WOLF WEDNESDAYS: 3 Things Teachers Want to Know About Your Complex Learner

As a parent, you know the new school year is off and running when you get that seemingly endless stack of paperwork to fill out about your child again. All the phone numbers and names of siblings and emergency contacts and medications and photo releases and lists of allergies. Yes, it gets a little tedious, but you know it’s all very important information.

Yet there’s a lot of info these forms don’t capture that your teachers are equally, if not more interested in. Your child’s teachers want to make the most of each day, and you are a significant part of the equation, especially if your child is a Complex Learner. Here’s 3 things your child’s teacher really want to know about that can help make the school year successful and fun:

Ongoing Communication

Your child’s teacher wants to hear from you and share with you. Don’t wait for this to happen formally at the Parent Teacher Conference. Let the teacher know things that might affect the day. Did your child not sleep well, was there a problem with medication, did the family goldfish pass away, was there a big fight with a sibling or friend? If your child gets upset hearing loud noises, the teacher can help him/her be prepared for fire drills. These things are helpful for gauging expectations and behaviors during the school day. In turn, you should learn what happened at school that might affect things at home. Was there a problem during recess, was a math lesson overwhelming, was their energy level very low or very high? You and your child’s teacher are in this together and having open dialogue makes a difference. You can also let the teacher know your best mode for communicating. Do you prefer email or phone calls? Would you like a brief check-in time during the week? If you don’t read emails and this is the only way the teacher sends updates, you will be missing out on an important connection.

Interests and Passions

Learning about your child’s interests and passions helps give the teacher conversation starters and helps in the development of the student-teacher relationship. It also offers topics that make learning easier. If your child struggles with reading, high interest materials make a difference. The teacher can also structure rewards specific to your child’s interests when the lessons are difficult or less appealing. These interests may change over time so it helps to keep your teacher up to speed on your child’s latest fascination. Your teacher can also let you know if something new sparks your child’s interest so you can make that connection at home.

Motivators and Behaviors

You are the expert when it comes to your child. What kinds of situations or experiences make your child feel stressed or anxious? Does your child tend to shut down or get revved up when they feel this way? What interventions have you tried that worked, or didn’t seem to make a difference? Are there particular motivators, such as verbal praise, colorful stickers, or time with a special friend, that work well? Helping children stay calm and focused is an important part of the teacher’s job and the more they understand about your child’s behaviors and motivators, the more they will be able to provide an environment that works best for your child.


It’s important to create a parent–teacher partnership that supports your child’s learning and development both at school and at home. You and your child’s teacher are a team – learn from each other, share strategies and information, tell each other stories, and develop trust. Ultimately, you both want the same thing – a happy, healthy child that can move forward in his/her growth and learning. There will be bumps along the way as no school year is perfect. But together you can make it a fun, memorable and successful year for your child!


Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University, and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners.