Happy Friday to all of you. Today's free for all topic stemmed from a friend (Susan) who asked me what to do when the teacher of a child is the problem.
Susan's child (Nate) is a first grader who goes to a well respected public school in Louisville, KY. Unfortunately, Susan didn't feel Nate's teacher was meeting her son's needs. Susan does not receive much homework from Nate's teacher which bothers her. Ideas for homework are substandard to Susan as well. For example, a homework assignment recommended was to play Hangman. Another was to read 15 minutes. The in class work was not up to par as well. What Susan was looking for was either a change of teachers or for Nate's teacher to improve.
Susan was kind enough to send me all the email correspondence with Nate's teacher and it was lengthy. Susan strikes me as the kind of mom who wants the best for her kid. What sets her apart though with other mom's I have worked with is she is so inquisitive. I left teaching 4 years ago and Susan asked me such detailed questions that it took me a while to remember the answers. Luckily, most of the questions were through email which gave me ample time to think.
Sharing each of Susan's questions is not what I am looking for in this blog. Trust me, they were so detailed that it wouldn't benefit the general population who is reading this. Regardless, here are some thoughts to consider when there is a problem with a teacher. These general ideas were what I passed along to Susan.
First, realize that not all teachers are equal in ability. Don't take it for granted that your child has a good teacher. (Obviously, Susan was on top of this) If I were to come to your home, how would you prove to me whether your child's teacher was good or not? What evidence would you provide? What are the teacher's strengths and weaknesses? If you do not know these answers, odds are you also do not know whether your child's teacher is really good or not. Therefore, the first part of the equation is for you, the parent, to have an opinion backed up with indisputable facts.
Second, many problems can be dealt with quickly through communication. Sometimes, teachers don't know there is a problem until you bring it up. Keep in mind that very few teachers will ever think of themselves as the problem. There is also not any sense in being angry or confrontational with the teacher. Simply present your case in a clear manner whether the problem is with academics or with another student. Make sure you are so clear that there is little room for rebuttal. With Susan, I told her to pretend she was an attorney and her case had to be "air tight."
Here's a quick story to illustrate the point. Once, I had an angry parent confront me because her child was "picked on" by another student. She went on a mini tirade for about 3-5 minutes and I didn't say a word. I am human though and I was a bit angry/amused because I knew something she didn't. When she was finished, I looked at her and detailed all that really happened. It was her son that started the problem and had I not been at the right place at the right time, her child could have been suspended. I was professional but blunt and I did not use my coddling voice. When I was finished speaking, mom turned and left with her child extremely embarrassed. She gave the child a small tongue lashing for not telling her the whole story- all the way down the hall. Had she only been somewhat professional to me, she would have learned the same story unfortunately; but may have been a little less embarrassed. On a side note, I was at fault as well because I should have sent a note to the parent detailing what had happened.
Third, if a problem with a teacher isn't resolved to your satisfaction, you have to go to the principal. If it's an academic problem, the principal most likely already knows. Still, it helps them to know that you know. It keeps their feet to the fire a bit. Principals do not have tenure like teachers and unless your points have holes in them, they are going to be inclined to listen. Also, all principals want the best academic environment possible. It's best for the kids first of all and it looks good if the principal wants to advance in their career. As long as you are making good points, you are most likely going to get a fair shake.
Realize that principals are overwhelmed as well. They are seldom sitting back in a Lazy Boy chair in their office. They have a lot on their plate so please be patient while you are waiting for your problem to be resolved. But don't be too patient. There's nothing wrong with follow up calls and emails to ensure that your needs are being addressed.
Finally, understand that, as a parent, you are the straw that stirs the drink. I am speaking mainly of academic problems when I make this point. If you are in a school with a poor teacher and a lackluster administration, you have got to work hard to make sure your child doesn't fall behind. This is the real lesson I want you to learn from Susan. There is little chance Nate will fall behind despite the circumstances in class because Susan won't allow it. She has her finger on the pulse and will go to whatever means she needs to in order to ensure Nate's ultimate success.
Please have a great weekend with your kids and check back in Monday for my educational blog. The long awaited 2nd part of Cameron's reading success will be outlined. The goal is to make the details so clear; you can implement them with your child.