I will always remember my first experience as a teacher. It was a Thursday evening, late August, which for me meant “Meet the Teacher Night”. As a new, fresh-faced teacher with 22 precious first graders on my roll, I had spent several late nights preparing my classroom until everything looked absolutely perfect. The only thing left was to meet my students and their parents.
I expected the parents to be smiling as they walked through my room. I expected them to be super excited to meet the young lady that was charged to build the brains of their children for an entire school year. For the most part, that is exactly what happened. But to my rookie surprise, I also met a few disgruntled parents who didn’t want their child in the classroom of a first-year teacher. Ouch.
A mom walked into the room. She had a child in a stroller, one child strapped to her body and two children following behind her. By the frown on her face, it was clear to me that she was not happy. She pushed the stroller through the crowds of chattering parents and students and walked directly toward me. With an outstretched hand, she introduced herself. She proceeded to tell me that she understood this was my first year teaching and that she wanted her child to be in the teacher’s room across the hall. She stated that she would be speaking with the principal about it that night. Double Ouch.
I was was a nervous wreck. I gave her my best smile and told her that I understood. She asked me a few questions about myself and then she left.
My wonderful principal was not at all surprised by this encounter. To the mother’s disappointment, my principal did not remove the child from my classroom. She assured me that I could handle it and that everything would be just fine. Looking back, I am so thankful that my principal believed in me. This gave me the confidence I needed to show the worried mom that she hit the jackpot when her child was placed in my class.
I made it my goal to win this mom over. By the end of the year, this family had become one of my favorites. On the final day of school, with tears in her eyes, the mom apologized for that first meeting and she gave me the biggest hug ever. I ended up teaching 2 more of her children before the family moved away.
Here is the thing: although I made it my goal to win her over, it never would’ve happened if she had flat out refused to give me a chance. This mother communicated with me often. When she had a question or concern, she was quick to call or email. She visited the classroom regularly and volunteered her time. Although she defended her child in certain circumstances, she also listened to my side of the story and reframed her thinking.
The relationship that we built didn’t happen only because of my efforts. In order to succeed in a parent-teacher relationship, 100% needs to be given by both parties.
Are you having problems with your child’s teacher? Here are 5 things that you can do to make things better.
#1 – Have a Re-DO
Maybe your first impression of the teacher was not the best. I can assure you, your child’s teacher was probably exhausted on Meet the Teacher Night. She had worked a full day and most likely, she had not eaten since lunchtime. She might’ve even been a little down because she was missing her own child’s Meet The Teacher Night. If she said or did something that offended you or your child, extend grace and cut her some slack. See how the first week of school goes. You might see a very different teacher after she has had a weekend of rest.
#2 – Connect
Ask for a conference and offer to bring your child’s teacher a Sonic drink before you come. When you arrive, before you state your concerns take time to inquire about her day. Assure her that you will be respectful of her time. Give her a chance to pause and catch her breath before going straight into business. This will lift her spirits and break down barriers for both of you.
#3 – Seek First To Understand
Express your concerns and listen to the teacher’s response. Listen without preparing your defense. Repeat what she has said so that you can be sure you understand. Many times, our children’s story doesn’t add up to what really happened. They have a tendency to misunderstand things or leave out important details. Once you have heard and understood her side of the story, your thinking about the entire situation could change.
#4 – Speak Positively In Front Of Your Child
The worst thing you can do is say something negative about your child’s teacher in front of them. This inadvertently gives your child permission to treat her with a lack of respect. Your child could put it into his mind that the teacher is “bad” or that the teacher “hates him”. Whats worse, what if you end up loving the teacher but your child has cemented it into his brain that the teacher is awful? School should be a positive place for the child. This starts with the child having a positive relationship with the teacher. Sometimes children don’t understand the reasons why you as a parent might dislike their teacher. For example, my little student didn’t know that his mother was concerned about it being my first year teaching. I am thankful that she did not continue to express that to him. He always greeted me with a hug and a smile. He was excited to be in my class and that made a huge difference in the relationship that I had with his mother.
#5 – Talk to the Principal
Try to solve things with the teacher first. However, if you have completed steps 1-4 and you are still worried about your child or feel as if this is not a good placement, do request a meeting with the principal. Administrators are there to make sure the school is safe and operating effectively. They want you and your child to have a wonderful educational experience. First, make sure that you have documented the steps you have taken to communicate with the teacher. This will help the principal gain a better understanding of the situation. Try not to go into the office set on getting the teacher fired or reprimanded. Try to stay calm and express that you want what is best for your child.
I hope that by taking these steps, you, your child and your child’s teacher will have the best year ever!