Students can be tough critics on their teachers. Teachers can be too nice or too mean, too involved or too detached, too communicative or too aloof, or their classes may be too easy or too difficult. As your child prepares for a new school term, your involvement and approach to the situation can make strides in mitigating or resolving the issue.
- Academic Focus: Despite conflicts with a teacher, acknowledge that your child may never like his/her teacher, but parents must communicate to their children that they are still held accountable for their actions and academic progress. It is important to emphasize to children that the quality of their classwork and homework and their consistent efforts in presenting themselves as respectful and high achieving learners will go a long way with both teachers and classmates.
- Parent Involvement: Volunteer in your child’s classroom or as a chaperone for field trips. Similarly, attend parent and teacher meetings or conferences. In doing so, parents can take advantage of every opportunity to establish a positive relationship with the teacher. You can also offer your assistance, school supplies, and other needs by letting your teacher know that he/she can reach you at any time if there is an opportunity or need to support the child’s classroom.
- Teacher Contact: Consider sending a welcome email with a note about how you look forward to a productive school year to your child’s teacher during the first week of school. Opening lines of communication will allow the teacher to know that you welcome dialogue and should there be any concerns, you can be reached via email. Cultivating dialogue with a teacher can also help parents to focus on supporting and meeting their child’s needs in the classroom. Be courteous and considerate of the teacher’s point of view, listen intently to the teacher’s response, and avoid all personal criticism.
- Parent as Role Model: Regardless of how frustrated you may feel while working with a difficult teacher, always act with maturity, respect, and level-headedness. In a difficult situation with a teacher, as in many different situations, your child will follow your lead in how you handle the experience. When parents model how to communicate respectfully about their opinions and feelings, it teaches their child how to effectively approach potential conflicts with figures of authority or difficult individuals. Children begin to learn that in their future careers, they too many encounter different colleagues and bosses.
- Perspective: If your child is struggling with a teacher and feels that the teacher is out to ruin his/her life, parents should offer their children perspective on the situation. Parents can communicate to them that the time they share with the difficult teacher is limited. It will not be forever Focusing on what is not working is not the solution. Together, look for what is working and develop a plan of action. After all, there will be an end.
- Keeping Records: If there are major concerns between your child and the teacher, be sure to document any communication or meetings with the teacher. Keep clear and organized records of the date, time, and details of the communication immediately. Printing out emails and creating a file is important should you be involved in a situation that will need to be escalated to the next level of authority. However, remember, the goal is not to instigate an argument. Ultimately, teachers are here to help your child. Finding a common ground will allow all parties involved to take a positive step towards success.
- Climb up the School Ladder: If meeting with the difficult teacher did not yield fruitful results or assuage the problem with your child, you may need to contact other leaders on campus. Determine the school’s policy on parent and teacher disagreements. You may also need to speak to the teacher’s direct supervisor; it may be the school principal, a vice principal or another school administrator. Before jumping directly to the superintendent, open the lines of communication with the person in charge of the school site. Then, if necessary, contact the superintendent, in order to address your child’s needs.
- Thanking the Teacher: If you recognize that the teacher is making an effort, even if there is no resolution to the problem, be sure to show your appreciation. During holidays or on teacher appreciation day, take advantage of the opportunity to present the teacher with a tangible “thank you” for his/her efforts in taking the time to collaborate with you and your child. You may be surprised how the tone of a situation changes quickly with a kind gesture. I always tell our students, kill them with kindness.
School is not easy for students, teaching is incredibly difficult, and parenting is infinitely more challenging. If you encounter a difficult teacher or a teacher whom you believe is giving your child a hard time, with cooperation, empathy, and respectful communication, parents can aim to make the school year successful by creating an amicable relationship between all parties involved.