Today, I walked by our neighborhood school. I glanced at the electronic sign that was projecting school announcements. I stopped for a second. Isn’t August 22 tomorrow? I muttered in disbelief, “The school year starts tomorrow?” For the first time in 30 years, none of my children will be attending school.
In 1983, I escorted our oldest son, Josh, to preschool. I can’t remember who was more nervous, Josh or me. As he eagerly started to bond with his new classmates, I coped with the fact that he was growing older and that others would be influencing his life. Josh cheerfully played at school in the morning. His brother Adam kept me busy. Daily carpooling began.
By the time Josh entered kindergarten, Adam was making the transition to preschool. Each new experience initiated a set of expectations mixed with excitement and sprinkled with a few apprehensions. Creating an atmosphere that promoted a positive attitude toward school became our top priority. We also stressed the importance of learning how to get along with others.
When Adam headed off to kindergarten, I had another son in tow. Adam’s reluctance to let go on the first day of kindergarten was indeed a bit trying as his infant brother, Aaron, threw up his morning breakfast onto another mother’ coat. It certainly was not the best way to introduce oneself to a perfect stranger or make a first impression with the teacher. Within no time Adam’s apprehensions were diminished and he was talking with his new buddies.
While our two oldest sons were busy at school, I remained a stay-at-home mom. My days were filled with caring for Aaron. The cycle continued. Aaron eventually started preschool. Shortly thereafter our youngest son, Jordan, arrived. Like his older brothers, he spent his preschool years attending a play-orientated program. Another milestone occurred when he started kindergarten. Not only were all of our kids in public school, but there would be no tuition costs until Josh attended college in 1998.
Each school year brought a new round of teachers and classroom dynamics. Some were easier to deal with than others. We tolerated teachers who should never have entered the profession. These teachers struggled. A few never mastered the ability to connect with their students both emotionally and academically. Some of their lesson plans were rarely engaging. Those teachers had been teaching for years and were stuck on autopilot. Occasionally, we came upon teachers who didn’t treat all of the students fairly. In all of these scenarios, we couldn’t wait for the school year to end.
Other teachers were absolutely amazing. They knew how to teach, how to motivate their students, and saw each student as an individual. These stellar teachers knew how to make a difference in children’s lives. The kids blossomed in their classrooms. We were thrilled.
It was impossible to predict at the start of each school year what would happen. Rumors oftentimes circulated about this teacher being a bitch or another being the best teacher ever. Some parents rushed to the principal’s office demanding placement in one classroom or another. I rarely listened to the scuttlebutt. There were too many factors to consider before you could brand a particular teacher as a devil or a saint.
Oftentimes, parents’ and students’ perceptions of a teacher were based on personality issues that were only relevant to a particular family. I preferred to be open-minded and address situations as they arose rather than anticipate some unknown circumstance.
Whenever student-teacher skirmishes occurred, we would do our best to come to terms with the disagreement. Some of these experiences were more challenging than others. A few were never fully resolved. How we handled each scenario was dependent on the age of the child. Younger children needed more assistance than teenagers. Parents should model how to be proactive with younger children, but allow older students to take the initiative unless a teacher usurps their children’s rights.
8 Tips for Parents Dealing With Student-Teacher Conflicts
Conflicts are Inevitable. Disagreements happen on a daily basis. Parents need to teach their children how to deal with conflicts in a constructive way. They need to continually model effective ways to handle differences in opinion.
Listen. By taking the time to listen, parents can attempt to understand the facts and the emotional response of the teacher and the child. However, only hearing one side of the story can sometimes be misleading. A child’s perception might be very different from a teacher’s viewpoint. Support your child’s opinion, but at the same time be open-minded.
Create a Strategy. Talk to your child about the situation. If possible, try to determine why a particular situation may have occurred. Is there a way to prevent it from happening again? Is there anything that can be done to lessen the tension between the teacher and student?
Communicate With Teacher. If the child is young, it might be necessary for the parent to intercede on the child’s behalf. Older children can be instructed on how to self-advocate for themselves. Children need to understand the importance of communication.
Evaluate. Take a short period of time to see if the situation has been resolved. If the issues persist, request a face-to-face meeting that includes the teacher, parent, and child.
Meeting. Parents tend to become emotional about their children. Try to start the meeting with a cool head and an even-handed approach. If you have yet to hear the teacher’s side, listen attentively and avoid being judgmental. Work together to create a strategy that will work best for everyone.
Reevaluate. The meeting may or may not solve the problem. If, after a reasonable period of time, the situation has not gotten any better, make an appointment to see the principal.
Principal Meeting. Unless there is an extraordinary circumstance, the principal should not be your first stop. Administrators prefer that you have worked through the chain of command before you visit them. Explain the steps that have been taken to date and what has happened as a result. Work together with the principal to help remedy the problem.
Student-parent-teacher relationships can be tricky. Parents always have to keep in mind that their actions can either positively or negatively affect the situation. Finding ways to meet the faculty halfway goes a long way to remedying issues. In most instances, meaningful dialogue between everyone will solve the conflict. However, sometimes teachers and administrators do not maintain a child-friendly environment. In other words, the teacher and/or the administration might be the root of the problem. In that case, parents need to tread carefully because their actions could cause an unbearable situation for their child. Despite the possible ramifications, parents should advocate on behalf of their children whenever it is deemed necessary.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.