You've sent the teacher information on your child's disability. You've written about his or her special needs, and how you expect them to be handled. You've requested meetings and dealt with Child Study Team communications and wrangled over some IEP issue or other. But now you just want to send your child's teacher a quick note about birthday cupcakes, a confusing assignment, a missing jacket, a special event. Follow these steps for writing informal notes on matters of minor import.
Time Required: If it takes more than a few minutes, you're writing too much
- Use personal stationery or a notecard. Like a handshake, a piece of nice notepaper indicates right off the top that this is not a formal call to battle but a friendly request or mention.
- Get to the point. The shorter the note, the better. If you need to make a long explanation, put the point of the story first, not last. Lists and bullet points that break up a longer note can be helpful. But if you have a lot to say, it may be best to arrange for a meeting and go over it that way.
- Write legibly. At least for initial correspondence on non-life-and-death issues, the informality of a handwritten note is preferable to a typed manifesto. But if your cursive's hard to read, print. If your printing's hard to read, type. Don't make the teacher work too hard to read what you've written.
- Be polite. As we teach our children, words like "please" and "thank you" go a long way. Don't make demands unless it becomes apparent that demands are the only thing that will work. And then make those demands in a much more formal letter.
- Be discreet. Keep in mind, as you write, that in many schools, the principal insists on seeing all correspondence from parents (yes, even the cupcake notes). In some cases, the notes the teacher writes back are reviewed as well. If you've shared a confidence with the teacher, or he or she has disclosed to you in private conversation something the administration wouldn't want known, keep that out of any written notes.
- Be patient. Unless it's an emergency, give the teacher a day or two to respond to any correspondence. Notes may not get read until the end of the school day, and then getting information for a response may take another day. Additionally, as mentioned above, notes and responses may have to go through channels. If you need an immediate response, follow through in person or with a phone call. Mention in your note that you will be doing so.
- Use personalized note paper if you have it. You don't have to order pricey stationery; the note pads with your name on them that come in junk mail from charities seeking donations work fine, or slap a personalized return address label at the top of a plain sheet of stationery. The goal is to make it clear from the outset who the note is from, and to give the teacher a clear shot at your name if your signature's hard to read.
- If you have trouble writing an organized, to-the-point note, go ahead and write an outline and/or a rough draft before penning your final version. The extra time will pay off in better results and a better parent-teacher relationship.
- Unless this is a last-minute emergency, try writing the note the night before rather than dashing something off in the middle of morning madness. You'll be less likely to make mistakes and more likely to make sense.
What You Need:
- Stationery or note paper
- A pen that writes clearly without blots and smudges