Teachers are given enumerable tasks with tight deadlines. Common core, standardized testing, and disciplinary issues take away from the joy of teaching. Most often, parents and students encounter fully committed educators who teach out of their desire to impact the future. Then, there are those discouraging times when parents have a negative experience. What are parents to do when they realize they hate their child’s teacher? Hate is a strong word, so put mildly, what should parents do if they strongly dislike the learning environment the teacher creates for their child? This is the time of year when the first progress reports and report cards start coming home. If you were blindsided by a report card, these survival tactics are perfect for you to develop a strategy rooted in love and support.
The dust has settled from all the back-to-school hoopla. And, when the first report card comes home, either there is affirmation of the belief that your child is a superstar or a rude awakening. Why would there be a rude awakening? You haven’t heard from the teacher. Your child has done his homework and seems to get the material. At school functions, your child’s teacher tells you how wonderful she is. Even the few graded assignments you’ve seen come home look to be better than average. Yet, you receive a rude awakening because despite all of the kind words, the report card paints a picture of a struggling student.
First things first, keep your cool. Flying off the handle with your child or the teacher will only make matters worse. You need to schedule a conference with the teacher as soon as possible. Gather schoolwork and make copies of the report card to write questions and notes directly on it.
During the conference, remain very organized and downplay all positive comments about your child’s personality. You are not there to talk about how sweet and congenial your child is. You want to know how exactly six to nine weeks have passed and you weren’t made aware of lackluster academic performance. Conversely, if there are disciplinary problems, make note of them. Assure the teacher that you will address those problems, but inform her of the need to be contacted about behavior issues immediately. Still, remain focused on your child’s academic performance without spending too much time with other variables.
What if the teacher infers that there may be something wrong with your child by pulling records or using attention deficit disorder (ADD) buzz words like “attention” and “distracted?” Dr. Ajani Cross, Licensed Specialist in School Psychology, states in an interview that “it is unethical and potentially harmful, particularly to the developing relationship, for teachers to make informal diagnoses of students in their care.” She goes on to say, “Although their observations and perspectives can be critical to the educational growth of a young student, it is important that clear, positive expectations and boundaries be established within the parent-teacher and teacher-student relationship as early as possible.” If you feel that the teacher has lowered expectations or is attempting to diagnose and label your child, it is imperative that you stand firm behind your child. You must not waiver in your confidence in your child’s abilities and be sure to communicate this fact to the teacher.
On the other hand, be willing to seek out the advice of learning professionals for proper diagnosis of any learning challenges that may be present. Ask about student support services and schedule an appointment. Find out what programs are offered at your school. Student support services will also have a list of trained professionals with proper credentials and details about the process.
During this process, it is essential to keep your child confident and encouraged. Reassure him that there are many different ways people learn and that it is important to find out his learning style. There are factors that Dr. Cross lists such as, “parenting styles, dietary factors, depression, anxiety, learning differences, and mental health illnesses [that] can appear to be ADHD to the untrained person.” Don’t allow labels to stick! Reinforce a positive self-image by pointing out strengths and triumphs over hurdles no matter how small.
Stay in regular communication with your teacher. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you have to deal with someone you suspect thinks your child is not capable, it can be incensing. Get regular updates from the teacher about academic progress and behavior. If you find that your child is acting out in response to the diagnostic testing, set up a meeting with a school administrator. For example, if the psychologist testing your child doesn’t find some of the issues the teacher details in her report to the professional, you know you need to meet with an administrator. The teacher’s teaching style and the learning environment may not be the right fit for your child. Express your concerns earnestly with the administrator and ask for possible options such as changing teachers. The sooner you decide to meet with an administrator, the more options you will have.
It is suggested that parents should not criticize the teacher in front of their child. If you remain with the same teacher, constructively collaborating with the teacher to determine the things your child could do to compensate for what is lacking in the classroom may be helpful. These discussions keep your child confident and dedicated to accomplishing tasks the teacher does not expect him to complete successfully. Each successful academic battle is a blow to the low bar the teacher has set for your child.
Dr. Cross sums up the parent-teacher relationship by saying, “parents want to trust their child’s teachers; teachers want the parents’ support in teaching their child.” If you have lost trust in your teacher, but done everything that is being asked of you to support your child’s learning, constantly speak up on behalf of your child. The foundation of the teacher-student relationship is “trust, respect, and high expectations.” If the teacher doesn’t believe in your child’s abilities and plays up personality to compensate, be strategic in your communication with the teacher and school administrators. Stay in consistent contact until you get results. It’s all about your child developing into a lifelong learner. You don’t want one bad year to derail a passion for learning.
Also See: Preparing for a School Conference
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