Your child’s teacher wields a remarkable amount of influence over your child. Not only does he spend a lot of time in the classroom, he looks up to her as an authority figure. What she says and does influences his self-esteem, and motivates him to do well (or not!) in school.
Most teachers take this role very seriously and work hard to motivate and inspire each child in their care. But what do you do when you feel your child’s teacher is cold, unfair, or even scary? Here are some parenting tips for handling this tricky situation.
Parenting tip # 1: Don’t judge a teacher from a brief encounter.
Teachers are people too. They can have a bad day, or simply have a personality that doesn’t jive with yours or your child’s. So ask yourself if your fear/impression of her is grounded in reality. Do you have any concrete experiences/facts that show that she’s not helping your child?
For example, at a parent-teacher conference, you may feel that your child’s teacher is aloof and dismissive because she rushed through your meeting. You may fear that she’s that way in the classroom, too. But she could’ve been tired, sick, or distracted that afternoon. Observe if the ‘negative’ behavior happens consistently, in different situations—especially situations that affect your child’s ability to learn.
Parenting tip # 2: Stick to the important issues.
You don’t have to be friends with your child’s teacher. She may be aloof or annoying, but that shouldn’t be an issue if she’s efficient in the classroom. A personal feeling (‘she’s not friendly’) is different from a real concern based on a real situation (‘she made fun of my child’s answers’).
The best way to know if there’s a real problem is to monitor your child’s performance and, on some occassons, schedule to sit in the classroom to see how she handles discussions, questions, one-on-one activities, and group activities. You can also observe the way she talks to and deals with your child. Does she encourage him to ask questions? Does she treat everyone fairly? Does she explain things well?
Parenting tip # 3: Never put down the teacher in front of your child.
You may have real and valid concerns about a teacher, but don’t discuss it in front of your child. This will confuse him and cause him to be disrespectful in class, which will only hurt him in the long run.
Parenting tip # 4: Let the teacher know that you’re there to ‘help.’
The worst thing you can do is to just show up when you’re mad and upset. From the beginning of the school year let the teacher know that you’re involved in your child’s academics. Ask what you can do to reinforce the lessons and rules in the classroom, and let her know that she can call you anytime if there’s a problem or question about your child. In other words, establish from the get-go that you see your relationship as a ‘partnership’ and that you are also willing to go the extra mile so your child will do well in school.
If you are an involved parent, the teacher will be more open to any concerns or questions you may have, and not necessarily be defensive. You’re not attacking her teaching style, you just want to find out a better way to encourage your child to learn.
Parenting tip # 5: Schedule a meeting with the teacher
Don’t just show up and expect her to talk to you about your child. Set an appointment, and be prompt. Start the meeting by asking how she is, any challenges in dealing with the class or your child. Thank her for the time and effort she has put.
Then, raise your concern in a neutral and objective way. Don’t say, ‘You don’t give my child enough attention.’ Instead, frame it in very factual terms. You can phrase it in terms of problem-solution: ‘My son seems to be bored with the books studied in class. Is there any way of giving him advanced work?’ Or, you can present your concern in terms of your child’s behavior (not the teacher’s). ‘He seems to be very scared of reciting in class. I wonder why that happens.’
To be fair, we also need to help the teachers (their jobs aren’t easy!). Here are parenting tips on raising kids who like homework, improving your child’s handwriting (many teachers complain about this!), and teaching kids to be respectful and tactful.
Photo from iteach.org