Connection the key to community wellness.

“The simple art of connection – bow out with dignity so they can bow back in with dignity”

Leanne Simpson Balance Minder

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Podcast Transcript

Leanne Simpson:              Our guest today is Peta Jeppensen from Beyond the Classroom. And we’re talking about that connection between teacher and parent. And one of the ways is by an email. Have you considered your connection when you email someone? Let’s have a chat. So today I am so grateful that I’ve made a connection with you, because one of the things that comes about with this new way of getting around in the world is emails. And I have to say that often for a long time there, I would get up and look at my emails, and not even want to look at them.

I am at the stage now that I have an expectation that if people want to email me, that we have a certain way of doing it. And I think that those types of things come about by leading the way.

Leanne Simpson:              People always think that leaders, someone that is of authority up a ladder, but fundamentally we can all be leaders, can’t we?

Let’s talk about connection in that feel between parents and teachers. Talk about that connection and how important it is for parents and teachers.

Peta Jeppensen:               It’s absolutely the key to getting your child to be at the best possible learning that they could have. Someone put it together like this, they said, “It’s like a cake. If everyone’s working together, you’ve got the cake. And then you’ve got the icing on top, which is everyone.” It’s all beautiful.

So you’ve got the parents, and then you’ve got the teachers. And if everybody is connected and has put the time and energy into each other, then we’re going to get a beautiful cake or a beautiful student and we’re going to get good results for them.

Peta Jeppensen:               So it’s absolutely vital that we put time and energy into this part, not only as a teacher, but also as a parent to be able to work together, to get really good results for our kids, and to have a nice time. Isn’t it lovely to be able to walk into a teacher’s classroom, and just feel nice that they’re in a really good environment, they’ve got a caring teacher that’s there for them in this space where I can not be. So yeah, it’s super important that we have those connections.

Leanne Simpson:              So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to start with from the perspective of the parent, going back to the teacher in an email, because that’s usually where it starts. The teacher will send out emails generally to everyone, but the first conversation when there’s an issue usually is if the teachers brought something up and you’ve got to send back that first email, or something’s come up in the learning and you want to connect with the teacher. How many kids in a primary school would the teacher have in a classroom?

Peta Jeppensen:               Well, it’s up to 28 to 30 kids in a classroom. So there’s quite a lot there for them.

Leanne Simpson:              People don’t talk about the high school teachers. If you have your music teacher, you have your arts teacher, your librarian, all of those. So how many emails are these people getting that not only are from parents, but also from their workspace, their work colleagues. Art for me, I want people when they see there’s an email from me, I want them to smile and go, “Oh, I’m going to choose that person to open that one up for the day to start off with.” And that’s what I’m hoping that parents will take on really well. But let’s have a look at some of the things that you might consider before you put it down. So we’ve got a template at the end, but things that you think is really important for parents to consider when they’re making this connection with their teacher in a positive way.

Peta Jeppensen:               Absolutely. So emails is the way of everything today, Leanne. That’s the way schools run today, and probably less of the phone calls and the face to face. It’s much easier to use, because you can do it in your own time when you can think. Don’t have to make that special appointment or go up and see them. So when I sat down to think about communicating with parents and teachers is, we really need to have a bit of a think about our emails and how they come across. And so I put a few things together just at the beginning of the email, just to have in your thinking before you start. And I know it’s pretty tough. If you’ve had a conversation with a teacher about your child, that might be not so positive. And of course, as mothers or parents, we become quite anxious when our kids might not be performing as well as we’d like in both social, emotional, and academic.

                                                I put down, identify both yourself and your teacher clearly. Include yourself and the class number. So just remembering that if you’re in a bigger school or whatever the teacher is, if they’re a music teacher you might want to have a conversation with, or the classroom teacher, that you make sure that it’s very clear who the information is going to go to. So you have the name and everything else that goes with it. And then clearly and briefly explain your concerns. So try to avoid emotional language. So think about when you do do this, and I’m sure many people do, where they look at it and then they probably have a bit of a debrief, because some things can be challenging, especially if you read something and you might read it when you’re not in a particularly good mood, you’ve read the email and you’ve taken it a bit the wrong way.

         You could very quickly write back quite sharply in your email what you’re needing. So be very conscious of how you are emotionally when you do do the email, so that you can come from a compassionate place, because we do want the best for our children. So we want to not be going, “Oh gosh, I probably shouldn’t have been as sharp in that email.” Everyone can pick up the undertone of an email of how it’s put together. So do it when you are in your best state to be compassionate and to be able to get a good outcome. So be clear about your preferred outcome and what you’re asking for. So probably good, if you have that space and you might write it out a few times of what you’re actually wanting from that teacher so that you’re clear with that.

Peta Jeppensen:               Include the times that you would be available to speak. So it just cuts down a lot of that to-ing and from-ing with emails with your teacher, “What time I’m available,” and then they can sort of try and meet you at a time that is going to work. And then any additional stuff that you might need. So you might need some more information from different specialists to take to the meeting, or what do you need from the teacher as well? You might just want to indicate that you might be seeking more information about how they’re going in maths, so that the teacher can be prepared to give you the best response for the meeting. And recognize that your child’s teacher has many demands. And this is something that I grappled with when I started with emailing. You almost felt like had to respond straight back, because you didn’t want to look like you weren’t on top of the game.

Peta Jeppensen:               Obviously, we would be very conscious that you’re not going to get that immediate response, because we know that they’re really busy in that period of the day. And expect two or three days before you might get a response back, in what, 48 hours is usually what lots of schools put down as a response time. So there are all the things. So if it’s really urgent and you need to get something across, it might be worthwhile actually finding the school and asking for a meeting or a catch up time so that you can have that without having to do the email, because you might have to wait that little bit of extra time to have that meeting.

Leanne Simpson:              But people keep on thinking it’s like a one on one conversation. If there is something urgent, every school I’ve ever had contact, the lady that answers the phone in the reception area is the most useful, helpful person. And they will help you find out. So if you bring up something that you’re really worried about and really think about that, really worry about, they’ll help you work it out. So if you keep in mind that a email is a communication that could take up to 48 hours to come through, and that’s okay to wait patiently, and then only use the urgent thing when something needs to be dealt with straight away. And there is times. Like if your child has maybe got measles for instance, that is something that needs to be dealt with straight away with the phone call, because emails are like snail mail. To me, I keep saying to people, “Stop thinking that emails are like a conversation. Think that emails are like a letter in the mail, and when they get there, they get there.” So if there’s something urgent. Is that an okay explanation? You think the difference between them ring?

Peta Jeppensen:               Yeah. And even today, there’s so many apps for people to fill in. It’s almost like we’re the connection. We talk about connection, but we’re starting to disconnect and not having that conversation. So you can have an app that tells people when you’re sick and put down your reason why you’re sick. So you don’t even have to actually contact the office for that, because it will go through that format. So yeah, if it is urgent, it’s good to have that conversation with the people in charge that needs that information. Absolutely.

Leanne Simpson:              Peta’s been so generous with the time. She’s actually provided us with a little template. The first thing is the subject line. Both of us were at a quandary that, “What would you write in the subject line?” So I go with the premise that I want the person that sees an email, they might even recognize my email address, well, after a while they will, but they’re going to be happy and content, because they feel it’s non-confrontational. So we thought it might be a factual and coined plus the name of your child in the class, but maybe someone out there has got a nicer way to write the subject line, because I really hate a subject line that says “Great news,” or “I’m upset.”

Peta Jeppensen:               And you absolutely want to keep it professional, and you want a good response from people. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re a teacher or any kind of person in a position that, your doctor, you want them to acknowledge it with not that, “Oh, what do they want?” Or it’s very scattering and doesn’t give you much information, but you want to keep it very concise. So that’s why I say keep it factual. And then obviously the bigger the school, or even the class, sometimes the email doesn’t represent who the person that’s actually you’re wanting. It might be a coolkids@gmail.com. And so we don’t know what family that will be as an email. So keeping that name there in the class if you need it, is some of the stuff that you could put in your subject line just to keep it nice and straight to the point.

Leanne Simpson:              So then we’ve got “Dear teacher’s name,” so it’s really lovely to know the teacher’s name if you knew someone. There’s nothing more happier in life than when people can call you by your name other than “Hi there.” So your names are there. Know your child’s name, and remembering that often, there’s different surnames involved. So please use that as well so that people can do what class. And then what you’re writing in regards to, and what you’d like to discuss and what outcome. And I really loved how you wrote that, what outcome you’re seeking, because is the outcome just that you wanted to bitch? But it makes us realize, “Why are we sending this email?” Was it just to bitch? Or have we got a desired outcome? “Oh, I’d like an extra reading book sent home,” “Oh, I don’t understand about this.” Whatever. Is that what you mean when you’re saying why it’s important to have an outcome?

Peta Jeppensen:               So it’s just giving a bit of clarity for what the meeting’s about so that you can get the best outcome. If it’s a sit down meeting, then you know that you’re all working towards something, if it’s looking at maths and you’re concerned about the teacher might have given you a report card, and you’re like, “Oh, he’s getting or she’s getting this result. And I’m really concerned of what the outcome will be. What can I do to help my child?” So that then they can give you some things that you could walk away with. So an outcome really does help us to get clear. If there’s no outcome, that’s fine. But it helps you to really work out what you’re really wanting from the situation too.

Leanne Simpson:              Yeah. That’s what I loved about that. One tiny little phrase, “The outcome I’m seeking is,” and I thought, “Oh, that’s right on point,” because then you would go, “Oh, maybe I don’t need to send this email, because I have no outcome. I’m just bitching.” When you’re available between what time. And I really love that, how you finish off a letter. I remember when I was at school and was doing typing class, I remember the left, this is how old I am. The electric typewriter, was only about three of them in the class. And the rest of them were the old one. And we used to have to learn how to finish a letter. And you always finished with some type of way of saying something nice, summing up something to say and “Kind regards,” or “Yours sincerely,” or “Yours faithfully.”

Leanne Simpson:              And it was a way of respect and all that. So this one, I love what you’ve written here. “I appreciate that you have many demands on your time, and I’d like to resolve this matter as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Kind regards.” That’s just a beautiful way of ending a letter. And I’m sure that lots of people could go back to that time where people took a considered ending to a conversation. And it’s virtually, you’re bowing out with dignity to wait for them to then enter back in with dignity. So I really think that it’s absolutely lovely, that little template. And I feel so grateful that you’re able to share us with this ddocument. Thank you.

Peta Jeppensen:               It’s no problem at all.

Leanne Simpson:              Now people are thinking, “How do I get ahold of this template?” Well, they can go into the Calm my Tribe Facebook and I’ll put it up in one of the units there. To finish off let’s look at us meeting in person.

I’m the Mum, you’re the teacher. And I’m going to follow your things to consider list here.

Leanne Simpson:              Thanks, Peta, for your time. I’d like to work together to help sort out the fact that poor Sam is struggling with long division. And I myself struggle with long division, and it would be really good if you could explain maybe to both of us, how to do the long division thing. Here are some of the homework that he’s come home with, and we haven’t been able to do. So is that possible that you could work with us on this?

Peta Jeppensen:               Thank you for coming in, and thank you for your email and what you’re wanting to get out of this meeting. I just got a few little examples or how to do long division. This little example can explain that to you. I’ll just explain to you right now.

Because there’s lots of parents that have things that they want to know a little bit more about. So just explain it to you. We can go through one right now, if you’d like. Would you like to just quickly sit down, and we can go through that with you?

I’m showing you the long division through showing Sam. And here’s some strategies, here’s some online games that he might like to play at home so he can get that practice and feel more confident around it. Is that enough for you? Have I helped you? Do you need any more help with anything else?

Leanne Simpson:              No, and thank you very much, Peta. It was really wonderful to be able to work out long division. Sam and I, we’ll play some of those games together.

As a parent, actually, it was kind of scary telling you that I didn’t know how to do long division, but I’m so glad that I did, because you’ve helped me out, and I feel really great. Boy, connection is the key to us being happy, isn’t it?

Peta Jeppensen:               Absolutely. Leanne, just to finish off with that is, it’s always lovely to get that opportunity to get to know you a bit more.

So obviously at the beginning, I might want to know a little bit more about your family, because we don’t always get a chance to do it as teachers, to have that one-on-one connection where we can get to know where you’re from and where you’re coming from with your child. So it’s a great opportunity, that one-on-one, to really understand your situation. And I think at any point, if you can have a meeting with a teacher just to even do that for yourself, because you’re still feeling each other’s knowledge and if you find something good about the teacher that you like, or Sam said something that he loves about school, even letting that teacher know that he’s enjoying it, which a lot of parents, most parents do in their meetings, I think that really does help to build a really good, lovely relationship between parent and the teacher.

Leanne Simpson:              A big thank you to our guest today, Peta Jefferson. If you’d like to find more information about Beyond the Classroom Australia, please check out our Balance Minder blog.

There’ll be links there. There’ll also be a link to that template if you’re interested in it, because I think it’s a great way to start that conversation.

It’s a new normal, so let’s make that new normal, the beauty of connection and emailing. Until next time, keep very well. If in doubt, smile at someone. It’ll make their day. Bye for now.