How to Deal with a Problem Teacher
With three of the four kids in school, there was bound to be a problem with a teacher at some point. Sure enough when Bug was in the third grade I found myself face to face with a teacher who wasn’t interested in the fact that she could be wrong about a student.
Deciding how to handle a problem teacher is different for every parent. Regardless of what actions you take, you should always inform the principal of your issues with the teacher and allow them to assist you in coming to a resolution, especially if trying to work with the teacher on your own fails.
In our case, the principal was involved almost from the get-go. My husband and I arranged nearly every sit down meeting we had and requested her presence as well as our son’s. I didn’t feel that it was fair to discuss what to do about Bug without enlisting his help in making sure things were successful. It also gave him the opportunity to speak up if he felt he needed to. The whole process is called the CHIP and it breaks down like this:
C – Communication is key. Without it you can’t find an end to the problem. If you can’t communicate with the teacher, find someone who can facilitate meetings or discussions.
H – Help. Enlist the help of the principal, school counselors and administrators if necessary.
I – Involvement. Get your child involved in working out the problem. After all, it’s their education and their social setting. They may have ideas that can be very beneficial.
P – Plan. Try to come up with a plan that EVERYONE can work with and is reasonable.
I’ve written before about advocating for your child and school is the best place to start. That’s where you truly begin to see how your child connects with others, responds to people in authority and discovers their own individuality. It can be a blessing and a curse. For us, third grade was a nightmare.
My first inkling that there was going to be a problem was at our first parent teacher conference. The first one of the year always offers something to be learned; the teacher is familiarizing themselves with your child, their learning habits, and home life. It’s also your chance to see how the teacher instructs your child, how they are learning in that classroom and connecting with other kids. In our instance, the teacher right off started with problems she was having; which in my experience is not the best way to start working together. I explained at length that I knew of his shortcomings and the things he didn’t like to do. I also explained that he confided that he felt bored in her classroom and didn’t feel like he was being challenged. At that time Bug was in the school’s Talented and Gifted program and because we work on so many things at home, he felt like the work in her classroom was too easy. However, he had a problem that we both agreed on; he couldn’t manage his time.
The teacher had one view on what the problem was while I had another. Her route was a very expensive trip to a family counselor to see if Bug had attention deficit disorder (in hindsight, since the teacher was throwing the word out there and insisting that ADD was the issue; we should have forced the school to pay for evaluating him but that’s beside the point). Our evaluation led us to the conclusion that we were right – he was just not challenged and so he put off all possible work for the rush of having almost no time to complete it – if the teacher wasn’t challenging him, he would come up with his own. Still his time management skills weren’t the greatest and so we started doing other things at home to help him. He was only nine and I don’t expect any child to have a handle on time management but this teacher did.
We spent countless mornings meeting with the school counselor, the principal, his Talented and Gifted instructor and his teacher. Bug began to hate third grade. He began to hate this teacher that he once liked. It was turning into a nightmare. At the end of it all, I stuck with my instincts which told me that nothing we could do would satisfy this teacher, she did not take me seriously when I explained what I thought the real issues were and continued to believe that there was only one way to teach and it was her way; ignoring the fact that I know my son better than she does.
At the end of the year I made a bold decision; none of my children would be taught by this third grade teacher. It’s not often that the hubby agrees with me but since he too could see that we were getting nowhere with her, he too admitted that he didn’t want our other children to be in her classroom.
I realize that what I did was an extreme measure, it surely wasn’t my first choice but I was thinking not just of my own sanity, but how this teacher would perceive Bug’s siblings should they be in her classroom.
You ultimately have to do what’s right for your child, even if that means making some hard and unpopular decisions. You want their school experience to be the best it can be, both academically and socially so don’t be afraid to stick to your guns if your instincts tell you that a teacher isn’t willing to work with you.
I’m happy to say that I’ve never had an issue with a teacher like that since and if I ever did, I’d follow my CHIP method to come to a resolution.
How do you handle problem teachers or problems in school? I’d love to hear your problem teacher stories and resolutions.