(ARA) - While adults live with the reality that some people just don’t get along, children can find such concepts more difficult to grasp. Teaching our children to deal with conflict and helping them navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships can be difficult – especially when it comes to conflict with a teacher. Knowing how to approach the teacher and the situation can make all the difference in resolving problems that might arise in the classroom.
“When parents are active in their child’s education, the child is likely to perform better academically in school,” says Dr. Deborah Hammond-Watts, an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Argosy University, Chicago. “A good working relationship between school and home sends the message to a child that his/her parents and the school work together for his/her educational and emotional benefit.”
When a child approaches a parent with an issue or comment related to school and/or the teacher, parents should be willing to listen and to not jump to conclusions. “Whether you believe what your child is telling you or not, it is important for your child to be and feel heard and to know that you are willing to listen,” says Dr. Dominick Ferello, professor in the College of Undergraduate Studies at Argosy University, Tampa.
The next step is for the parent to reach out to the teacher directly. Request a conference or time to discuss the matter with your child’s teacher directly (and without your child present) to gain some understanding as to what the teacher perceives the concern or issue to be. “When requesting to talk with a teacher, keep in mind that the teacher’s job is to teach the children in the classroom during the school day. Schedule an appointment to make certain that the teacher has an amount of time to speak with you. Showing up at school and demanding to see a teacher may not always work in your favor,” says Hammond-Watts.
“Try not to make assumptions about what is going on before you have an opportunity to meet with the teacher,” says Ferello. “The goal for the meeting is to gather information about what may be going on and make it clear that you want to partner with the teacher in helping your child to feel that the focus is on their education and helping them succeed in the classroom,” says Ferello. “Even in some of the most difficult situations, a compromise can probably be reached if both the teacher and parent keep in mind that they are working for the benefit of the child in the educational setting,” says Hammond-Watts.
The reality is that teachers aren’t perfect and neither are parents, says Ferello. As such, the outcome may not always be what either party had hoped for. “Teachers are faced with questions and concerns from a number of parents and children on any given day,” says Ferello. “Given the number of students they teach and the demands placed on them, it’s not hard to imagine that even teachers can get frustrated. Given that parents naturally want to stand up for their children and see the best in and for them, it stands to reason that parent/teacher conversations can sometimes go in the wrong direction.”
“If that happens, it’s important to acknowledge that you got off on the wrong foot,” says Hammond-Watts. “To change the relationship or the conversation, someone needs to address the ‘bad start’ and be willing to start over. Either the parent or teacher can do this.”
If you and the teacher just cannot get along after much effort and frustration, the principal or another administrator may need to get involved. “The presence of a third party may assist both teacher and parent to try to communicate in a way that demonstrates less conflict,” says Hammond-Watts. “After the meeting the principal/administrator can meet separately with the parent and teacher to critique the meeting and try to offer solutions toward a better working relationship. While the principal can instruct the teacher to work with the parent in a professional manner, the teacher needs to be sincere in any efforts to do so.”