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How to get along with your child's teacher

Tips from a teacher on dealing with the "other adult" in your child's life

by Amy Estes  |  20029 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

3.) Keep us informed.  Death in the family, a divorce, or family trauma affects children at school.  While they may seem “fine” at home, it’s likely their behavior will change while in our classroom.  You don’t have to divulge details, but simply letting us know that your child or family is going through a hard time is enough to let us know that we need to be sensitive to your child’s needs.  This is especially true with younger children, who tend to grow teary and upset and aren’t always able to express their emotions appropriately.  If it’s a confidential situation, don’t be afraid to state that.  If there’s something we can do to help (give less homework, relax on a due date, etc.) ask us.  But, like most things in life, we can’t help if we aren’t aware.

4.) Teachers are people, too!  I had a child who was particularly difficult last year, and in the course of our interaction, I gave her mother my cell phone number.  She proceeded to call me late at night and as early as 5:30 in the morning to discuss her child.  Other parents have called me names, yelled at me or made grand assumptions about my character without ever speaking to me.  The golden rule applies to us, too: Treat others as you wish to be treated.  Remember that we have families of our own, struggles, good days and bad days.  We like to be treated kindly and spoken to like the adults we are. 

This also applies to response time.  I have 103 students this year.  This means that it’s unlikely that I can report on the fly about how your child did on their last book report or what their test grade was.  It also means that it’s unlikely I’ll answer your email within three hours of receiving it.  Treat contact with a teacher like a business contact: 24 to 48 hours is appropriate response time for emails and phone calls.  Remember that if you’re contacting the front office, many of us don’t check in there but once a day in the morning or afternoon.  Most of us have very limited break time during the day, and usually need to do things like use the restroom or drink some coffee.  Give us a chance to respond.  The same thing goes for breaks, summers and holidays.  As a rule of thumb, I check my work email once over any break we have, usually the night before returning.  Expecting a response about grades over Christmas break is not realistic -- again, we have families, obligations, and things we enjoy outside of school, too.

5.)  Give us the benefit of the doubt.  Your kid comes home and says we called him stupid.  Your child has an F on a paper and says it’s because we don’t like them or we didn’t teach them something.  What’s your first response?  If you said calling our administrator to “get to the bottom of things” than please slow down.  First of all, call us, email us or make an appointment to speak to us in person before or after school.  Use kind language, and simply ask us about the incident or grade.  Let us explain, and then clarify any questions or concerns by asking more questions, or telling us what your child relayed to you.  Most of the time, teachers are willing and able to explain themselves.  As harsh as it may be to hear, your child may have a skewed perception of the incident, or it may be a simple miscommunication.

About the Author

Amy Estes has been teaching English for several years in the Sacramento, CA area. When she's not lesson planning or grading papers, she loves time with her boyfriend, reading, writing and coffee.

Read more by Amy Estes

4 comments so far...

  • But I'll add to my post from last year; she wouldn't take that woman's class again. Just like I didn't take my 9th grade teacher when he came up again in 11th. I was told the other class was full so I DID drop out of the honors program; for about a month.
    I was pulled out of English during that time more than once to "talk" with my guidance counselor about it. I was firm. Calm, but firm. Finally they found space for me in the full class (I had the teacher for a different subject and based on my work there over the month he was fine with having me in his English class as well). And I moved without incident. But no way was I voulntarily repeating a horrible experience and no way my child will either.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mich on 15th September 2010

  • I totally understand what both of these parents are going through, My son's first day was uncomfortable, his teacher did not introduce herself she had a angry look on her face like she did not want to be there. Also she was pregnant and she was just disgusted looking at the students.I tried to pull my son out her class immediately.It did not work out and she saw my disgust and we were unpleasant to each other on the first day what a disaster. T.Woods

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by NYCMOM1 on 11th September 2010

  • I agree that teachers must be respected, but they are not perfect or infallable. I have had very uncomfortable and bortderline aggressive encounters on the elementary level with teachers for both of my children. One child is quiet, beautiful and enrolled in the gifted and talented program. The other is a little rambunctious, but still a sweet natured little boy. I have found that with three of these teachers, if I dare ask a question regarding any decisions made, I am met with a very harsh and sarcastic tone that is completely unwarranted. I feel they have a policy to meet any disagreement with coming down hard and ready to intimidate. After all who am I, and what am I going to do about it. They have a principal to back them up and who do I have? I just have to stay up night after night worrying about how to stradegize the best way to look out for my children without pissing off some teacher who can try to take it out on them later. I don't feel too bad for you. YOU signed on for it and if you didn't expect for people to look out for their kids, maybe should have chosen not to work in this field. I have a very hard time trying to understand how I, as a reasonable person who writes the checks, volunteers three times a month to work can never get on a field trip or be invited to read a story to the class. I have also had my child dismissed to me after field day injured and no note or calls. I've also heard from your fellow teachers that yes, teachers can be mean to the kids when their parents complain. I'm not sure you could begin to understand what goes through the mind of a stressed worried parent when all you have is your boyfriend , your reading, and your coffee.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by ruthanne on 24th May 2010

  • #10 is good advice though sometimes you do have to change teachers. I had a horrible 9th grade year, tried everything with a teacher who made it clear that I didn't belong and there was nothing I could do to improve except try to figure it out, with no assistance from him (it was an honors class and while I tested in, I was the only kid who hadn't been in an honors class before). He was an out and out bully and while I managed to survive and get a B- (which was treated like an A- in regular class) I swore I'd rather drop honors than deal with him again.
    This past year my daughter actually had a teacher who openly disliked her, it was clear to ANYONE who talked to the teacher how she really felt about my kid. But this year she can learn the lesson about some people, no matter what you do, won't like you but you have to deal sometimes.
    BUT, if she had a teacher like that in 7th grade I'd yank her, even if it meant taking a sabattical and home schooling because in our city, a bad 7th grade means you don't get into a good high school. So we couldn't have that "suck up and deal" mentality then.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mich on 28th July 2009