The start of a new school season means new teachers for many students. And a big part of how the school year will go depends on whether children like their new teachers. It can lead to stress when children do not like their teacher. And it can adversely affect the parent–teacher relationship. Of course, children win when their parents and teachers get along. For one thing, positive rapport ensures that parents and teachers are on the same page regarding child expectations. If something is going on at home that may affect the child’s performance at school, it helps the teacher to know about it (and vice versa, if something happened at school).
So what happens when children don’t like their new teacher? Does the parent–teacher relationship necessarily have to suffer? The answer is no; the parent–teacher relationship can still be good, and there is hope for the teacher–child one to improve as well.
Keep an Open Mind
Perhaps the most important thing a parent can do is to keep an open mind. The stories the child tells may be true—or they could be wildly off base. Maybe the truth lies in the middle. In any case, keeping an open mind helps parents communicate calmly with teachers and to listen to their perspective.
Value What Each Teacher Has to Offer
No two teachers are exactly alike, and having different teachers prepares students well for real life. Is one teacher strict, while another seems too lenient? Parents can explain to their children that each teacher has his or her style, and there is not really a “right” or “wrong” way of doing things. For example, strict teachers have their own gifts to bestow; they teach students about the importance of deadlines, while lenient teachers can spark self-motivation.
If nothing else, parents should ask their children to identify things they like about the teacher, even if it’s something seemingly simple such as, “She wears pretty necklaces” or “She always has positive feedback to offer us.” That way, when parents communicate with the teacher later, there is some positivity and an effort to be earnest built into what could otherwise be a negative message.
All roads eventually lead to communication, and a good parent–teacher relationship requires that, too. The communication need not be incessant. In fact, some of the best parent–teacher relationships come from only occasional notes to school and home. However, the situation can be different when a child does not like his or her teacher.
Parents should wait a few days or even weeks before reaching out. This lets their child settle into the new school year and get to know the teacher better. If the dislike continues, then it may be time for a talk.
One thing to keep in mind is that many teachers would love to spend more time with parents and students but are extremely busy. If they have already set out a preferred mode of communication (email, phone, in person), try to use that method first. Moms and dads can start with something like, “Hi! I’m Pat Smith, parent of Jamie. Jamie tells me how much he appreciates the positive feedback you’ve given him. I did want to let you know that Jamie is struggling with the increased workload this year. Do you have any ideas for how we can make that go better?”
Depending on the age and maturity of the child—as well as the issue at hand—it may be preferable for the child (instead of the parent) to speak with the teacher. Parents can help their children develop well-reasoned points, such as, “I love doing video projects, and I know that you require three papers a year. Would you be open to letting me do a video project in lieu of one or two papers? The advantages are . . .”
It is all but a guarantee that children will dislike at least one of their teachers at some point. Parents teach their children valuable life skills by treating these teachers with respect and helping them to work out the differences and eventually create good relationships.
Of course, there are times when communicating to the teacher is not enough and the school situation is just not working. A decision to move out of a class or to switch schools entirely should not be taken lightly, but sometimes it is a change that needs to be made for the benefit of the student. Virtual schools can be a good solution for parents looking to make a change in their child’s education. Visit K12.com to learn more about online learning and whether it might be right for your situation.