For the most part, Lucia’s three children are doing well at their new school. They are making friends and keeping up with their assignments. The two younger children have told Lucia that they like school this year.
However, Lucia noticed that her oldest child, ten-year-old Miguel, seemed unhappy. After a lot of questioning, Miguel finally told his mother that a bully named Josh has been pushing him around. Josh also makes fun of Miguel for being an immigrant and for speaking English with an accent.
“Josh usually goes after Miguel at lunch or recess,” said Lucia. “Sometimes it happens in the hallway when the kids are coming back from their music class. So the teacher doesn’t see any of it. Miguel won’t talk to her about it. He doesn’t want to be a tattletale. I need to write an email to the teacher to let her know about this.”
As the mother of three, Lucia has written to her children’s teachers on many previous occasions, yet this time it feels different. “Those other emails were about things like assignments, or needing to leave school early to go to the dentist,” said Lucia. “This bully is a much bigger problem. And we just moved to this area, so I don’t know anyone at this new school yet.”
What if you are dealing with a sensitive situation?
In our previous article, we offered some basic guidelines for writing emails to your child’s teacher. But like Lucia, sometimes parents need to inform a teacher about a sensitive situation, such as bullying. Other times, a parent might think a teacher is treating their child unfairly, or neglecting the child’s special needs. In such cases, the parent might feel very angry or upset.
Although it can be hard not to let these feelings show, it is better to use a calm, professional tone when writing an email to a teacher. One helpful strategy is to write an emotional email first so you can let out all of your negative feelings. Then set the email aside—don’t accidentally send it! After you have had time to process the situation, you can go back to the email and rewrite it so the tone is less emotional.
Let’s look at two examples of emails that address the same situation, but the tone of each one is different.
Dear Mrs. Collins,
Why are you reading books about witches, ghosts, and Halloween in class? Are you some kind of sick person who likes to scare kindergarten kids? My son Jed has nightmares and wakes up screaming because of these books! If you keep reading these books, I will report you to the principal! You should be fired!!!
—Ed Smythe (Jed’s dad)
Dear Mrs. Collins,
This is Ed Smythe, Jed’s dad. I am concerned about the Halloween books you have been reading to the class. They are too scary for Jed. Like many five-year-olds, he believes that witches and ghosts are real. These books have been giving him nightmares. Can you please excuse him from class the next time you read a Halloween book? Maybe he can spend that time in the library or the computer lab. I would appreciate it.
Ed Smythe (father of Jed Smythe)
The first email has a very angry and threatening tone. After reading that email, Mrs. Collins might dismiss Ed Smythe as the kind of parent who just wants to stir up trouble. However, the second email has a calmer, more objective tone. It also offers a reasonable solution to the problem. If Ed Smythe’s goal is to protect his son from stories that are too scary, the second email is more likely to achieve that outcome.
If you find that the teacher is not taking your child’s problem seriously—or if the teacher is the problem— the advice at the end of this previous article about university professors can also apply to younger students and their families.
It helps to have someone else look at the email before you send it.
Since Lucia is not a native speaker, she likes to have a second pair of eyes look at all of her English language emails before she clicks “send”. “I wanted to make sure the email to Miguel’s teacher had no mistakes,” said Lucia. “And I wanted to sound firm, but not too pushy. So I asked for some feedback.”
Here is the final version of Lucia’s email to Miguel’s teacher:
Dear Ms. Robinson,
My name is Lucia Baez. I am Miguel Baez’s mother. Miguel has been having problems with a boy named Josh. Josh has been pushing Miguel, calling him names, and making fun of his accent. This mostly happens at lunch, recess, and on the way back from music class, so you might not be aware of it. Could you please help?
Lucia received a response from Miguel’s teacher that evening. “Ms. Robinson is taking the bullying seriously,” said Lucia. “She had a nice talk with Miguel the next day. I don’t know what exactly she did about Josh, but the bullying isn’t so bad now. It hasn’t stopped completely—Josh is a sneaky kid. But now Miguel knows that his teacher is there to help him, so he is happier in school.”
If you are writing to a teacher about a sensitive issue and would like a human editor to take a look at it before you send it, click the blue box below. One of our TextRanch editors will read through your email, correct any mistakes, and give you some feedback.
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