How To Deal With A Teacher You Or Your Child Can't Stand

 
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When our oldest son, who turns 20 in a few weeks, was in elementary school, we were asked to fill out a form at the end of each year, indicating which teacher we wanted him to have for the next school year.

There were other questions on the form, too, where you could give more information about your kid’s personality and their learning style, which the committee would take into consideration when setting class rosters.

They might still do this. I’m not sure.

It’s a nice gesture toward the parents, and I’m sure the school administrators found it helpful when they were putting the classes together.  

I remember that early each school year, there would be rumblings from parents who didn’t get the teacher they put as their first choice. And sometimes they wouldn’t get their second or third choice, either.

Aah, the things we get riled up about. 🤷‍

I also remember throughout those years, how I’d hear from some parents how they could not stand their kid’s teacher, and how they were trying to get them changed to another class.

I’ve even seen where - and I know you’ve probably seen this, too - people will call the teacher out on Facebook, and if that’s not enough to socially flog the poor teacher (even if they’re real jerks), the flurry of comments that follow almost certainly will.

Oy vey.

Remember when we were growing up, sitting in our elementary school classrooms wearing mustard yellows and brown plaid (I’m dating myself here), and looking at each other all fidgety-like while the teacher was in the hallway paddling a few mouthy kids with a wooden paddle decorated with her name on it?

I guarantee those kids hated that teacher.

And I’m sure the parents did, too.

But those were the days when you got what you got.

There was no switching classes to “get a better fit.”

I’m not saying things were better in those days.

But I’m saying parts of them were.

The thing is, we don’t always love the teachers assigned to our kids. In fact, sometimes we absolutely cannot stand these people who spend as much time with our kids (sometimes even more!) than we do.

Maybe they’re too strict for our taste, or maybe we don’t think they’re working hard enough to help our kid learn.

Whatever the reason, there are some productive ways to deal with the problem (whether it’s a “problem teacher” or a relationship problem that you (or your child) and the teacher have, in terms of being on the same page).

You Must Communicate

Let’s say your kid comes home crying and telling you some story about how the teacher yelled and is unreasonable because they’re mean and they’re always this way to your kid and to nobody else. (Or to everybody else).

First, you have to communicate.

Communicate with the teacher.

Whether that means emailing or calling the teacher, do it. Email is my favorite because (1) I forget things, and this gives me a way to refer back to what was said, and (2) it’s documentation, should you need it later.

Advocate for your child, but give his/her teacher the benefit of the doubt.

As a rule of thumb in life, I always assume the intentions of others are coming from a position of good.

In other words, if my child says his teacher is “too strict,” I assume that the teacher still has my child’s best interest at heart, even though their approach might not be as warm and fuzzy as my sweet baby angel wants.

Keep this in mind when you email or call the teacher so that you aren’t posturing in the defensive mode before you even reach him. Give him a chance to explain.

Maybe the teacher was out of line.

But you have to reach out and make contact - communicate with him - first. To get his side. Or to find out what the teacher’s expectations are.

By communicating, you’re showing the teacher that you are involved and paying attention. And you’re showing your child that you’re advocating for them.

Advocating, not taking over.

With your findings from the email or phone conversation, or from a face to face meeting, if necessary, you can help work your child through some of the kinks in their relationship with the teacher.

Communicate with your child, telling them things like, “This is your teacher’s way of managing a classroom full of students. She has to seem strict and loud and stern, but she cares about you and wants you to learn this material.”

Or, “I met with your teacher about what she wrote on your paper, and she agreed it wasn’t appropriate or helpful. She made a mistake. Teachers make mistakes sometimes.”

Or, “You are telling me your teacher isn’t doing what she told me she would do to help you learn. I’ve met with her a few times about this and she keeps telling me she will do ______ to help you, so since she isn’t doing that, we will meet with the school counselor (or whoever) to try and get you the help you need.”

By the way, on that last one, you really do need to do this if the teacher is not doing his/her job. Administrators need to know.

Remember that your purpose here is to advocate for your child, not to get the teacher in trouble, although that might happen.

But that is not your concern.

Your only concern is to get your child the help he needs for learning.

Avoid Bad Mouthing The Teacher

It’s tempting to say in front of your child, “I cannot believe that idiot woman still has a job there.”

But students need for their teacher to be in a position of respect. They really do.

When you bad mouth the teacher to your child, you’re saying it’s ok for your kid to lose respect for them, which you might not care about, because you might think, “That yah-hoo doesn’t deserve any respect!”

But it’s important to your child (although they surely don’t realize it) to hold their teacher in a respectful regard.

Your child desperately needs that authority figure in the classroom.

They need authority at home, and they need authority at school.

Authority = boundaries = sense of safety.

Bottom line: they need to respect their teacher.

Or at least treat them respectfully.

If nothing else, let your child make up his own mind as to whether he respects the teacher or not.

Either way, he needs to be respectful.

You can disagree with the teacher or her methods or words, but still speak of them in a respectful manner.

What you say to yourself about them under your breath can be a different matter altogether.

Avoid Social Media Flogging

I can’t believe I have to even type these words. Do people really think that it’s ok to call out a teacher by name on Facebook?

Even when they aren’t called out by name, people can usually figure out who the teacher is, and their name inevitably ends up in the commentary.

These people - teachers, I mean - are usually living in the neighborhood they’re teaching in, and being tarred-and-feathered online. In front of their friends, their family, their neighbors, their kids.

How embarrassing.

Which, many times, is the point.

But honestly - it says so much more about the person posting about them than it does the teacher. The message it sends to the neighbors sitting at home scrolling through their feed with a bag of popcorn is what a shallow, non-communicative a-hole with no class the person posting is.

Avoid Changing Teachers

I recognize there are some instances when the only remaining answer is to pull your child out of a classroom to join another teacher’s class. But use caution before you pull the trigger.

Really think about whether it’s harming your child for them to stay in the class they’re in.

Consider this:

Requesting that your child be put in a different teacher’s class strips your child of the opportunity to learn an important life lesson: that we don’t always like the person we “work” for.

In the big picture of life, we, as humans, have to work with and for people all the time that we don’t like. Or get along with. Or work well with. Or whatever.

But we can’t always just bail.

We have to learn how to work with people of different methods, personalities, processes, and values, in everything we do for the rest of our lives.

We sometimes have to be flexible and tolerant of other people when their approach is different from ours. Sometimes we have to learn to adjust our behaviors and our approach to meet the expectations of our leaders.

Learning this lesson early is a gift.

I’m not suggesting you force your child to deal with a monster of a teacher. And I do know there are some of those out there.

I’m saying that - as the parent - your job is to guide your child through this experience in a way that is most productive and beneficial in the big-life-picture sense.