Study: Parents want to hear more from teachers, teachers want to hear more from parents

Second-grade teacher Meredith Scaggins writes her name on the board for students on the first day of school at Eanes Elementary School. Teachers want to know what is happening in their student's home life. KATIE URBASZEWSKI/WESTLAKE PICYUNE
Second-grade teacher Meredith Scaggins writes her name on the board for students on the first day of school at Eanes Elementary School. Teachers want to know what is happening in their student’s home life.
KATIE URBASZEWSKI/WESTLAKE PICYUNE

A study of 689 parents and 174 teachers across all grades by VitalSmarts found that parents and teachers are not talking to each other about important topics like drug use, mental health and changes in family dynamics.

The study by New York Times best-selling authors Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, found that 94 percent of teachers want to know about a recent divorce but only 23 percent of the parents who are getting divorced told the teachers.

Some other discrepancies:

93 percent of teachers want to know about a major illness or accident in the family, yet only 21 percent of parents inform the teacher when this happens.

89 percent of teachers want to know about a death in the family, yet only 26 percent of parents inform the teacher when this happens.

89 percent of teachers want to know about a child’s depression or mood change. Only 27 percent of parents inform the teacher when this happens.

Sixth grade teacher Sarita Lakey, left, greets student Brayan Lopez, as he arrives at Austin Achieve public school  for the start of a new school year. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Sixth grade teacher Sarita Lakey, left, greets student Brayan Lopez, as he arrives at Austin Achieve public school for the start of a new school year.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Teachers also aren’t communicating with parents.

Only 27 percent of parents for whom drug use by their children was relevant said the teacher contacted them.

Only 54 percent of parents who have kids with anxiety or depression said the teacher communicated with them.

Yet teachers did communicate on these issues:

65 percent of parents who have kids with suspected cognitive issues or learning differences like dyslexia, ADHD and Aspergers said the teacher contacted them.

68 percent of parents who have kids who are missing class said the teacher contacted them.

Why aren’t teachers and parents talking more? Anecdotally, there were a variety of reasons, including that mental illness, divorce, an arrest and other life-changers, might be topics they don’t feel safe sharing. “There is shame and embarrassment,” Grenny says. “They probably don’t appreciate how profoundly these things can affect a child’s life.”

Death of a family member, divorce, a major illness — those are all called Adverse Childhood Experiences. The more ACEs a child has, the more likely they are behaviorally challenged and they become unsuccessful, Grenny explains.

Maxfield said the study did find that parents share more when their child is in elementary school.

“This makes sense, especially when you consider that students move from having one teacher in elementary school to having several in higher grades. It’s tough for a parent to have relationships or even contact with multiple teachers.”

Grenny says that teachers really do want to know what is going on with your child and your family outside of school. It can help explain, not excuse some of the behavior that the teacher might be seeing.

“Teachers crave this information,” he says.

And for parents who sometimes “feel like they are left in the dark,” they also want to know when their child doesn’t seem to interact with fellow students or has trouble being actively engage in class.

Start the new school year right and let your children’s teachers know what’s happening in your lives.

Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at austin360.com/raisingaustin. She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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