What To Do When You Disagree With a Teacher

It’s a terrible feeling: You disagree – strongly – with something one of your child’s teachers has said or done. And you don’t know what to do about it. Relax – we’re here to talk you through it (because here at MemberHub, our passion is improving communications at your school – in whatever form they may take!).

1. Step back. Unless an immediate, forceful response is required – you witness a teacher actively yelling at your child, for example – step back and think through the situation. Don’t say, or do, something in the heat of the moment that you might regret later on.

2. Consider your child’s credibility. As parents, it can be hard for us to admit that our children may be capable of, shall we say, shading the truth. But they are, all of ’em – even the best kids (and the best grown-ups, for that matter) aren’t 100% truthful 100% of the time. So don’t assume that everything that your child tells you is gospel.

3. Look at it from the other side. No matter how mad you are, try to put yourself in the teacher’s shoes to the best of your ability. Is there some way of looking at the situation where the teacher’s actions make sense? And/or might even be justified?

4. Choose your moment. Don’t try to catch a teacher at a random moment to discuss something important – a few minutes before class starts, for example, or during afternoon pickup. The teacher will be caught off guard and put on the defensive. Make an appointment in advance.

5. Know what you’re looking to achieve. Do you want an apology from the teacher? An explanation? A revised grade for your child or a chance to do a make-up assignment? Just an opportunity to express your feelings? As with anything in life, you may not get 100% of what you want out of the situation – but you’ll increase your odds if you know your ideal outcome ahead of time.

6. Don’t go over the teacher’s head. If you try to discuss something with your child’s teacher and get nowhere, you may want to consider looping in the principal or department head at that point. But always, always talk to the teacher first.

7. Stay calm. Nobody likes being verbally attacked, but it’s especially counterproductive to come down hard on someone who’s on the same team you are (that team, of course, being the one that wants the best for your child).

8. Avoid finger-pointing. You will get much further – and achieve a better resolution – if you can avoid any type of comment prefaced by something like, “My child told me that you did/said/refused…” (Bonus points for avoiding actual finger-pointing! Sit on your hands if you have to.)

9. Listen. Really, truly listen. This can be extremely difficult if you go in with guns blazing, or a mind that’s firmly made up, but you will likely learn something important if you can make the effort to hear what the teacher is saying, and the reasons why he or she made the choices you disagree with.

10. Remember that you know the child in different ways. Just as your boss sees a different version of you than your kids do, at least some of the time, your child’s teacher knows your child in a different way than you do – and that includes knowing his or her strengths and weaknesses from an academic standpoint. Unless you’re a homeschooling parent, you’re probably not the final authority in this department.

11. Focus on common ground. No matter how vehemently you disagree with a teacher, you probably have at least a few areas on which you can agree. Focus on these as you move towards a resolution of the conflict.

12. Don’t step on your kid’s toes. As children get older, they assume more responsibility for their interpersonal relationships – including the ones they have with their teachers. Sometimes the best parental intervention between a student/teacher conflict is none at all.