Communication, Email Writing, Writing

Writing to Your Child’s Teacher (Part One)

As the mother of a five-year-old girl who recently started kindergarten, Ashley is amazed at how much school has changed since she was a child in the 1990s. “When I was a kid, we just had one computer lab in the school basement,” Ashley recalled. “If the teacher needed to talk to a parent or vice versa, they wrote notes by hand. In first grade, I even had a little notebook that I brought home every day that my mom had to read and sign.”

“Now everything is computerized,” Ashley continued. “My daughter uses a tablet in class every day—in kindergarten! All of the notes, schedules, and newsletters from the teacher are online. And whenever I need to contact the teacher, I am supposed to send an email. Actually, I need to do that right now because Lily has to leave school early on Thursday for her eye doctor appointment.”

Although Ashley learned how to write and send emails in that long-ago basement computer lab, she feels a little uneasy about writing emails to her daughter’s teacher. “Maybe I’m overthinking it, or maybe I’m just a nervous mom,” said Ashley. “I also have dyslexia, so now I’m remembering all the trouble I had learning to read and write when I was in school. I’m also not sure what I’m supposed to write in these emails. Is it the same stuff that parents used to write when all of this was done by hand? Or am I expected to write business-type emails?”

Sending an email to a teacher is somewhat similar to sending a business email. At the same time, the content is mainly the “same stuff” that parents wrote about in earlier decades when handwritten notes were the main form of communication between a child’s school and the home.

There are 4 basic building blocks for writing an email to your child’s teacher…

1. Salutation

Start your email with a greeting or opening salutation, the same as you would greet someone in a formal business email. In most cases, you would call the teacher by the same name that your child uses when addressing him or her. Thus, you would start with “Dear” followed by Mrs. Jones, Mr. Liu, Ms. Berry, etc.

At some preschools and daycare centers, the children call the teacher “Miss”, “Ms.,” “Mrs.”, or “Mr.”, followed by their first name: Miss Jackie, Mr. Andy, Ms. Lisa. You can do likewise if this is the case at your child’s school/daycare.

2. Opening

Begin the body of your email by introducing yourself and reminding the teacher who your child is. Parents don’t always have the same last name as their child, or sometimes a teacher has more than one student with a common last name such as Williams or Garcia or Zhang

If this is an upper-level teacher who has many different classes, be sure to include which particular class your child is in: “My daughter is Karine Gaudet from your 3rd period World History class.”

3. Main Text

The biggest section of your email should contain your actual message for the teacher. Try to keep your sentences brief and clear. Avoid including any unnecessary details. Keep the email short, just one or two paragraphs.

4. Closing

End the email with an appropriate closing salutation, such as “Thank you” or “Sincerely” followed by your name.

Some other points to consider

  • Give the teacher plenty of time to respond to your email. Teachers are very busy and may not be able to reply immediately.
  • If your child is having a problem in school, be specific and provide details.
  • Do you want the teacher to take a certain course of action, such as going over the homework or making sure that your child remembers to wear her eyeglasses during class? If so, include that in your email.
  • Are you dealing with a complicated issue, or do you have several separate issues that you would like the teacher to address? If so, you should probably ask the teacher to schedule a conference. It’s hard to take care of serious issues, such as bullying or learning problems, through email exchanges alone.
  • Like everyone else, teachers appreciate it when someone tells them they are doing a good job! You can send them a thank-you email when they take the time to give your child extra help, or when your child enjoys a particular experience at school, such as a field trip.

An example email to a teacher…

This is the email that Ashley sent to her daughter’s kindergarten teacher:

Dear Mrs. McVie,

My name is Ashley Summers. I am Lily Anderson’s mom. This Thursday, I need to take her out of school early because she has an appointment with the eye doctor. I will be picking her up at 2pm. If Lily is going to miss any assignments, please send them home with her on Wednesday.

Thank you,

Ashley Summers

Ashley’s email is formatted correctly. Lily’s teacher can easily read it and understand it. Ashley’s tone is polite and pleasant. Technically, everything looks good. Ashley did a good job!

What about handwritten notes?

These days, most communications between parents and teachers occur via email, but sometimes an old-fashioned handwritten note is necessary. This is especially the case if you don’t have internet access at home, or when you are alerting the teacher about a matter that needs their immediate attention.

“One night, our electricity went out, and my son couldn’t finish an online homework assignment,” said Dina, the mother of a high school student. “So I sent my son to school the next morning with a handwritten note, explaining the situation. I could have sent an email to the teacher using my phone, but by that point she probably wouldn’t have seen it until after school.”

Another parent, Abdul, sometimes scrawls notes on his children’s math homework assignments. “I just ask the teacher to please go over the problems that the kids didn’t understand,” explained Abdul. “I can’t help them with that. The way they do math nowadays is different from when I was in school.”

Handwritten notes should be formatted the same as emails. The main difference is that you need to include information about how the teacher can respond, since he or she cannot just click “Reply”.

Should someone else look at your email before you send it to the teacher?

If you are comfortable writing in English and if you are dealing with a simple issue, such as notifying the teacher about your child’s medical appointment, then you can probably just send the email without having someone else read it first. However, if you feel nervous about your writing skills, then it’s a good idea to ask another person to read your email before you send it.

“I had someone look at my email before I sent it,” said Ashley. “Between my nerves and my dyslexia, I needed that extra level of reassurance.”

You also might want someone else to look at your email to your child’s teacher if you are writing about a complicated or highly emotional situation—or if you simply feel upset. We will go into more details about this in our next article.

Although most of the emails we handle at TextRanch are related to the workplace or to university-level education, you are absolutely welcome to submit your emails about elementary or secondary school issues. Just click the blue box below and one of our editors will give you some feedback.

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