Communicating with Doubting Parents – Example 1 of 4

Every now and then we get challenged by misguided and misinformed parents. They are often mean-spirited as well, especially when they feel that their child is not happy in our class.

Their children are usually heavily robotic memorizers with not much in their social skills bank accounts. It must be our fault! Why don’t we teach for memorization like everybody else?

If we have a strong administrative staff who understands our work and how people actually acquire languages, it is a blessing. But not all of us have that going on in our buildings. Often, the administrators even commiserate with the upset parents and the shine starts to come off our relationship with our school and we long to get out of there.

Below are four examples of written communications with such people by four very strong language teachers. Please free to cut and paste anything you want from these letters, since I have the authors’ permissions to do so.

This first example is a letter home from Grant Boulanger:

Example 1:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones:

I’d like to check in regarding Troy’s performance in Spanish class. It is clear that Troy is very capable. However, currently he is among the poorest performing students in his Spanish class. There really is no need for that.

Troy is expected to be an active participant in class. I expect him to dedicate his energy to understanding the Spanish he’s hearing or reading. I expect that he focus his attention in class on our conversation or on what we are reading. I expect him to respond to my questions and statements. I expect him to observe my facial expressions, spoken messages so he can benefit from the many ways I’m conveying meaning to him and the class.

This type of communication – interpersonal communication – is part of a national standard and accounts for 65% of Troy’s grade, which is currently a D. (The other 35% comes from daily quizzes which are easy if the student pays attention and attends class regularly.)

I give frequent, daily reminders about my expectations and about the skills necessary for successful interpersonal communication. While I avoid calling him out by name in class, I can only assume that he is intentionally ignoring these expectations.

Troy’s long-term achievement is intimately tied to how well he engages in class on a daily basis. Just like a band member can’t pass band without playing his instrument, Troy won’t be able to pass Spanish without interacting with me during our various Spanish activities in a back and forth and participatory way.

It’s important to me that I have your support in helping Troy know and understand expectations. If he doesn’t understand why they are what they are, I would be happy to sit down with you both and help him understand. That is my responsibility as Troy’s teacher. Troy’s is to do the things described above. Honestly, there really is no reason why he shouldn’t be performing well, at least that I can tell.

I look forward to working with you to help Troy achieve all that he can achieve this year. Thank you for your support and I look forward to hearing back from you. Please call this number anytime for further clarification: __________________.

Sincerely, etc.

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