Every school year, something I wrote over seven years ago starts making the rounds.
It’s about How to Deal with Your Kid’s Teacher.
And really, for the most part, I stand by what I wrote back then. Even if maybe my tone could have been a little kinder. I’ve mellowed a bit in seven years, I guess.
Plus, back when I wrote that first post about how to deal with your kid’s teacher, I had had more years of being a teacher than being a parent. And now, I’ve had more experience as a parent (and only some vague memories about teaching because it’s been that long).
Oh, AND I wrote that first post back when my kids were still kindergarten and younger, so I’ve definitely had quite a few different experiences since then. Some that made the mama bear in me come out- I’ve probably completely disregarded some of those very same suggestions I gave back when this subject wasn’t such a personal one. I bet there are quite a few parents who read that first post and roll their eyes pretty hard at me (I roll my own eyes at me, too… even if there IS some good advice in there). Every time I see that advice pop up over there on the side of the blog as being “popular” again, I know I’d say something different now, so I finally decided to write something a little different.
Figure out what the issue is.What is bothering your child? Or bothering you? About the class, the work, the teacher. Ask your child what is going on. Maybe they can explain it to you and it’s something they can do themselves(or you can help them do) and there’s not even a reason to go to the teacher. Or maybe there still is a reason to talk to the teacher, but make sure that you’re going about what is bothering your child or you. If your child is having a great year but your neighbor has nothing positive to say about your child’s teacher from that year her child was in that class… you might want to slow down and realize everyone has different experiences. And also do a gut check- has that parent ever liked any teacher their child had?
Go to the teacher first. Maybe what your child is telling you is true. Or maybe it’s simply the way they see it or understood it, but isn’t actually the way it is. Kids misunderstand. Teachers sometimes don’t clarify like they should. And when you go to the teacher, go calmly with specific questions. No need to rant right off the bat because the situation might be cleared up quickly and easily and you’ll be so glad that you didn’t rant first and ask questions later.
Edit your email. This goes along with the advice above, where you ask specific questions first. Find out what’s going on first. If your first contact email is long enough that the teacher is having to scroll, and scroll, and scroll down, you might be venturing into “not calm” territory. If you’re writing when you’re upset (and yes, that’s usually when these types of emails happen), you may want to either sit on the draft for a little bit or have a friend read it. You do want to be able to work with this teacher to help your child in the future, not burn bridges and make things awkward for the rest of the school year.
Keep it off social media. If you have a problem with a teacher, go to the teacher. If you tried that and it didn’t work or if it’s a situation where you don’t feel comfortable talking to the teacher, you can go to the principal. What you shouldn’t do is to blast the teacher across social media. I know it’s a tempting way to get out your frustrations. But the times I’ve seen it happen, the moms doing it didn’t know the full story and would have said something different (or nothing at all) if they’d gone to the teacher first. If you’re Facebooking while mad, you know you’ll have friends who will immediately take your side and probably even fuel the fire, making you even more upset than you were when you started. But nothing is getting resolved here- you’re just feeling more angry and less open to hearing any other side. If you do need to vent or want a sounding-board, ask a trusted friend or two, privately.
Give the benefit of the doubt. Whatever it is. Teachers are human. They mess up sometimes. (So do we.) But maybe they didn’t. Maybe you (or I) misunderstood something or heard something that wasn’t true. Give the teacher a chance to tell you what’s really going on.
Now, if your concerns aren’t being heard, if there are continuous problems, if there’s something going on that puts your child in an unsafe environment, that’s a different story(Related: When You Have to Talk to the Principal). But for basic concerns, these tips should be helpful.