How to Approach your Child's Teacher with a Concern Effectively
Your child comes home from school. He or she is crying, upset, unable to put words to their concern about something that has happened at school. This hypothetical situation could be concerning another student in the class, a grade on an assignment, or the teacher themselves!
You as the parent are immediately forced into “protective-guard-my-baby-from-harm-how-dare-such-a-thing-happen-to-my-child-the-teacher-did/didn’t-do-what?-oh-she/he-will-hear-it-from-me” mode. You immediately want to call/email your child’s teacher with threats and criticism about what they should have/could have/would have done if they were a GOOD teacher.
Your reaction is normal.
You are not a bad person for feeling hurt by your child being hurt.
You are human.
But so is your child’s teacher.
As a teacher myself, the most dreadful part of my job was dealing with a parent who did not have all the information and would leave me threatening emails/phone calls leaving me feeling misunderstood and flabbergasted.
Think about it if you had someone say hurtful things to you to start your day. It down right sucks.If there would be one thing that would make me want to change careers, it would be the parents. I have seen it not only happen to me a handful of times but other colleagues I have worked closely with.
This is not an article to talk about how terrible parents are. I have LOVED so many of my student’s parents. They have been the BEST thing about teaching for me but unfortunately also the worst…
Before you confront your child’s teacher angrily with threats and criticism, before you go above your teacher’s head to the principal with complaints, before you act at all. Stop and think about these
Step1: Calm down/Calm your child down
You can not take action when it comes to anything when you are all stirred up and emotions are involved. Before you listen to your child about the facts of the situation, get both you and your child calm. Get a glass of water, a tissue, go into another room, breathe deep, wait until you are both able to speak calmly and then start to dive into the issue.
Step 2: Write down the facts/your concerns about your child
After listening to your child and asking the questions about who said and did what, write down what your child has told you. Have your child repeat to you what happened to make sure they are telling you the same story again. Sometimes kids/adults leave things out or add things in to keep themselves or someone else out of trouble. Make sure you have the facts and what exactly you are concerned about on paper.
Step 3: Approach the teacher respectfully
Think about the time. Is it a good time to call the teacher? If it is most likely after school hours, call your child’s teacher and leave a message to ask for a time to speak face to face. Say you would like to come in as soon as possible at a good time for them to sit and chat about an issue. Notice the word RESPECTFULLY. Remember if you leave an ugly message to your child’s teacher and they get it first thing in the morning, they have an important job to do after they listen to that message, and feeling defeated is not a good way to start a day, especially with energetic kiddos to teach.
Do NOT email your teacher a nasty note. It is easy to hide behind the computer screen and write something you would never actually say in person. Do not stoop to that level.
Step 4: Meet with the teacher first with your child present
Do not go directly to the principal without talking to the teacher about the issue first. Once you go to your face to face meeting, you are less likely to say things you will regret. Let the teacher know what your concerns are. Make sure your child is present for the meeting. If it involves your child’s grade on an assignment, ask specific questions about what should have been done. Also, be proactive about keeping in contact with the teacher about upcoming assignments so you are aware.
Step 5: Listen to the teacher’s perspective of the situation
Sometimes we do not realize that a teacher has to deal with 25+ students on a daily basis and can easily miss a situation that has hurt a child. They also may not realize something may be hurtful to a child and can cause a child’s feelings to be hurt with no intentions to do so.
Step 6: Be specific about what you want
If there is something the teacher can do to help the situation, let them know! Do you want your child’s seat moved? Do you want another child to be talked to? Do you want the teacher to know about a certain situation at home that may be making your child upset/sensitive? Do you need the teacher to understand why your child didn’t do an assignment how they should have? Ask how you as the parent can be more informed about your child’s behavior or assignments.
Step 7: Be grateful for their time
Your child's teacher is busy. They work overtime with families at home for little pay and MOST LIKELY were not out to hurt/fail/neglect your child. Be understanding that your child’s teacher is human.
If your child’s teacher did in fact make a legitimate mistake. Forgive them. That does not mean you have to forget! Keep an eye/ear out to make sure it does not happen again and if it does, go to the principal of the school. Keep hurtful words/emotions at bay and aim for a respectful confrontation with your child’s welfare in mind only!