It's every parent's hope that their child has a good teacher--one who not only imparts knowledge, but is kind and understanding. Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn’t happen and you and your child are left to deal with a difficult teacher. There are a number of ways a teacher can be difficult to deal with, some of which can be handled easily and others of which will need some more work on your part to resolve.
Jane says her teacher is mean and rude to her, saying things like “I don’t understand why you don’t get this already!” when Jane asks questions during class. She also reports the teacher yells all the time, takes everybody’s recess away when one child misbehaves and says things like, “Well, you’d be able to go out for recess if John could just learn to stop talking when he’s told to.”
Darcy cringes every time the phone rings. She’s afraid it’s going to be the school principal or guidance counselor telling her that her son was sent out of the classroom again. He has some special needs that influence his behavior, but she’s not sure exactly what’s going on. The teacher doesn’t respond to Darcy’s emails, doesn’t return her phone calls for days at a time and, when they sit down for a parent-teacher conference, is evasive,simply telling Darcy that her son is rude, defiant and belligerent in class.
What’s Really Going On?
In both these situations, the first step is information-gathering. There are a few ways to do this. The first is by asking your child for more detail, as Jane’s parents do. They ask her to give as many specific examples as she can about what the teacher said and under what circumstances. Darcy’s approach is a little different.
She knows that her son is part of the problem, but she doesn’t know how. She does two things: asks her son to explain each incident to her and begins to ask more questions when she gets a call from the principal. She asks to be told what went on in the classroom, who was involved, what her son had to say about it, what the principal thinks happened and what the plan of action is going to be moving forward.
Write It Down
The next step is to keep documentation. Jane’s parents begin keeping a daily journal of things the teacher has allegedly said. Darcy begins keeping an incident log, marking the days on which she was called and by whom, as well as an accounting of her son’s version of the incident and the school’s version of the incident.
Talk to the Teacher
After keeping track for a week or two, it’s time to communicate with the teacher and share your concerns in a non-confrontational manner. Jane’s parents decide to have a face-to-face meeting so they can get their own sense of the teacher’s attitude. Darcy finally gets the teacher on the phone and asks for the teacher to call Darcy herself to follow-up after an incident.
Meet With the Principal
Not every parent will need to take this step, but both Jane’s parents and Darcy find they need to. Both sets of parents give it a week or two to see if there’s any change before asking to meet with the principal. Whether or not you ask the teacher to be involved in this meeting depends on the circumstances.
In Darcy’s case it is more beneficial for them all to sit down together to work toward a solution. Jane’s parents, however, are afraid the teacher might take it out on Jane if she heard how truly concerned they are about the teacher’s bullying behaviors.
File a Complaint
After her meeting Darcy is satisfied with the outcome. Jane’s parents are not. They feel the principal is sympathetic, but think it needs to be on record that this teacher is bullying her students, so they ask how to file a formal complaint. It’s your right as a parent to let the school district know if you think a teacher is doing something inappropriate or potentially harmful to your child or the class as a whole.
Keep On Top of It
In some cases, after taking all of these steps a difficult teacher will back off enough for you to feel comfortable that the rest of the year will be OK. It’s up to you to keep track of what’s going on by touching base with your child daily and making sure whatever agreements or plans you have made with the teacher are being carried out. If the situation is just unbearable and there’s a lot of the school year left, you may want to consider asking for your child to be transferred to a different class.