For the final post in Raising Good Students, I wanted to address the all-too-common problem of student/teacher conflict. The reality is sometimes students have personality conflicts with teachers. The reality is some teachers are not good teachers. While I believe these are the exceptions to the rule, your child will still most likely encounter one of these situations at some point during school and how the parent addresses it with the child sets the tone for future learning.
When our children are treated unfairly, our “mother bear” instincts come out making us want to attack. It’s easy for us to help children play the victim role by telling them how unfairly they are being treated and criticize the teacher in discussions with our children. By doing this, I believe we, as parents, are missing a valuable opportunity to teach our children lessons about life.
Instead of being negative, I would encourage your child to learn how to make the best out of a difficult situation. Students will have to learn how to deal with difficult professors and bosses, and the seeds of how to do this are planted in school. I’m not saying that as a parent you should ignore situations which need to be dealt with but be careful about how you discuss it with your child. Comments such as “let’s try to put ourselves in the teacher’s shoes” or “what can you learn from this” are so much more beneficial to a child than saying “she is so unfair” or “I can’t believe he would count off for that.”
A friend of mine relayed a story to me of her student who is struggling with a teacher. This parent has contacted the teacher and administration about some issues; however, when discussing with her child, she is telling the child things she can do to make the most of a not-great situation. She is teaching her child how to be proactive, work with the teacher, and not be a victim. This has not been easy, but I believe she is ultimately preparing her child for life. She is praising her child for hanging in there and doing her best when circumstances are not great.
The other thing my friend has done that is great is to encourage her elementary school child to speak directly to the teacher about issues. I have sat in many conferences about issues that I had no idea were even issues because the student never addressed it with me. How are students supposed to learn how to resolve issues if we as parents are so quick to resolve them? My children knew not to ask me to speak to a teacher if they had not tried to resolve the issue first.
Another thought I have, since I also see things from a teacher’s point of view, is that sometimes the story that makes it home may not be reality. While I don’t want to say that your child is not telling the truth, I have heard things that I’ve “said” which I’ve never said. So I would also encourage parents to make sure you know the full story before drawing conclusion. Miscommunication or failure to have all of the facts are often the root of many problems.
How can you encourage your child when he or she does not get along with a teacher?