Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Parents and Teachers - Working Together - Great Tips

(One of the best articles I have read on the subject - great tips from a parent who also happens to be a teacher.)

Parents and Teachers - Working Together

When your child comes home to you complaining about his or her difficult teacher, many times ones' first instinct is to get in the car, drive to the school then and there and "school the teacher" on the school's lawn, in front of the principal, the students and all of the other teachers. After all, your precious little dumpling couldn't be at fault for anything, right?

I know I've been in that situation before, and the mother lioness in me some times wants to strike! But, I also want to teach my daughters about respectful conflict resolution, and though I do believe there's a time and a place for the mama lion to ROAR, your child's school is, in most cases, not one of them.

Especially when you find out that dumpling's maybe not as blameless in the situation as you've been led to believe. In other words, get the whole story before you go ballistic! Kids have a magical way of leaving key facts regarding their involvement in any wrongdoing when telling their parents their woes.

I'm not saying kids are always in the wrong and teachers are infallible, I'm just saying that *most* teachers are pretty good folk. Most teachers do not go into education with the goal of creating a "difficult" environment for children. Although I do know teachers who have stayed past their prime, *usually* people in education are there because they genuinely like kids and want to help them learn. Almost everyone your child comes in contact with in an educational setting is going to want to see him or her succeed.

I will also say that many parents have no idea what strains teachers are under today with what the government expects of us, what our districts expect of us, what our administration expects of us, what the parents expect of us and what the kids expect of us. (Not to mention what our own families expect of us!) What may seem like a "difficult" teacher may actually be a teacher carrying out state-mandated assessments, or implementing district NCA accreditation goals. Or, that seemingly difficult teacher may just be having a rough day (many times as a result of all of those above-listed pressures).

When your child comes home with a complaint, you are, of course, his or her number one advocate. I know that there are situations when it is appropriate for parents to intervene on behalf of their child. However, in most cases, teachers, even seemingly difficult ones, are willing to work as a partner with parents to do what's best for your child.

Parents must also remember that teachers are just like any other human being out there. Some times people "rub each other the wrong way." This can happen with teachers and students too. Some times a kid may just not like the teacher's personality. It's not the kid's job to act in a professional manner, so in some cases, the kid not liking the teacher can spill over into his or her behavior, which may cause conflict in the classroom.

Conversely, if a student raises a teacher's hackles it *is* that teacher's job to remain professional and hopefully that teacher will never let on that he or she doesn't appreciate that child's personality quirks. However, teachers do make mistakes and if he or she does act inappropriately, he or she should apologize, and as a parent, you have the right to ask for that, if the teacher does not offer to do so on his or her own.

Parents, though, should insist on their children's respect for all teachers, at all times, even when that child perceives the teacher to be "difficult."

Now what if it isn't just a rough day for the teacher? What if your child is making consistent complaints about this teacher? I suggest, as a sign of respect, using the proper chain of command. Depending on the age of the child, you could ask your child to try to talk to the teacher first to see if he or she can solve the problem on his or her own. If your child is too young or too shy and you feel it's time for you to intervene, talk directly to the teacher. Send him or her an email, call him or her or make an appointment to see him or her in person. See what you, your child and the teacher can work out. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish with a two-sentence email, or a five-minute phone conversation.

If you do this and do not receive satisfaction after trying this, talk with the school counselor. If there is still no agreement reached, it is at this point you should probably take it to the top and call the principal. It would be unusual if you tried all of these steps and were unable to come up with some sort of solution to satisfy all parties.

As an educator myself, I am of the opinion that *most* teachers, administrators, and counselors that I know will bend over backwards, do flips, cartwheels, and stand on their heads, do the conga, or cha-cha with a pit bull to ensure that a kid succeeds. And, a parent can take a kid far, but ultimately, especially at the high school level, the kid has to go the full distance on his/her own.

In my duel roles as mother and teacher, I know that one of the means to my own children's success is teaching them how to problem solve, deal with people that they may or may not like, and to be respectful of all people. It may be your first instinct to take care of your child's problem for him or her, but allowing them the chance to work through it on their own can oftentimes be more the more valuable experience.

We all encounter difficult people in our every day lives. School, many times, ends up being a microcosm for the "real world." Students can actually benefit from working through their problems with their difficult teachers because chances are that teacher won't be the last difficult person he or she encounters. And, when your child sees you modeling respect for the teacher, even though you may not agree with everything the teacher says or does, your child can learn a valuable lesson on working through conflict.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep -- right on! Elisabeth Humphries