When your child goes off to school each day, you trust that he is in good hands. But what do you do if your kid isn’t happy with the teacher? Or if the teacher isn’t happy with him?
There are several steps you can take to help resolve any potential conflict.
The first step is to make sure this isn’t just a case of disliking the teacher, because that is very different, says Antoinette Kuritz, a former elementary and high school teacher and parent of three. She recommends discussing the problem with your child. “Is your child in some way acting out?” she asks. “Are the educator’s methods simply different than your child is used to? Get your finger on the crux of the problem.”
The next step is to meet with the teacher and get her side of the story. Get a sense of what she’s like in the classroom, her educational philosophy, and if possible, observe a class, suggests Kuritz. Ideally, you’ve already established a relationship with this teacher.
Be careful in your approach, says Cynthia Tobias, author of “Middle School: The Inside Story—What Kids Tell Us But Don’t Tell You,” her latest education book, which has a section on how to deal with your child’s teacher. “When getting information from the teacher,” she says, “Start a lot of your sentences with the same four words: “What can I do?”
For example, say Tobias: “‘Mike just doesn’t seem to learn the way you teach. I think it’s great that he can stretch out of his comfort zone sometimes. What can I do to help him with that?’” This puts the responsibility on parent and child, yet elicits input and suggestions from the teacher, says Tobias. Often the teacher will get the message without becoming defensive or angry.
Depending on the age of your child, you can challenge him to brainstorm ways in which he can get along better with his teacher. This way, “You’re teaching your child how to get along with difficult people, [which is] a great life lesson,” says Tobias. Role-play may also be a good tool.
The teacher-student conflict may be a matter of different learning or personality styles. Remind your child that he won’t always have a good student-teacher fit and that he can still learn. “If the educator is dismissive of your child, however, or does not provide quality education, seek change,” says Kuritz.
Whenever possible, follow the chain of command, and if necessary, be prepared to face down school officials. “If you truly feel your child won’t thrive with a particular teacher, have your reasons prepared and articulate them clearly with the administration and teacher, and have a game plan in place in case change is still refused,” says Kuritz.