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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

If Your Child Is Struggling in School, Here Are 10 Things They Need to Tell Their Teacher

Jump-start your child's relationship with her teacher this school year with these key first-day conversations, all aimed at addressing her strengths and challenges.

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The importance of being upfront

Too often, when a teacher sees a child struggling academically, it’s difficult for her to look beyond those challenges and truly understand his strengths and skills. The solution? A first-day-of-school, getting-to-know-you conversation, or even an easy-to-fill-out back-to-school introduction letter. According to Amanda Morin, a parent advocate and former teacher, and an expert with, this “can help get the school year off to a good start. It’s also a great way to start building a positive relationship. You can use the letter to share important facts about your child and strategies that have worked in the past.”

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“Sometimes I need extra help with…”

When a teacher knows about a child’s challenges, she can come up with ways to help him be successful. If he’s a slow reader, for example, better to say it now and let the teacher know that he might need some extra time to get reading done. Find out strategies for raising a reader.

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“This school year, I am looking forward to getting better at…”

It’s equally important for the teacher to understand what your child is working on. So if, for example, your child has difficulty paying attention, let the teacher know. Then they can work together on strategies. A teacher will be far less frustrated with a child being distracted if she knows that it’s something the student is aware of and is trying to improve.

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“When I am not at school, I like to…”

Teachers only see their students in the classroom. But these same kids spend 18 hours a day not in the classroom. Is your child an athlete? A dancer? Letting the teacher get to know who a child is outside the classroom can create a stronger bond. Maybe they even have an interest in common. Now, find out the secrets your child’s teacher won’t tell you.

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“My favorite subject in school is…”

Maybe your child loves science. Or art. Letting the teacher know where her interests lie will help her build on what your child loves to help her improve in the areas where she struggles.

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“I am entitled to accommodations, like…”

If your child already has an IEP or a 504 plan, it’s easy to assume that the new teacher has been informed. This may not be correct, though. Make sure your child clearly communicates with the teacher about what accommodations are built in to his plan. For example, “I am allowed to use a calculator to help with math,” or “My 504 plan offers me text-to-speech.”

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“I am really good at…”

It’s important that a teacher understand your child’s academic strengths as well as her weaknesses. So if a child struggles with math but is an exceptionally good writer, let the teacher know. This will help her tap into his passions and use her strengths to work around her weaknesses.

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“I work best when I…”

It’s no secret: A teacher can make or break a child’s success that school year. And the more a teacher knows about how your child works best, the more she can accommodate him. So it’s important for the teacher to know if your child thrives, say, standing up versus sitting down, or if he does better when he is in a quiet space.

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“I sometimes struggle when…”

Just like your child may work well in certain circumstances, she may be less productive in others. It’s important to tell the teacher that she may struggle if she’s called on unexpectedly. Or if she is less comfortable in large groups than in small ones.

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“Strategies that help me work better include…”

This is where a teacher really has a chance to make difficult things easier for your child. Examples can include your child saying, “I work better when I’m paired up with an assignment buddy,” or “It helps me when you break up assignments into steps.”

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“What I liked most about my teacher last year was…”

Believe it: Teachers want to be liked by their students. (Just check out these inspirational quotes about teaching.) Telling a new teacher what worked in the past can keep her from having to guess how to help. Maybe it’s something like, “Last year, my teacher let me pace back and forth across the room when I was doing math problems.” Or, “Whenever I spaced out, she would put her hand on my shoulder to get my attention back.” These small tips can help teachers get the school year off to a good start for everyone.