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Last Updated On: May 25th, 2021

This is a topic that continues to rear its head even into adulthood. Talking to authority figures can be hard for adults, so why do we think it’s any easier for children?

It’s important to help your children understand the value of communication and relationships with their superiors.
Let’s help them start young.

So how to begin the communication? How to ask questions before the last second? How to ask for help in a productive, proactive way?

1. Encourage your student to ask questions the second they feel doubt about an assignment.

→ Most kids don’t realize they have doubts about something until it’s far too late to ask. This happens because typically there is procrastination and your child looks at the rubric and assignment too late in the game. So if this is definitely your kid … make sure you force them to repeat back to you what their latest project entails. What do they have to do? How much time do they have?

Ask the important questions at dinner a few days before. If they can’t answer these questions easily, have them pull out the rubric and assignment.

→ Does it help clarify? Is it confusing to you, an adult? (Sometimes it is! Let’s be real.) If you or your child is still confused, stop and email the teacher. It’s so, so, so important to ask questions early. Not every teacher is great with email and some teachers don’t take well to a last minute question the night before something is due.

Executive functioning is another great tool for the procrastinating child. Not sure what that is? Here’s a quick overview: Center for the Developing Child: Executive Function & Self-Regulation.

If your child is struggling with the organization of assignments and runs into last minute questions often, they might need some help in this department. Here are a few ideas for the student that needs a bit more help with organization to effectively manage their work: Executive Functioning: How To Help With Organization.

2. This brings me to the most crucial element in building teacher communication…EMAILS.

→ Does your child know how to write a professional email? Be real with yourself. Do they use texting language? Do they know how to write a formal letter? Emails include a lot of the formalities of a letter. Most kids get this education in school, but it’s definitely not emphasized the way it was when we went to school.
→ Teach them! Show them the importance of a heading “Dear Mrs. Brownstone,”
→ Encourage them to always close the email by saying something like, “Thank you,” or “Sincerely,”
Help them find ways to articulate their needs by being of service to their teacher. It’s important that their email doesn’t create a new task for the teacher, but instead asks the teacher for help in a proactive way.


Don’t say…
Can you help me with this problem? I don’t get it

I’m struggling with problems #5-8 on the homework. Would it be possible to meet you for office hours tomorrow at 12pm to go over these problems?

What’s the difference? In the first email your child is merely stating they have a problem and isn’t taking any action steps or responsibility in the learning. In the second example they are being clear about their problem, owning the challenge, and being proactive about finding a solution with the teacher. Now the teacher only has to confirm the time and he or she may even have a moment to go over these problems in class. It’s a win, win when communication is clear.

3. Asking for the extension.

→ Reasons most teachers don’t like to offer or give these: students take advantage of the system and due dates become non-existent. Especially this year, teachers have had to institute grace periods and all kinds of lenient rules to honor the pandemic conditions. It’s hard to maintain the integrity of your profession when you feel like your grades are out of your control. Be mindful of the teacher’s experience when your child does ask for an extension.

Generally, extensions should be the last resort. It’s important to help your child understand the extension game. If they’re a student that never asks for favors and extra time on assignments, then asking for an extension shouldn’t be an issue. However, if they are constantly having trouble and asking for extensions then the teacher has every right to not want to grant this kindness too many times. If your child has gone to office hours with the teacher at least once a month during the school year, it probably won’t be a big ask. If your child has never attended office hours, sent an email, or asked a question during class, it’s going to be hard for the teacher to know their work ethic and trust that they deserve this opportunity.
This is where parents can help. No matter what kind of student your child is, encourage a relationship with the teacher throughout the year. Always support your child sending an email to the teacher with questions. Have your child meet with the teacher for office hours at least a couple times. I really believe office hours once a month should be the bare minimum. Help your child understand the importance of communication. Ask questions, build rapport, show the teacher they care about their class and what they’re learning (even when they really don’t).

For more pro tips on building student-relationships early in the year, check out our blog on End of Semester: Ways to Boost Your Grade. Or if you’re still struggling with how to write your extension email, check out the sample at How to Ask for an Extension on an Assignment.

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