varied experiences like volunteerism for different causes; and greater exposure to different cultures as more foreign students enrol in local schools and schools organise overseas exchange programmes.

On the flip side, there’s increased consumerism, a culture of entitlement especially with regards to material goods like the latest IT gadgets, handphones and gaming equipment; cyber-bullying; sexuality issues like pre-marital sex at a younger age; a culture of competitiveness among peers and in the school system; exam stress; as well as deeper-level emotional and psychological issues.

All the above can affect your teen’s academic performance as well as their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Half or more of your teen’s time is spent in school, interacting with peers and teachers. Thus, building healthy, open and mutually respectful communication and connections with her teachers is crucial and potentially beneficial for your teen’s development and well-being.

Why be Involved in Your Teen’s Education?

Effective communication with your teen’s teacher helps you gain information and knowledge about how your child is performing in school and garners the support and collaboration of teachers to assist in your teen’s development.

Establishing a friendly, diplomatic and mutually respectful relationship with teachers and maintaining an open two-way communication channel, benefits your child and is likely to encourage her teachers to be more helpful and supportive. It also indicates to the school that you, as a father, are concerned about your child’s development.

Fatherhood Institute, a UK fatherhood think-tank, states that positive outcomes, in terms of children’s learning and achievement at school, can be traced quite clearly to the quality of their fathers’ engagement with them.

One high quality study demonstrated that a father’s interest in his child’s education is one of the most important factors governing the qualifications he or she will grow up to have in adult life – more important than family background, the child’s individual personality, or poverty. As such, it pays to learn how to establish a positive communication channel with your teen’s teacher.

Common Scenarios

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABesides the regular Meet-The-Parents sessions held at schools, there may be other times when you may need to speak with your teen’s teacher, for example regarding his academic progress, timely submission of work, learning difficulties, behavioural problems like truancy, rebelliousness against school authority.

Or, it may be about delinquent behaviour like theft, bullying or gang-related activities. Your teen could be either a perpetrator or victim of bullying for instance. Another set of issues could be stress related to studies or exams resulting in mental, emotional or social problems.

Mr Simon Goh, aged 53, father to 16-year-old Angela, shares, “My teenage daughter needs our assurance on her performance and behaviour. Even though it seems she isn’t interested, she wants us to know what and how she is doing in school.”

“I communicated with Angela’s teacher regarding her friends in school as I was concerned with the company she kept. Angela’s teacher was able to inform and assure me of her friends’ general good character,” he said.

10 Tips to Keep in Mind when Communicating with Your Teen’s Teacher:

Miss Rona Tan, School Counsellor with the Singapore School of the Arts (SOTA), who was previously a school teacher for several years, shares some helpful tips.

1. Prepare yourself before speaking to your child’s teacher. Simon shares, “List down the items you need to discuss with the teacher.” Think through the core issues beforehand. This helps you to be specific and focussed during the discussion.

2. Call or email the teacher in advance to fix a specific date and time. Do not drop in unannounced. This conveys respect for the teacher and ensures that both parties have set aside time to talk uninterrupted. It is important not to be in a rush so that issues can be explored in depth and calmly.

3. Make your teen’s needs known to teachers. Prior to the meeting or phone discussion, highlight to the teacher the key issue, be it bullying, internet addiction, gaming, or boy-girl relationship. During the discussion, share your teen’s needs based on your understanding of her as a father, be it a need for affirmation, encouragement or a sense of belonging.

4. LISTEN! : Discussions break down when two people do not listen and only want to get their point across. Listen actively. Focus your attention to what is conveyed -listen for both content and meaning. Ask clarifying questions  if unsure and ask for specific examples of your teen’s behaviour or difficulties in school. Paraphrase to check that you’ve understood correctly.

5. Don’t point fingers. Communicate with teachers in a calm, open atmosphere. Remind yourself to be open to listen to all feedback, be it positive or negative about your teen. Stay objective and do not be reactive. Use neutral, non-blaming language so the discussion can be constructive rather than antagonistic.

Remember that you and the teacher are both there to help your teen. Do not be defensive if teachers initiate the discussion about your teen’s problems. See it as them going the extra mile to cooperate with you to help your teen.

6. Respect & collaborate. Share with the teacher how you have tried to handle the issue and seek to understand the school’s stand. Seek feedback about your teen’s behaviour in school. Ask what resources the school has to assist students with such difficulties. Be open to different options. This may involve a referral to a school counsellor, a counselling centre or Family Service Centre which can provide more specialised help.

7. See things from the school’s perspective. Find out the school’s basic expectations of students, for example, in regard to discipline, abiding by school rules, healthy relations with peers and teachers or participation in school activities. Collaborate with the school to inculcate values and motivate your teen to acquire life-skills like independence, respect, honesty and integrity.

Schools may design specific programmes to cater to different needs and potential of students. Seek to understand the rationale before you make complaints or seek changes. For example, understand that in Junior College, your teen is expected to show greater independence, self-discipline and self management.

8. Have realistic expectations of teachers. Each secondary or Junior College teacher has many students under his care. Teachers may not respond to your call or email within a day. This does not mean they do not care for your teen but may mean they have to prioritise among many demands placed on them. Exercise patience. If the matter is urgent, email and call the teacher to leave a message and your contact details.

9. Be clear, specific and concise. Get to the point, summarise your concern, provide specific examples of your teen’s behaviour or issue. Summarise a conclusion of the follow-up action on both you and the teacher’s part.

10. Maximise PTMs (Parent-Teacher Meetings). This provides a good platform for you to communicate with teachers and vice versa. Put aside time to attend these meetings. They convey your concern and commitment to your teen and your cooperation with teachers, as a father.


References:

1) Manz Simon, M. (Dr) (2006). Trend-Savvy Parenting. Focus on the Family Resources. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers.

2) Ministry of Education. Singapore. (retrieved 22 November 2010).

3) Fatherhood institute. The UK’s fatherhood think-tank. (retrieved 13 December 2010).


About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.


First published on 06-06-2011.



Categories: 5 Dads of Teens, Ages and Stages

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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