Through the years, I have learned to deal with teachers either as a colleague or as a parent. Either way, I sometimes had to solve certain issues with a teacher. There is a procedure to follow in order to solve problems as effectively as possible for both parties. If you choose not to follow these steps, be aware that these problems may take enormous proportions, which would negatively affect the situation and the possible outcome. As they say, it is better to do it right from the start than deal with the consequences of doing it all wrong. After all, teachers and parents both have the same goal: to help their student or child develop their potential to the fullest.
- There are always two sides to a story! Don't act like judge and jury at once. You should always make an appointment with the teacher and ask their side of the story. Don't charge in like a bull in a china shop. Listen and act as impartial as possible. Never forget that confusion or a lack of information may be the source of the problem. If, despite your good listening skills and non-judgemental attitude, the teacher reacts negatively, refusing to either acknowledge the problem or displaying anger towards you, change your tactics. If no agreement can be reached, inform the teacher that you will contact the administration and invite them to be present to this meeting. Never go over a teacher's head without talking to him first!
- Contact the school administration! Make an appointment with the school administrator. Give them a brief synopsis of the problem and inform them that you already met with the teacher and you could not reach an agreement. Also inform them that you invited the teacher to the meeting scheduled with the administration. Ask them to invite the teacher as well as proof of your good intentions. Never get angry, make any threats or go over a teacher's head as this would make things worse. Always remain calm and flexible as it will show that you are acting in good faith.
- Call the school division's superintendent. Make an appointment with the superintendent of the school division. Give them a quick synopsis of your concerns and the steps that were taken so far. Ask them to invite both the school administrator and the teacher concerned to show that you have good faith. Keep in mind that loosing your cool and making threats will not get you anywhere. Remain calm and flexible in order to prove that you wish to solve the problem that is affecting your child, you're not starting a personal vendetta.
- Safety always comes first! Of course, if the problem is based on a safety issue such as: physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, drugs or alcohol, contact the administration right away if you are unsure how to proceed. In some of these cases, some steps may change as they may even involve Child and Family Services and the Police. They will guide you through the process. In certain situations, I have seen administrators that recommended meeting the teacher as the accusation was unlikely to be based on facts rather than a child being mad at the teacher. On the other hand, never take such problems lightly and consult with the administration for advice, help and support as confusion may cloud your judgement.
Through the seventeen years of experience as a teacher, I have come to realize that 95% of the problems that you may have with a teacher can be solved during a meeting with them. Of course, there is the 5% that requires you take it beyond this step. I strongly recommend never ignoring the order of these steps unless safety is an issue.
After all, you both have the best in mind for your child so why not work as a team instead of fighting each other all the time. The teacher will appreciate that you share your concerns with him instead of shocking him with an outburst of anger, threats or a meeting with the administration that did not require such reactions or take such proportions. Always keep in mind that such tension is never good for your child as he has to live with it and how it affects his teacher. Remember that teachers are only human beings, just like you, so mistakes will be made and only solved with your cooperation.