Why is it that approaching our kids' teachers can spike our anxiety? Maybe it's past trauma from our grade school years. Perhaps it's the fact that emotions run high when it comes to our kids, so we know a tense conversation could be the outcome. Whatever the reason, it's something that we parents will definitely have to overcome since, at some point in each child's K-12 years, the need to communicate with their teachers will inevitably come up. Fortunately, it will probably be as easy as shooting over an email (especially in this digital age). But that prospect isn't without worries, either. You might even be wondering how to write an email to a teacher in a way that is appropriate, respectful, and conveys the point you're trying to make.
Depending on the matter you're reaching out to discuss, it could either be a breeze or perhaps a little awkward. But isn't that a big chunk of parenthood — facing awkward situations caused by the little people in our lives? With the right approach, this doesn't have to be one of them. So, if you're curious about the proper protocol, stick around for a few examples.
Teachers get a slew of emails, so keeping it short but informative will help them differentiate between an important email and one that can wait. It can also help them identify which one of their students it concerns and what it pertains to.
"Question about Gabe's math homework due this week"
If you've never met your child's teacher before (which might be the case for many parents these days), play it safe and stick with something polite and formal. A good rule of thumb is to address teachers the same way your child would.
"Good morning, Ms. Brown!" (And use "Ms." if you're unsure of their marital status.)
Email Body and Format
Teachers are busy! Remember, they have an average of 24 students. Keeping your email clear and concise is just one way to show your respect for their time. If the matter requires a lengthier conversation, don't jump right into the meatier stuff in your initial email. Instead, give the teacher a clear understanding of what you need to discuss, ask them for their availability, and, if possible, express your flexibility in setting up a chat.
"Gabe is having problems with some of his classmates that, from what I understand, are due to an incident on the playground a few weeks ago. He says Megan excluded him from a basketball game, which made him really sad..."
"I'm concerned about Gabe's relationship with his fellow classmates, and I'd like to set up a brief chat with you so we can resolve the issue. Please let me know your availability for next week. I'm flexible."
Tone of Voice
Teaching isn't an easy job, and most teachers do it because they truly care about the education of children — including yours. Using a respectful tone when emailing your child's teacher is not just an option; it's simply the right thing to do. If a teacher has done or said something that you feel is inappropriate, remain respectful and take up the matter with the principal or other school official, if necessary.
"I don't appreciate that you've been sending home so much homework. It's really a lot to deal with, and it's overwhelming for my child!"
"Keeping up with the homework assignments has been a bit of a challenge for our family. Is it possible to make some adjustments?"
Sometimes you may need to add an attachment to your email, like if your child is out sick and you need to submit their makeup classwork. Make sure your email mentions any attachments, and name each attachment appropriately. Also, remember that most email servers allow a maximum of 25 MB per attachment. Sending a link to a cloud drive is a great alternative to attachments.
Like the greeting, ending your email with a polite sign-off shows your respect and may even increase your chances of a quicker reply.
"Talk to you soon! – Gabe's mom"
"Thank you in advance for your time and reply! Sincerely, Melissa Smith (Gabe's mom)"
The next time you need to reach out to your child's teacher, you'll know exactly how to start and write an email that follows protocol and doesn't leave your index finger hovering over the send button in doubt.
Additional Tips for Emailing Teachers
Gone are the days of sending your kid to school with a note. Well, not completely, but email is instantaneous and way more efficient than using children as messengers. But these email interactions can sometimes be a little tricky and stressful. So, here are a few tips you can use when communicating with your child's teacher via email.
- Use your professional email address if you have one. Messages are more likely to get lost in your personal one.
- Before you add a link or attachment, ask yourself if it’s vital to the message. You don't want to clog the email with information the teacher may not need.
- In the email, push for a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. With kids, few issues can be resolved via email. It's best to get in front of the teacher if you can.
- As parents, we go to bat for our cubs no matter what, and you can still do that without hurting the relationship you have with your child's teacher. If you're especially teed off or emotional, take a beat and come back to writing the email a little later. You'll write a much clearer and concise email if you give yourself a little time.
*Keep in mind teachers don't blame parents for their child's actions. An educator's job includes juggling 10 to 20 children, each with their own personality and needs. It's important to remember to give teachers the benefit of the doubt. Teachers are part of the community used to raise a child, so try to see them first as team members instead of adversaries.
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