Teacher communication protocol: Teachers can be the biggest ally in a student’s success and ability to put the wheels back on the academic wagon. Too often, teachers are positioned as the antagonist and the student as the victim. Having been in formal education for 14 years I can tell you this is not typically true. Sure, some teachers are total cranks and seemingly feed off punishing or restricting student performance. But most are not. Teachers want their students to be successful, but they also need to know that student is an engaged member of the change process. Teacher communication is a valuable skill and cannot be understated in its importance.

Tips for student-teacher communication:

★  Get to know teachers: Establish a relationship base early and maintain that relationship throughout the year so that the teacher is not only approached in times of need or crisis. Teachers are humans, people too—encourage your student to find connection points: sports, politics, travel, TV shows, hobbies, family. Whatever the case, the footing is important equity in the relationship-bank.

★  Avoid the ambush: Confronting or approaching a teacher about a mistake, error, questionable grade or similar is best done without a peer audience. Encourage your student to make an appointment via email (or in person first, but memorialized in email) to find a time that the teacher will be present and prepared to discuss the need.

★  Email, email, email: Many teachers use email and prefer it to drive-by student questions and comments due to the sheer volume of information they are responsible for remembering and responding to. Email serves two fundamental purposes: it allows you to get your thoughts together in a cohesive and unemotional tone and tracks the student’s attempt to resolve the issue, need, query,  or whatever the case, so that later in the game they cannot and will not be accused of not making their best effort. I hear often, and saw this frequently as a high school administrator, that teachers tell students NOT to email them and they WON’T respond to email. Perfect. Email anyhow. Email your confirmations of verbally scheduled appointments, verbally agreed upon grade resolutions and anything else that could eventually become an I-said-Teacher-said situation.

★  Be specific, and prepared: When seeking extra attention or assistance from teachers it is most effective to be specific and prepared with those specific questions for your time together. Most likely, the teacher will be aiding other students as well, or have a limited amount of time for individual attention. If your student scores low on a quiz, but is working to perform better on their upcoming exam, the quiz provides them with targeted areas for help, rather than simply walking in and saying: “I don’t get it!” On the writing side of the curriculum, students who are specific about what part of the writing process that is troubling them will get much better use of their time if they have put in some self-assessment work prior to the meeting. For example, the student who approaches with a targeted need, like transition sentences, or how to craft a thesis statement, will have more benefit to the session than one who simply says: “I can’t write.”

★  Practice patience: The chain reaction of unfinished business and the consequences that accompany them (think missing assignments, false zeros, waiting for late work to be graded) can cause students to go from assertive to annoying from the perspective of the teachers. Encourage your student to allow time for items to be resolved and pay mind to the cause for the delay. For example, if your student turned in an essay late because they were ill, say a week late, then they should expect their work to be reciprocally late in its return. Generally, a good rule of thumb is a 2-week turnaround time work to be graded (except for formal essays—those take a ton of time to grade). If your student has been patiently waiting and there is not a resolution, they should…you guessed it! Email! It’s a receipt of their effort to resolve the problem.