“Last November, the CDC reported that mental health visits to emergency rooms increased by 31% for kids between the ages of 12 to 17.”
This is a line from a Medium post I read yesterday.
The author’s daughter had contributed to this statistic. She had a mental health crisis in July 2020 that landed her in the emergency department.
I don’t have updated data for 2021, but I do know that for the first time in my career, I ended the 2020–2021 school year with multiple academic coaching students returning to school after mental health hospitalizations.
Why am I opening a back-to-school blog post about introducing yourself to your kids’ new teachers by talking about hospital visits for mental health?
Because a whole lot more parents are sending their kids back to school in the next few weeks after a traumatic experience last year.
Even if your family was not touched by a mental health crisis, you probably have a whole new set of worries about your child’s schooling that you couldn’t even fathom having a year and a half ago.
And your kids likely do too.
And most of us are going back to school with all of these thoughts and feelings, having no precedent for communicating with teachers about any of it.
So, I want to give you some tips for starting a dialogue with your kids’ new teachers this fall. And since I know this is new to a lot of folks, I’m providing two downloadable email templates (including one for students to introduce themselves!) so all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Use these templates to get you started. No need to write your email from scratch!
Commit to sending a note as soon as you have the teacher’s contact information
We’re all busy, especially as kids are transitioning back into school. It is so incredibly easy to put things off that are not “required” in favor of things that have to get done. Right. Now.
You won’t set off any alarm bells if you don’t reach out to your kids’ teachers to introduce yourself.
The school won’t send a note home.
Your kids won’t pester you.
There will be no glaring immediate consequences.
Which is why if you don’t prioritize doing it, it won’t get done.
But if you don’t do it, you’ll know that your kids’ teachers don’t know the most important details of what your kids went through last year. The things that if they did know, they might be able to help you watch out for this year.
So recognize emailing your kids’ teachers at the beginning of the school year as a gain task, and do it as soon as you have their email address.
I promise you’ll feel a mountain of relief.
And if you’re not convinced, read on to find out why.
Be clear on why you’re taking the time to introduce yourself
Are you going to get to meet your kids’ teachers on Back To School Night? Yes (as long as you’re able to go and they’re not sick that night).
Will you have the opportunity to talk with them after their presentation about the class? Maybe (if there’s not a huge line of other parents wanting to do the same in the few minutes before you have to go to the next classroom).
Will the teacher remember everything you say if you do get to talk to them? Uhmm…
Sending a short note to your kids’ new teachers at the beginning of the year gives you the opportunity to
- communicate your care and involvement in your child’s education
- give the teachers the exact information that you want to make sure they have about your kid
- and open a line for communication so that when communication is needed, it can happen right away
And you can do all of that in one relatively short introductory email that the teacher can go back to for reference as many times as they need. You just need to make your purpose explicit.
To do that, use the tips below.
Tell them what you want them to know
It’s no secret that teachers have a lot on their plates. They’re juggling a lot of information and a ton of competing priorities while working hard to educate many students.
They want the information that’s going to help them best serve each of their pupils. But they most likely do not have the time or resources to track it all down.
You know your kid best.
You know what they were most challenged by in the last year and a half.
You know how they’ve changed.
You know what they’re good at and where they struggle.
And you know what they try to hide from everyone else.
So let the teacher know what specific concerns you have for your child this year.
If your child experienced something that has had a lasting impact on them, like a loss, mental health crisis, increased anxiety, etc., give the teacher 1–2 sentences of information about that experience. Do make sure your child has consented to you sharing beforehand.
If your child has a 504 or an IEP, you’ll want to state that as well. You can also consider providing a summary of the accommodations or modifications in your child’s plan.
All of your kids’ teachers do have access to these plans, but depending on how many students they have, it may take them a while to read through them thoroughly, if they get to at all. That may not be how it’s supposed to work, but this email isn’t about how things are supposed to work in the school system. It’s about your child and what you want to make sure is known in their classrooms from Day 1.
Give them an idea of what you’re doing at home
If you have implemented any systems or strategies at home to help your child be successful in school — whether they’re new or old — it’s helpful to let your child’s teachers know what those are.
Even if the teacher isn’t going to have any role in the system or have to do anything with the strategy, I can tell you as a former teacher that it is always nice to have a window into what’s going on at home. And to know how families are working at the same time I am to help their child succeed.
By sharing what you’re doing at home to support your child, the teacher will also know what systems and strategies your child already has in place that they may be able to leverage if they see your child start to struggle in class.
Creating this kind of transparency and open system can make a huge difference in a child’s school experience.
Create an opening for a meaningful dialogue
The final thing you’ll want to do when you introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s) is invite a response.
By making a specific ask and inviting the teacher to also share with you anything that they would like you to know, you’re opening up a clear line of communication that can quickly and easily be used anytime during the school year that your child needs it to be.
And that’s really the bottom line when it comes to introducing yourself to your child’s new teachers this way at the beginning of the school year.
The introduction reduces friction.
It makes it so there is less in the way between you and your kids’ classrooms, between their teachers and the information they need about the kids, and between home and school.
So I invite you to go for it. Download the email templates I’ve created for you to easily and effectively introduce yourself to your kid’s teachers.
And stay tuned for more back-to-school help over the next few weeks!
Founder & Principal Academic Coach
Laura Fragomeni, Ed.M.
Laura Fragomeni is a Harvard-educated master academic coach and the founder of School Without Suffering, an academic coaching practice specializing in helping struggling students around the world be happy and successful.