Often children come to parents and say "I don't like my teacher" or "My teacher doesn't like me". What should today's involved parent do?
Don't ignore what your child says
A healthy conversation fixes a lot of problems. If you hear your child say it, you should ask them "So your teacher does not like you. Why do you feel that way?" and talk further. Do not dismiss them with "Don't be ridiculous" or "You are imagining it". As you talk further, you may realize that it is something that your child wanted to just talk about and that the problem is not deeprooted and is impulsive. But sometimes, there maybe a real issue that will require your intervention and your child is seeking your help. Unless you engage in a conversation where you respect what your child says, they will not feel comfortable talking to you about the bigger problems they will encounter in life.
What should we talk about?
Start by asking the child about why they feel that way. For example, children may say "She gets angry at me" or "He is making me work too hard". Our role as parents is to peel the onion further. The next step is to find out "So your teacher got angry at you. When exactly did it happen? What caused her to get angry?". With younger children, parents may quickly discover that it maybe because the teacher has started enforcing some rules regarding their work and thus conditioning them to a understand the need for rules. Or it maybe because the child did not follow a routine or refused to do what the teacher said.
Sometimes, the response from the child maybe "Nothing happened" but usually something may have triggered it. Ask questions that will help find the answer, not questions that try to pin the blame. When trying to find the root cause, do not assume your child was in the wrong. It may just be a case of a child not understanding something or having a different opinion. Stress to the child that people do have differences.
Get involved from the beginning
Parents and teachers are partners in a child's development. As parents, our role is to get involved early with the child's teacher and school.
- Always talk to your child about what is going on in school
- Occasionally, have a quick chat with your child's teacher (outside the usual PTA meetings) to ensure that both you and the teacher agree on what is going on with your chld
- Read school reports diligently and ask for clarifications from your child's teacher
- Keep in touch with fellow parents. Form an online group (for example, a private group on Parentree) to stay in touch
Talk to other parents
Talk to other parents as well and see if there is a pattern. That is why it is extremely important to get to know your fellow parents. It becomes easier to talk to someone in confidence about such issues, if you have known them for a while.
What to do if there is a problem?
Coolly and calmly think about the problem before you discuss it with the teacher. Think about whether the problem is big enough to make an issue about or is it just a quirk. Look at the bigger picture also. If you complain too often about small things, you will be labeled as crying wolf too often and you will not get the attention you need when a bigger problem arises.
Be ready with some proposals on what you, your child and the teacher can do so all of you continue to focus on what is most important - the child's development. A cooperative meeting is always more fruitful than an accusatory one.
Start with a positive problem solving attitude. For example, you can start the conversation by saying something positive that the teacher has brought about in your child. After all the teacher has 20-30 other kids as well to deal with and it is not easy. And then say "I noticed that ...." and "I would like to work with you on this situation". Your tone should reflect that you want to understand the situation and help and work with it vs. whining and complaining, or being personal.
If the teacher refuses to acknowledge a problem, or does not keep up his end of the bargain, then talk to the principal. Be prepared to have a calm, unemotional conversation where you present your case. In the worst case, you can ask for the child to be moved to a different division or you may have to change schools. But think very hard before you come to this conclusion and ensure that your child is aware of your rationale for taking this decision.
Do not circumvent the teacher unless you believe there is a critical emergency that needs to be addressed by someone above them.
Be cool and relaxed
Remember, children learn from us. They will learn problem solving skills from what we do in similar situations. If we approach the problem in a cool, controlled and unemotional manner, they will learn good lessons from it.
Do not label the teacher in front of your child or when you are talking to other parents. Children pick up these cues and these reinforce and shape their thinking about the teacher.