With over twenty years of experience as a teacher and a school administrator, Dr. Kyle Pruett knows a thing or two about parent-teacher conflicts. Here are some ideas for parents to help them avoid the pitfalls.
- Expect that your child's teacher knows what he or she is doing and that your child faces something worth anticipating. Odds are he or she does and this will help your child be open to a good connection. Cynicism is its own reward.
- A twinge of jealousy over the affection your child shows for a teacher is a good sign that it's a good fit. Enjoy and don't complain. Competing with a teacher will just erode your child's confidence in the part of the connection that comes from them, and you'll hear less and less about school life.
- If you have something to say to the teacher about some need your child has, don't wait for the parent conference. Most teachers would rather know sooner than later, and a note or letter can help a lot. Follow-up with a phone call if necessary, but don't badger. You want the teacher paying more attention to your child than to you.
- If the chemistry seems wrong right from the beginning, be patient. Listen to your child's reasons without prejudice, the reasons usually have to do with being picked on or ignored. Don't ask for a change in classroom without discussing the situation with the teacher. We have all had great and not so great teachers and still learned from them. If that doesn't work, the principals can help, especially if your child has special needs.
- It benefits everyone when you involve yourself in your child's school. The younger the child the more pleasure she takes in your knowing her teachers, friends, and classrooms. As you approach your child's middle school age, keep volunteering, but in someone else's class. As the number of teachers increases, make sure you know who the contact person is for your child. All schools assign this responsibility. The difference between mediocre and strong schools has been shown to be parent involvement and support.
- Start thinking about your first parent conference. It should be interactive and involve both parents. Fathers have equally valid and usually different concerns than Moms, and his presence sends a strong message to both child and teacher, so make it happen. If there is no dad, then the people most important in the child's life should be there. Start a list of things you want to learn and things you want to say. Leave the kids at home, and take notes. If there are problems, ask how you can help.