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'I Don't Like My Kid's Teacher'

Dear Catherine,

My son is starting school this week and we just found out who his teacher is, and we are not happy. You see, we've seen this teacher on the playground at school and she seems kind of lazy. Like not all that engaged with the kids, and like she can't wait to go home and have a cocktail. Should we talk to the principal about this?


Mom Knows Best

Dear Mom Knows Best,

At the risk of making your toes curl, I feel compelled to point out that you might not know what’s best this time.

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And it’s certainly a tricky situation—I will admit to scheduling more than one meeting at my daughters’ school with the motivation to "get the good teacher." There’s a side of me that thinks a parent should do everything in her power to effect the best circumstances for her children. That side, however, received serious scrutiny when I delved into a study on French parenting techniques. Not that this kind of operation would ever occur to the average French parent. From what I’ve seen, parents don’t have much of any say over what goes on behind French school doors. Just getting an appointment with a school principal in France takes serious maneuvering—and is not encouraged. Don’t even think about bribing the principal with les crepes—sweet or savory or anything in between (swavory?).

There is an important lesson to be learned in a circumstance like this—namely that life isn’t always perfect.

Even beyond this, however, is the simple fact that French parents don’t attempt to micromanage the lives of their children in the same way we Americans do. Over coffee this morning, my Frenchie pal explained that there is an important lesson to be learned in a circumstance like this—namely that life isn’t always perfect. This aforementioned friend often points out to me how parents in the U.S. don’t let our children feel sufficient discomfort. Monsieur Judgmental argues that our kids will be completely unequipped for real life if we forever let them win, rush over with a Band-Aid or arrange for them to always have the best teacher.

I can see where he’s coming from with the first two—but the teacher thing is so hard. This is their education we are talking about. On the other hand, if you get your son transferred out of the 2nd-string teacher’s class, does that mean another child will have to take his place? Is there a lesson about justice somewhere in here, as well? And, then there’s the possibility that you will ruffle the principal with such a request and actually make things worse for your kid.

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Good God, I hope all of this doesn’t confuse you more. My advice is to pick your battles. If you think this teacher is really the pits, and you fear your child is going to suffer in her class, then schedule that meeting. Maybe, if enough parents speak out, she will be instructed to mend her ways. However, if your concerns are based on a hunch or just a couple of playground observations, I’d suggest you wait and see how she handles the classroom. Perhaps she’s not quite a Jedi (this is good) ... but maybe she is. Also, keep in mind that you can’t win them all.

Hope it works out!


Have a French (or any nationality) parenting question for Catherine? Email her at mommecs@bermanbraun.com.

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