As a foster parent, school teacher, and now principal, I have seen many foster kids who struggle in school. On the flipside, I have also seen foster kids who became very successful in school. In many cases the foster youth, foster parent, and teacher only had to make a few simple changes. Here are some ways that I have seen be very effective to have successful communication with the teachers.
Have contact often with the teachers
I know that you are busy, your foster children are probably busy, and your kids’ teachers are certainly busy; but, if you want a struggling foster student to be successful in school, you need to meet often with their teacher. I have been through this from a few angles now. I have been the parent sitting in the meeting, and I’ve been the teacher. I know that both sides can, at times, feel that such meetings are a complete waste of time. It is this feeling that makes it hard to get parents and teachers to meet together. Trust me when I say, “IT IS WORTH IT!”
Just last year I had a young man who was a constant distraction in my 7th grade English class. As a result of his disruptive behavior, he was struggling in my class. I waited for parent teacher conference to speak with his parents, but they never showed. One day I threatened to call this young man’s parents. He then told me that he was in foster care. I set up a meeting with his foster mother for later in the week. Immediately after I set up the meeting with his foster mother, this young man’s behavior improved. The more regular our contact became, the more consistently he improved his behavior. As the school year went on, we were able to be in contact less often, but this young man always knew that his foster parents were in contact with me. He knew that if he were to misbehave in my class that his foster parents would find out.
So many times we limit ourselves to one form of communication. There are so many different ways to keep in contact with teachers. You kind of need to use a balance of what works for you, combined with what works for the teacher. I know that email is easy for me. Other people would rather have a phone call. I have even communicated with parents and teachers through text. There are a few benefits behind each form of communication. Here are my thoughts on each:
- Face to Face
Advantages: This is very personal, and it is easy for you to get to know the teacher when you are talking to them in person. Face to face also helps your foster youth and their teacher understand that you are very serious about this as a foster parent.
Disadvantages: This is one of the most time consuming forms of communication. It takes time to plan, and it can be very difficult to get your schedules to match up.
- Phone Calls
Advantages: Phone calls to a teacher are easy. Most teachers are willing to talk to you during prep hours or after school. You are able to speak, so there is less possibility of misunderstanding.
Disadvantages: Less personal, and it is always so frustrating to get lost in a game of phone tag.
Advantages: Texting is quick and easy. If your teacher is willing to exchange numbers with you, this is a good way to receive little reports on your foster kids. Also, if you save your texts you have a record of your conversation.
Disadvantages: Texting is very impersonal. It also is very limited in what you can convey in a message. It is hard to communicate details, it is also very easy to become a victim of the ever funny autocorrect errors.
Advantages: Emails can be long if need be, or then can be very short. They are also very easy to save as documentation. Most teachers check their email at least two or three times a day. This is also an easy way for you to receive copies of your foster youth’s worksheets if they are in the habit of losing them.
Disadvantages: Emails are not as easy as talking face to face. They are also easy to be overlooked as many teachers receive tons of emails each day.
No single method of communication is better than any of the others. But, each one can be better in specific situations. Know what you want to accomplish, and use the most appropriate tools for you and the teacher.
If your foster youth is struggling in school, open up the lines of communication between you and your youth’s teachers. This will be a powerful first step in helping your foster kids succeed in school.