By this time of year, the excitement of starting a new school year diminishes. Attitudes, homework and discouragement can overcome tweens and teens. On top of this, conflicts students have with teachers can add more anxiety to an increasingly stressful school year.
As an experienced teacher, school counselor and parent of teens, I understand that students don’t get along with every teacher. I’ve helped my own kids figure out how to handle situations when they felt teachers were unapproachable or difficult to talk to. How do you help your child in these situations without being “That parent?”
1. Understand teachers are human and aren’t out to get your child. Each teacher has strengths and weaknesses. If you hear your child say, “She doesn’t like me” or that the teacher is “mean” or “unfair,” gather unbiased information before jumping to conclusions about the teacher. There are multi-layered factors that play into a child’s perception of their teacher and understanding the whole picture is helpful in making a decision on what to do next.
2. When problems arise, talk to the teacher in person with the intent of listening and understanding. Teachers may not realize your child feels the way they do or that there’s a problem. Educators genuinely care about their students and their students’ success, but they don’t know your child like you do. It’s important to approach a teacher with the intention to hear and understand each other. In doing this, the teacher doesn’t feel attacked and is better able to work with you in meeting the academic needs of your child.
3. Let your child know the teacher’s response to them most likely isn’t personal. A former student of mine job-shadowed a teacher for a day and reported “I could never be a teacher!” Working with boisterous, moody, and energetic kids is challenging. A quick answer from a teacher could be the result of the day’s stress, not a personal attack on your child. Helping your teen step back and not dwell on the negative things about a teacher can give your child a different perspective on the situation.
4. Be honest about what your teen or preteen brings to the teacher-student relationship. As a parent, your first reaction is to protect when your child says they’ve been treated unfairly. By using the techniques above, I’ve learned my child can contribute to a strained relationship by being disrespectful, arrogant, demanding, or inappropriate in their behavior. A child naturally thinks a teacher is “mean” when they’re reprimanded. There are two sides to a story and gaining information and understanding of both sides brings wisdom to the situation.
5. Choose your battles. It’s healthy for kids to learn that adversity is part of life and that they won’t get along with every person. Helping a child develop skills of getting along with someone they don’t naturally connect with benefits them for future relationships. When your child and teacher don’t get along it prepares your child for future employers who won’t give them favored treatment. If your child and teacher don’t get along because they have different personalities, help your child sift through what issues are worth bringing up to the teacher and what needs to be let go. Of course, if there is blatant mistreatment or unhealthy interaction, these situations need to be addressed.
My experience as an educator has taught me teachers are reasonable people who care about kids. Approaching them in a non-threatening, understanding way helps both sides to hear and understand each other so you can work towards your child’s success. On rare occasions where an educator is not open to working with you, additional strategies may be necessary.
Each child is different, each teacher is different, and each educational experience is different. Understanding the complexities of the classroom experience is important when your child and teacher don’t get along.
What strategies have helped when your child and teacher didn’t get along? We’d love for you to add to the discussion.
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