When You Disagree with Your Child’s Teacher
By Jennifer Higgins
At some point during their school years, a disagreement will arise between teacher and student. At what point do you, the parent, need to step in? What happens when a situation arises in which you don’t see eye to eye with your child’s teacher?
“Establishing a line of communication before there's a problem is a good tactic. I think it's important to show up to back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences,” Joy Morrison, Liberty mother of two, says. “If you establish a relationship with the teacher early on, you have a good base from which to discuss whatever problem your child might have in the future.”
Once a problem arises, there are steps that can be taken before contacting a teacher. “Talk to your own child first to get the entire story and encourage your child. Help your child come up with realistic solutions to the problem,” says Dana Combs, Liberty North High School guidance counselor. “If the problem is bigger than the child, the parent can contact the teacher directly to work on solutions.”
If it becomes necessary to talk to the teacher, don’t skip that step and just jump to calling a principal. “First, email the teacher and discuss the problem. Try to reach a compromise. If that doesn’t work, set up an appointment with the teacher. Finally, after you’ve exhausted all options, talk to the principal,” Maria Knowles, a teacher and Kansas City mother of three, says.
Lori Jacobsen, also a teacher and mother of two in Kearney, offers more practical suggestions: “Try the team approach first. As the parent and teacher, together we have some common goals for the child. What are they? Also give the teacher some idea to what the issue is before the meeting.” That advance notice of your concerns is extremely helpful, according to Misty Black, a teacher and Liberty mother of two. “I don’t want them to just skip over me and go straight to the principal,” she says. “Let me know what the concern is so I can bring tests, artifacts, information to the meeting to help aid the outcome of the meeting.”
In addition, being courteous to the teacher and respectful of his or her opinion can go a long way in helping to reach a solution. “I would suggest being a good listener. It is important for parents to hear what the teacher has to say and vice versa,” Combs says.
“Be respectful in your approach,” Jacobsen echoes.
As children get older, some of the responsibility of dealing constructively with teachers can, and should, shift to the student. “I'm all for encouraging the student to manage their own relationship with the teacher; that's part of the learning process, and it's important not to short-circuit it by constantly stepping in to negotiate and communicate between your child and his/her teacher,” Morrison says.
Something to remember: As much as we want to believe our children are never at fault, sometimes we as parents need to understand our children are not the perfect angels we think they are. “How many times have we heard, ‘She didn't tell me it was due today’
or ‘He didn't say we were having a test’ or ‘She told me I could make it up anytime’?” Morrison says. “Accepting that your child might stretch the truth or outright fabricate to avoid accepting responsibility for their success in the classroom is really hard to do but it's important when you're unhappy with a teacher.”
Finally, when all else fails and you’ve done what you can do, “Sometimes you have to agree to disagree,” Jacobsen adds.
Jennifer Higgins is a free-lance writer, mother and teacher from Kearney.