Make Certain That
You Are NOT Friends with
Your Child's Teacher
I don’t know how they did it, but my parents presented a united front to their children on key issues. There was no way these two individuals always agreed, but when it came to vital, serious things (i.e. my curfew), they sure acted like it. Smart move on their part. ‘Cause let me tell you, I would have played them against each other in a heartbeat! All I needed was a teeny-tiny spot of discord to worm my way in and create a wedge.
You and your child’s teacher should also show your child an united front. You may not be married, but you do have partnership, if only for one school year. It’s the two of you standing together to make absolutely certain that your child-student has a great year- and doesn’t get away with anything!
You BOTH want him to have a great school experience.
You BOTH expect him to do his best.
You BOTH expect him to complete his school work.
- You BOTH expect him to follow the class and school rules.
So, you support the teacher- at least in front of your child- and the teacher supports you. Your child can’t play the two of you against each other! There’s nowhere to turn!
You must stand with the teacher even if you don’t like her.
What? Not like the teacher? Come on, they’re people, we’re people- it’s bound to happen. I’ve said if before, I’ll say it again- it’s not about you. It’s about your child’s education. It makes life easier, of course, if you and the teacher see eye-to-eye on everything, but it’s not necessary. What is necessary is that your child knows that home and school are on the same side of one key issue: his education.
What if the teacher does something of which you don’t approve?
First of all, give the teacher a chance to explain. Some parents are quick to call the principal or the district to complain about something they think has happened. Don’t misunderstand me- teachers should be held to high standards. They should treat your child with respect and consideration, and they should follow district rules and regulations. Just talk to the teacher first. If your child comes home from school and says, “Today the teacher called us stupid,” before you go bananas and call the principal, call the teacher. Children- especially small children- often misunderstand adults. I am sure your kids have misunderstood something you’ve said, once or twice. So, take a deep breath, make a phone call and hear what the teacher has to say.
“I said the kids were full of streudel today!”
What a misunderstanding! Everybody has a big laugh.
Or, you can skip that step and call the principal. You have created an uncomfortable situation for the teacher- they don’t like explaining themselves to the boss any more than you do. The teacher thinks, “Wow, before you called and asked me a simple question, you called the principal!” We now have bad feelings, distrust- and you can forget about the teacher considering you an ally.
What happened to that united front?
When you call the principal before the teacher, your child is learning that when you hear something strange or disturbing, you do NOT calmly, politely and respectfully find out what is going on; instead, they are learning that you immediately will fly off the handle and start WW3. Is that what you want?
Of course, if a teacher is harming your child in any way, you must take action, but those kind of serious instances are, fortunately, quite rare. More often than not, a student has misunderstood something or is angry because his teacher is making him do something he does not want to do, like re-write a paper. He wants to get out of doing the paper, so he starts drama by accusing the teacher of something- anything. If you fall for it, and your child gets what he wants, he has learned a horrible lesson. And, when does this foolishness stop? Middle school? High school? Reform school?
Two Families, Different ApproachesI once substituted in a 3rd grade classroom. A student went home and told her mother that I had assigned 8 hours of homework! Can you imagine anything more ridiculous? It was preposterous on a number of levels, the first one being that as a substitute, I follow the lesson plans left by the regular teacher. Instead of asking for a simple explanation from me (or using her own common sense), the mother called the principal and ranted and raved for half an hour about the horrible substitute (me) and the impossible work load. She claimed that her daughter was so upset about being assigned so much homework that she couldn’t do any of it. Talk about a sad, powerful family dynamic.
On the flip side, I once had a 3rd grade student, an extremely bright boy with behavior challenges and a smart mouth. One thing that I particularly liked and respected about this young man’s parents was that they did not make excuses for his behavior, as so many parents do. They could have said, “He’s bored. He needs more of a challenge. You don’t understand him.” No, they insisted that their gifted child be respectful and follow the rules like everybody else. We worked together as a team and provided consistency at home and at school. There was no reason to contact the principal. After a few rocky months, their son-my student settled down (what choice did he have?) and had a great year. Years later, I am still in touch with the family.
Calling the principal to “get the teacher in trouble” rarely works, anyway. Most principals back up their teachers. They might tell you that they will speak to that bad, bad teacher, and they do- but it’s not what you expect. The principal and the teacher stand in the hallway and complain about micromanaging, overreacting and bothersome parents. Ouch.
Of course, if there is an on-going problem and you have spoken to the teacher repeatedly and things aren’t changing, please, I beg you, call the principal! And, if you have been working with the principal and things aren’t improving, call the district office. Follow the chain of command. Not only will it be more effective, not only is it the right thing to do, you are sending a powerful message to your child.
When there is a problem, you deal with it at the source.
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Go on to Rule #8.