School is a reflection of the community at large, and as such, children will inevitably meet people they do not like - teachers included! What should parents do when their kid seems unhappy with his teacher?
When a child complains he doesn’t like his teacher, parents can take a positive approach by increasing communication and working cooperatively to strengthen the home-school relationship. That’s what Audra Hart did. Last year, when her then fourth-grade son Jesse started expressing dissatisfaction with his reading teacher, mother and child talked so she could find out exactly what was bothering him.
“I thought his concerns were valid because he’s a pretty honest kid. At the same time, I didn’t think she was the monster he was making her out to be,” reveals Hart. “I let him know I understood his point of view but made it clear I wasn’t taking sides.”
Good idea, says elementary school guidance counselor Carol Backer.
“Talk with your child and validate his feelings, but maintain a neutral stance,” she suggests.
Next, get an objective view of the situation. Chantal Callahan did this. Shortly after the school year began, her daughter Emily began claiming her English teacher was strict and singled her out. Callahan listened to what her then sixth-grade daughter had to say but got a balanced perspective during a regularly scheduled conference.
“The teacher had glowing things to report about Emily but added, ‘She talks too much and doesn’t focus nearly enough.’ That’s when I knew the discipline being directed toward my daughter was warranted,” she admits.
If your child lodges a complaint about the teacher’s teaching style, wait it out. “A lot of times kids grow accustomed to a particular teacher’s method of instruction,” says Kelly Carey, an elementary school principal. “Give it several weeks to see if your child adjusts. In the meantime send the teacher a note so she’s aware of the situation and ask what you can do at home to help.”
If your student suggests the teacher is too strict, obtain a list of classroom rules, discuss ones in question and encourage him to comply to avoid being reprimanded.
“One thing to bear in mind is your child’s view of strictness may have more to do with the teacher’s personality or the inflection of her voice than with the rules,” says Backer. “If so, explain that people have different methods of interacting and communicating and some are more attentive and caring than others.”
If your child protests he is being picked on, be responsive but realize his perspective may be limited by his development.
“This is where parents have to sift through and weigh out the facts,” says Carey. “There may be merit in what your child is saying, but the question is to what degree and for what reason.