Help! My Kid Says His Teacher Hates Him! 5 Ways To Fix the Conflict
At back to school night one year, a parent came up to me and said, "My youngest daughter is very different from her sister." I shook his hand and said, "I look forward to getting to know her." And then came the knife, "Because you never really gave her sister a fair chance." I think I stammered out something about how I thought he daughter was a fine student and tried to support her learning and that I wished I had known this earlier.
When I taught in the classroom, my goal was to help every child reach his or her full potential. I honestly believe most teachers at least start out with this goal--we certainly are not in education for the money or the fame.
Every once in a while, however, there are teachers and students who just do not mesh. The student may believe the teacher hates him or is out to get him. In some cases, the teacher may not understand the cause of the tension; in other cases, the teacher may indeed have negative feelings about the student.
A sensitive or young child may feel that a teacher is "mean" if the teacher has strict or high standards. Sometimes, according to Kyle "Coach" Gray, a child dealing with learning disabilities, social conflict, or self esteem issues "when a teacher tries to address or fix the problem, the child feels attacked and gets on the defense making [the child] feel like the teacher believes they can't do anything right."
How can a parent help turn this relationship around?
"As a parent - start with your own attitude," suggests Julia Simens, a school counselor and author. "Examine your own feelings about this teacher. If you feel the teacher is lacking in any area, your child already knows this...even if you have not said your complaints out loud." Try pointing out a positive way of seeing the teacher's style and actions, without ignoring your child's concerns.
Set-Up a Conference
Almost every teacher suggests setting up a conference (with or without the child, depending on his age) to address any concerns. Cindy Clausen-Gehlhar, a second grade teacher at Gethsemane Lutheran School, suggests sticking to the facts and providing examples. She also says, "Give the teacher time to process the information, and then respond." Remember that teachers are people, too. If you focus on the facts and how your child perceives them, rather than putting blame on the teacher, you are likely to have a more productive conversation. Although teenagers should try to self-advocate, even the most mature teen may need some parental involvement in a difficult conversation. After all, teachers are authority figures and may seem intimidating. Having a parent along for a conference can level the playing field.
Most administrators said they would only switch classrooms in the most extreme cases and only after other avenues have been tried to resolve the situation. So, unless you believe your child to be in immediate danger, a conference with the teacher will be your first step.
Especially if you have a young child, you might find it useful to volunteer in the classroom. That's what Sarah Lendt, a mom of two young children who also holds a degree in education, did when her eldest did not initially feel comfortable with a teacher. "I offered to help the teachers once a week or for special events, so I could fill in for some of what my daughter was having trouble with, and lessen the teachers load a bit too. I tried to show appreciation. Teaching is a challenging job."
Once you have an understanding of the root of your child's complaint, help your child develop strategies for responding to the teacher. If your child knows how to act, he will feel more confident and less negative about the teacher. Although the teacher is the adult in the relationship and you should support your child, your child can still take responsibility for his role in the relationship. As Dr. W. R. Klemm, Senior Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University points out, "dislike of the teacher does not punish the teacher, but actually punishes the student. When a student has a negative attitude about anything in school (teacher, textbook, or subject matter), the negative attitude affects their motivation to learn and study. Negative emotions impair learning and memory efficiency. Thus, the price for a negative attitude, no matter how justified, is paid by the student."
Consider it a Life Lesson
When Ann Morgan James's son came home saying that his tough middle school teacher was mean, James, author of "How to Raise a Millionaire", she treated it as a learning experience. "I suggested he be more observant of her and less critical and he might just see what makes her tick. I reminded him that in life, we don't always have to like someone, we don't have to be their best buddy, but we do have to treat them with kindness and respect. I reminded him there will be plenty of people in his life he will work with or work for who might not be his favorite person, but he needed to learn to work with them just the same. We have a saying in our house: You don't have to be friends, but you have to be friendly."
Has your child ever had a bad relationship with the teacher? How was it resolved?