It’s not unusual for a child to have the occasional whinge about their teacher and perhaps come home with stories of their teacher ‘unfairly picking on them’. But what if you feel a particular teacher’s methods are less than ideal for your child or you’re concerned about a situation involving your child’s teacher, what exactly can you do to address the situation without making it worse for all involved?
So you’ve been told a story or seen some behaviour you feel warrants further discussion or explanation. You’ve waited until your child was calm to discuss it with them and they’re still upset about the situation.
The first thing to do is to speak to the teacher in question directly. Don’t just unexpectedly show up after school one day and demand answers - make an appointment with the teacher where you can sit down one-on-one to resolve the problem. Depending on your child’s age and exactly what the issue is, you may want to involve them in these discussions, but it’s often best to talk just teacher-to-parent.
No matter how unhappy you are, try your best not to criticise or assign blame. Explain your concerns in a calm, logical and rational manner and listen – really listen – to the teacher’s responses. Keep in mind that stories have a way of getting twisted, that messages passed through Chinese whispers can get distorted and that all children have learned the phrase “it’s not my fault” in an effort to get themselves out of the trouble they know they’ve just gotten themselves into. Often there is a good reason why something happened the way it did and there are always two sides to every story.
The Next Step
If you don’t feel your concerns have been adequately addressed by speaking with the teacher directly, only then take any unresolved issues to the deputy or principal of the school. Skipping the first step of talking to the teacher and going straight over their heads is not going to get you the resolution you want in a timely fashion - and most likely will put everyone offside. If possible, involve the teacher-in-question in the discussions with the deputy or principal, so no one needs to rely on second hand information.
A third party like a deputy or principal can act as a mediator or a more rational voice of reason if required. They are probably going to be aware of any relevant history or extenuating circumstances – from both the teacher as well as your child.
Problem solve together
The teacher almost always has the best interests of your child at heart (no matter what your child says!). Try to problem solve together – two heads are better than one. A good solution is going to take a collaborative approach. Remember your goal – you are working together to bring about change, not to make someone feel bad or make them look bad.
Teachers are human and they do occasionally get things wrong. Especially when dealing with many, many, many children – often all at the same time. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Your child is probably not perfect either and while it’s always important to advocate for your child, really think about when this is necessary.