Student-teacher conflict isn’t good for anyone. Here are four ways you can help mediate conflict and put your child back on the path to success.
When your child goes off to school each day, you trust that he or she is in good hands. But what can you do if your child isn’t happy with a teacher, or if a teacher isn’t happy with your child?
Classroom relationships aren’t always perfect, but there are several steps you can take to help resolve any potential conflict.
The first step is to make sure this isn’t just a case of your child disliking his or her teacher. Antoinette Kuritz, a former elementary and high school teacher and parent of three, recommends discussing the problem with your child. “Is your child in some way acting out?” she asks. “Are the educator’s methods simply different than your child is used to? Get your finger on the crux of the problem.”
The next step is to meet with the teacher and get his or her side of the story. Get a sense of what the teacher is like in the classroom, and try to understand his or her educational philosophy. If possible, suggests Kuritz, try to observe a class. Ideally, you’ve already established a relationship with this teacher.
Be careful in your approach, says Cynthia Tobias, author of “Middle School: The Inside Story—What Kids Tell Us But Don’t Tell You,” when dealing with your child’s teacher. “When getting information from the teacher,” she says, “Start a lot of your sentences with the same four words: “What can I do?”
For example, say Tobias: “‘Mike just doesn’t seem to learn the way you teach. I think it’s great that he can stretch out of his comfort zone sometimes. What can I do to help him with that?’” This puts the responsibility on parent and child, and lets the teacher know that you are open to input and suggestions. This approach helps the teacher get the message without becoming defensive or angry, says Tobias.
Depending on the age of your child, you can challenge him or her to brainstorm ways to get along better with the teacher. This way, “You’re teaching your child how to get along with difficult people, [which is] a great life lesson,” says Tobias. The teacher-student conflict may be a matter of different learning or personality styles. Remind your child that he won’t always have a good student-teacher fit and that he can still learn.
There is one caveat: “If the educator is dismissive of your child, however, or does not provide quality education, seek change,” says Kuritz.
Whenever possible, follow the chain of command, and if necessary, be prepared to face down school officials. “If you truly feel your child won’t thrive with a particular teacher, have your reasons prepared and articulate them clearly with the administration and teacher, and have a game plan in place in case change is still refused,” says Kuritz.