It’s a difficult time when you realize your child has been upset at school. And it can be tough to find out what really happened. Children have limited vocabularies and often make generic statements like “the teacher wasn’t nice.” To find out more, act like a reporter, advocate for your child, and take a diplomatic approach with the teacher.
Understand Your Child’s Interpretation of Events
Some parents feel that allowing children to complete the year with a stressful teacher can help a child learn to deal with challenges. It can help your child learn to be resilient and solve problems on their own. Such comments are often accompanied by the obvious caveat that parents should always get involved if their child is at risk of emotional damage. The overall key of course, is to know what is going on in your child’s life and to understand their interpretation of the experience.
Get to Know the Teacher
Once your child is in elementary school, he spends more waking hours during the week with his teacher than with you. Having a better understanding of his teacher’s personality and the dynamics in the classroom can enhance the discussions you have with your child.
Introduce yourself to the teacher early in the year, but don’t hesitate if the school year is already underway. Engage in friendly conversation at morning drop off or afternoon pick up. Find moments to spend time in the same environment your child is in all day, such as volunteering at class parties. If your schedule conflicts with school hours, request a conference and be honest that you would like 15 minutes of the teacher’s time simply to get to know her better.
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Actions to Take
Suggested actions if your child dislikes a teacher or is having trouble in class:
- Attend school and classroom open houses
- Get to know the teacher, their school year goals as well as their style of teaching (independent of rumors heard from other parents)
- Read handouts from the teacher and discuss the class activities with your child
- Try to remain positive when scheduling a parent teacher meeting with the goal of solving any issues rather than finding blame for the incident
- Make a list of questions or topics in advance of a parent-teacher conference to ensure you are prepared to calmly discuss any important matters
- Discuss with your child the detailed events that led up to challenging moments at school
- Ask open-ended questions rather than questions that elicit only a yes or no response
- Openly discuss the plan with your child and show them how they can take proactive and take positive steps toward solving disagreements, misunderstandings and challenging moments
Actions to Avoid
- Try not to believe everything you hear about a teacher
- Don’t ask or rely on your child to relay a message to the teacher
- Avoid using negative language about the teacher
- Do not publish criticism about a teacher on social media or other websites
- Never threaten a teacher or other staff member of the school