When your Student Tangles with the Teacher
by Denise Yearian

Has your child had a tangle with a teacher?

Consider these tips:

Discuss the dilemma.
Talk it over with your child and find out exactly what is bothering him. Depending on his developmental level he may or may not be able to articulate his concern. Validate his feelings but maintain a neutral stance so you don’t undermine the teacher’s authority.

Objective encounters.
There are several ways to get an objective view of the situation. One is to observe class in session. This will help you see the classroom environment, but it may not provide an accurate account of student-teacher interactions as your presence may disrupt normal routines. Becoming a regular school volunteer will allow you to get acquainted with school staff and give you a better perspective of what goes on during your child’s day. Also take advantage of regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences as these provide great insight into your child’s academic experience.

Point out the positives.
Look for ways to present the teacher in a positive light. Even if you don’t know her on a personal level, share with your child how her goal is to make learning a positive experience.

Transition with teaching style.
If the complaint is about the
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teacher’s teaching style wait i
out. Many kids grow
accustomed to a particular teacher’s method of instruction and need a few weeks to adjust. In the meantime send the teacher a note so she’s aware of the situation and ask what you can do at home to help.

Sort out strictness.
If your student suggests the teacher is too strict, ask for specifics. Obtain a list of classroom rules, discuss ones in question and encourage him to comply so he won’t have a reason to be reprimanded. Bear in mind that your child’s view of strictness may have more to do with the teacher’s personality or the inflection of her voice than with the rules. If so explain that people have different methods of interacting and communicating and some are more attentive and caring than others.
Picked on perspective.
If your child protests he is
being picked on, be responsive but realize his perspective may be limited by his development. Sift through and weigh out the facts. If, after careful observation, you decide to address the situation, request a conference with the teacher.
Consider a conference.
If a conference is needed, meet with the teacher first to see if she can help resolve the situation. Bring a notebook and write down her comments and suggestions, and share about your child’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. Most important approach this time in a non-confrontational way and seek to resolve the situation rather than resort to blame. Join together with mutual respect and understanding and work toward forging a good relationship.
Facilitate a follow up.
After the conference share meeting highlights with your child, along with suggested steps to remedy the situation. In the days to follow maintain contact with the teacher until you see a steady improvement. Let her know you appreciate her help in working toward a solution.

Address the administration.
If several weeks after the first meeting you fail to see improvement, request a three-way conference with the administration. Inform him of the measures you have taken and ask for his suggestions.

Chime in for change.
If suggested measures fail to bring a resolve and you begin to see a stunt in social or academic development it may be time to request a new class. This, however, should be the last resort.

Watch your tongue!
If for some reason you also dislike your child’s teacher, be careful what you say to your student. Remember he has to spend a great portion of his week with her and he may feel torn between the two authorities in his life. Also openly expressing your dissatisfaction impedes conflict resolution.

Look for the lesson.
Don’t be too quick to rescue your child from every dilemma. Discern if and when to step in or sit it out. If you do intervene, work toward building bridges that will help your child succeed. In doing so you will teach him he can work through difficult situations and he’ll be better equipped to handle any future controversies in a likewise manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School is a reflection of the community at large, and as such children will inevitably meet people they do not like—teachers included!

When a child complains he doesn’t like his teacher, parents can take a positive approach by increasing communication and working cooperatively to strengthen the home-school relationship.

That’s what Audra Hart did. Last year when her then fourth-grade son Jesse started expressing dissatisfaction with his reading teacher, mother and child talked so she could find out exactly what was bothering him.

“I thought his concerns were valid because he’s a pretty honest kid. At the same time I didn’t think she was the monster he was making her out to be,” says Hart. “I let him know I understood his point of view but made it clear I wasn’t taking sides.”

Good idea, says Elementary School Guidance Counselor Carol Backer.

“Talk with your child and validate his feelings, but maintain a neutral stance,” she says.

Next get an objective view of the situation.

Chantal Callahan did this. Shortly after the school year began, Emily began claiming her English teacher was strict and singled her out. Callahan listened to what her then sixth-grade daughter had to say but got a balanced perspective during a regularly scheduled conference.

“The teacher had glowing things to report about Emily but added, ‘She talks too much and doesn’t focus nearly enough.’ That’s when I knew the discipline being directed toward my daughter was warranted,” says the mother.

If your child lodges a complaint about the teacher’s teaching style, wait it out.

“A lot of times kids grow accustomed to a particular teacher’s method of instruction,” says Elementary School Principal Kelly Carey. “Give it several weeks to see if your child adjusts. In the meantime send the teacher a note so she’s aware of the situation and ask what you can do at home to help.”

If your student suggests the teacher is too strict, obtain a list of classroom rules, discuss ones in question and encourage him to comply to avoid being reprimanded.

“One thing to bear in mind is your child’s view of strictness may have more to do with the teacher’s personality or the inflection of her voice than with the rules,” says Backer. “If so explain that people have different methods of interacting and communicating and some are more attentive and caring than others.”
If your child protests he is being picked on, be responsive but realize his perspective may be limited by his development.

“This is where parents have to sift through and weigh out the facts,” says Carey. “There may be some merit in what your child is saying, but the question is to what degree and for what reason. If, after careful observation, you decide to address the situation, come to the table in a non-confrontational way and seek to resolve the issue rather than resort to blame. Join together in mutual respect and understanding and work toward forging a good relationship.”

Hart did this.

“When Jesse’s grades started slipping I sent a note to his homeroom teacher telling her there was a problem with the reading teacher and asked if she had any input,” says Hart. “I also called the school counselor, who had regular contact with Jesse, to let her know there was an issue in case she wanted to address it.”

Several weeks later Hart and the two teachers met to discuss a strategy for getting the boy back on track.

“We went over his grades then I mentioned to the teacher that Jesse thought she didn’t like him, and as a result didn’t want to put forth an effort in class. She was surprised and suggested we bring him in so they could clear things up. We did and it went really well. From that point on there was a marked improvement in his attitude and his grades,” says Hart.

After the conference share meeting highlights with your child, along with suggested steps to remedy the situation. In the days to follow maintain contact with the teacher until you see a steady improvement.

Callahan did this.

“I told Emily the teacher thought she had a lot of potential but didn’t apply herself,” she says. “She seemed encouraged and became more enthusiastic and expressive with her writing. Since then she’s been writing songs and poems on her own and says one day she wants to work for the Wall Street Journal.”
If several weeks after the first meeting you fail to see improvement, request a three-way conference with the administration.

“A stunt in social or academic development may be a signal it’s time to find a different classroom, though this is rare and should be the last resort,” says Carey.

Above all remain neutral, balanced and positive, and work toward building bridges that will help your child succeed. In doing so, you will teach him he can work through difficult situations, and he’ll be better equipped to handle any future controversies in a likewise manner.

-Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.