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This year, my oldest son is a senior in high school and my youngest, a sophomore. We have met so many wonderful teachers over the years who are dedicated to providing children the tools they need to succeed in the world.
Unfortunately, a few were so terrible that I wouldn't have trusted them with a house plant, let alone my child. When that happens, what do you do? Dealing with bad teachers can be a nightmare that lasts all school year. And when you have younger children with a bad teacher, they can't always articulate what's going on at school.
What you don't want to do is fly off the handle. Do you really want to look insane and have the school consider you as "one of those" parents? Take a deep breath and summon your most level-headed self before reading my tips on how to handle ill-natured instructors like a boss.
1. Listen to your child, but don't overreact. If your child comes home and tells you their teacher was awful to them for absolutely nothing, hear them out, console them if need be, but do not make rude comments about the teacher to your child. What you don't want is for your child to return to school the next day with a bad attitude and be disrespectful in class. I have often discovered my son's perception of what happened and the teacher's perception are vastly different. Be open to hearing both sides of the story before you react. Remember, give your child's teacher the benefit of the doubt. In my experience, being open-minded and respectful has gone a long way toward finding common ground with a teacher.
2. Email first. You may think a face-to-face meeting is the best solution for dealing with a problem but I believe email is a far better route. Why? It leaves an electronic trail in case things turn sour. Many times, misunderstandings can be resolved easily via email exchange. Other times, it won't be enough. Start with a calm, collected email (skip the all-caps or excessive use of ellipsis or exclamation marks) and see if you can find resolution. If not, save all email exchanges and use them when talking to the principal or vice principal. Often times they want to know you've tried to handle the situation with the teacher before bringing them in to the mix.
3. Schedule a meeting. If email isn't working or you aren't satisfied with the results, request a meeting with the teacher. If you feel the teacher will be combative or unwilling to listen, ask for the principal or vice principal to attend as well. Bring any documentation you have and come with an ear to listen. Sometimes, emails can be misconstrued and face to face meetings can be great opportunities to resolve issues between parents, students and their teachers. It is so important that parents have the right attitude when attending these meetings. If you present yourself as someone who is open to discussion and willing to listen, it will go a long way toward making sure your child has a more positive experience in the classroom.
4. Make sure your child is not causing a problem. Whether or not the teacher is truly rotten will not matter much if your child is creating a disruption in the classroom. If your child's teacher has documented cases of your child acting out in class, it will be difficult for you to prove the teacher is in any way at fault. Take an honest assessment of your child's in-classroom behavior and get to work correcting any issues they may have. If your child has a diagnosis and is eligible for classroom accommodations, it is crucial to have that documented and brought to the school's attention.
5. Contact the superintendent or school board. I urge parents to only do this in the most extreme cases when they have approached both the teacher and school administration with a calm, level head and still have not been able to find a solution. The superintendent is the direct supervisor of the school principal, and generally they are who you turn to in a worst-case scenario. Remember to bring any and all documentation of your previous meetings and email exchanges to the superintendent's attention. However, if you opt to contact the superintendent for every problem, don't expect to be taken seriously. It would be like contacting the President of the United States when you have a traffic ticket you want to contest. Make sure you're following the chain properly and have done all you can to resolve the matter on the lowest level possible before contacting them.