How To Deal with Unresponsive Teachers


I am really frustrated. There is a huge disconnect between whats in my daughter’s IEP and whats happening in her classes. Some teachers follow it and communicate with me, but some dont even respond when I email them. How can I improve communication with her teachers?                                                                                   

IEP Parent

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Leslie Josel

Leslie Josel is the Principal of of Order Out of Chaos, an organizing consulting firm specializing in student organizing. She is the author of several books, including the recently published How to Do It Now…Because It’s Not Going Away, as well as the creator of the award-winning Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management.

I appreciate how much you want to support your daughter. And the best way to do so is to ensure she gets the support she needs at school. However, as you’ve realized, getting the information you need can be frustrating and overwhelming and depends on good communication with her teachers.

It’s important to know what the modifications and accommodations are from your daughter’s IEP, how they are being implemented and measured for progress, and how this information will be communicated to you.

I suggest sending each teacher a list of specific questions to gather this data. You want to know if your daughter is performing at grade level, what teaching methods are used in the classroom, and where her teachers see any struggles. Following is a list of questions to help guide the discussion.

  1. Have you read my child’s IEP or 504 plan?

Don’t assume that your daughter’s teachers have a copy of her IEP, or that they’ve read it. I recommend forwarding each teacher a copy of her IEP and a one-page summary detailing her strengths and weaknesses. Don’t forget to include her elective or special-area teachers in physical education, music, art, health, etc. Also, include your contact information, so the teachers will know the best way to get in touch with you. Then send a follow-up email to each  teacher a week later to confirm that they received and read the report.

  1. Can you tell me about your teaching style?

Each instructor’s teaching style will differ. Finding out how they teach is critical to your child’s success in the classroom. For example, if she is a hands-on learner and her chemistry teacher is strictly an old-school lecturer, additional support and scaffolding may be necessary. In other words, you want to know what a typical class period  looks like.

  1. What supports are in place for my daughter, and how are you specifically implementing them?

Academic and behavioral support can be provided in many ways, so you need to get detailed here. What do the IEP accommodations  and supports look like in each class? Are they a pull-out model (where a  student is removed from class for support) or a push-in model (where  support staff blends in with the rest of the class to provide support)? Is the teacher giving her copies of the class notes, applying homework modifications, or offering directions in more than two modalities?

  1. Does my daughter need extra help in any areas? If so, how are you working with her to address them?

This is a softer way of asking what your daughter may be struggling with and what her teacher is doing to support her.

  1. What type of progress can I expect to see?

It’s not enough for your daughter’s teachers to tell you what accommodations or modifications they are implementing. You also need to  know what type of progress to expect and how it will be measured. Use the  following questions to get clear answers.

  • What should healthy progress look like?
  • What are some key signs that she is moving in the right direction?
  • What should I look for at home?
  1. How can I communicate to you what works best for my daughter at home?

It’s crucial to give your daughter’s teachers a clear view of what is working at home. Maybe your daughter needs to doodle to focus or move around while learning. Perhaps she needs to listen to music while doing desk work. These strategies need to be communicated to her teachers so they can possibly incorporate them into their classrooms.

  1. How can we support classroom goals at home?

For students to make the best progress possible, goals must be fluid between school and home. To that end, make sure there is a clear communication plan in place. How will you communicate with your student’s teacher? How will they communicate with you? How often? Do you want to know about specific criteria, milestones, or setbacks? The more specific you make your communication plan, the fewer things will be left to chance, and the most success your daughter will achieve!

This article was originally published by ADDitude Magazine where Leslie Josel writes a weekly column called “Dear ADHD Family Coach®”. She answers readers’ most pressing questions on a range of ADHD parenting topics.

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