You've Heard Teacher Feedback - Now What?
Updated: Apr 27
Once you have a little one in school, an entirely new phase of parenthood opens up.
Family life is the main source of just about EVERYTHING for a child in the beginning years; the last two plus years have only magnified that experience. Until recently, being at home with family has been the center of children’s worlds.
Thankfully many little ones have been able to go to school, playgroups and family centers. Interacting with new sights, sounds, sensations and personalities has certainly resulted in new feelings and experiences for all ~ PARENTS included.
This is the time of year that many schools schedule meetings to reflect and share with parents. Teachers offer insights into individual growth, achievement and progress. Along with these comments, parents may be hearing about behaviors that are a challenge or concern in the school setting.
That is never easy to hear.
At Work & Play we are parents and early childhood educators who have been on both sides of the parent-teacher conference table. It was eye opening to be on the parent side of the meeting.
Here are some key takeaways to consider in our many years of experience in both roles:
Consider the source.
It is the rare parent that can hear what feels like criticism of their child without feeling defensive or disappointed. That is natural. In this case, take a beat and consider who is offering the insight.
Teachers offer a view on your child that will be uniquely different from what you may observe at home. Being in a classroom, being away from family life and being surrounded by peers can provide a snapshot of your child that is new to you. Take what the teacher describes as just that - a description of what they see when your child is in a classroom.
Go in ready to listen and collaborate.
In early childhood parents are a teacher’s most important partner. When parents and teachers partner and collaborate, a child feels seen, safe and valued. When parents undermine teachers or when teachers don’t see parents as productive partners, it is the learner who will feel it most.
Take a breath, have an open mind and see your child’s teacher as a member of the team of people in your child’s life who care and are invested in their educational journey.
Look for themes.
As a parent, you know the ins and outs, ups and downs of your little one better than anyone. You are their first teacher and the consummate expert on your child. Take what you know and what you’re being told and look for common themes that ring true. Try to focus less on the details and more on the overarching themes that you know about your child.
For example, if feedback is given that transitions are challenging, consider what you know is true about your child. Maybe you already have built in ways to handle transitions (a favorite toy, an electronic device, siblings to distract.) In school, your child is without those. The overarching theme is that your child does indeed struggle to switch gears. Work to not focus on what can feel like a criticism, but instead employ what you know so that you can to better understand what you’re hearing and collaborate with the teacher to find strategies that could work in school.
Acknowledge how you feel & ask questions while being a forward thinker.
Hearing that your child is struggling in school brings up all kinds of feelings. Frustration, defensiveness, sadness and vulnerability are all normal reactions. We’ve each sat in conferences and teared up or felt our faces become flushed with emotion upon hearing feedback on our children. It’s okay. Emotions and parenthood are inevitable and they run the gamut. Feel those feelings and ask for information that you need. If emotions get the better of you, acknowledge that if you can (whether in the moment or later) and then think ahead to how you can support your child. What is recommended? Who could offer expertise or information to frame these observations?
Go to the experts.
Teachers are amazing at noticing patterns in behaviors, learning and social interactions. Many teachers have interacted with and taught hundreds of children this age so they do know about what is typical and what stands out. However, teachers are educators, not diagnosticians. They are not speech pathologists or occupational therapists or behavioral therapists. They are not pediatricians or your trusted friend. They are one piece of the puzzle. Take what they observe as important data that can help you be sure that your child gets what they need. Don’t delay in seeking out expert advice if needed.
Get some perspective.
Parenting is more isolating than ever. Working from home, texting instead of hearing a voice, and online parent meetings can make it harder to understand what and how other parents are managing with their children.
If possible, reach out to a friend to hear their thoughts on what you’ve been told. Maybe a family member or a neighbor or even us at Work & Play? Find someone who has been through this phase, who can give you perspective, lend support, listen and share experiences. Try to remember that taking time to process, consider and feel all the feelings before reacting can make a huge difference. Take the time you need!
We say it all the time and it’s true: Parenting was never meant to be done in isolation. Find your village and take heart in the fact that everyone is doing the best they can with what is coming their way.
When in doubt, trust your gut.
As parents, we know what we know. When something is off with our child, we tend to know it in our gut. Remember, if your child needs extra support or evaluation that is not because you or your child is doing anything wrong.
We all grow at different rates and change in different seasons of life; childhood is filled with twists, turns and developments.
Your child is an ever-changing individual who will need many different things from you as a parent. Take heart in the fact that you are doing the best you can with what is happening right now.
Parenting is messy, folks. Keep at it. You’re doing great.
Amy Mockbee & Emily Boucher
Founders, Work & Play ECC