If your child is of school age, chances are that you will have to deal with their teacher at some point – in fact, I would reccomend that you do so on a regular basis! As a past teacher and someone who has ran workshops for parents of students, here are some hints on how to discuss issues with teachers, advocate for your child, etc…
1. Be calm. Flying into a classroom like a whirlwind with both guns firing upon entry is only guaranteed to put a teacher on the defensive. If you have an issue, bring the facts and discuss it in ways that leave it open for the teacher to respond in an equally appropriate manner.
Instead of: Johnny always gets an A. You must have made a mistake.
Try: I’d like to discuss Johnny’s grade. It seems unusual for him to get a C.
Also, make sure you indeed check the facts, you don’t want to go check with the teacher about why they assigned an essay the night before only to find out that, in fact, they assigned it weeks ago and your child wasn’t completely forthcoming. How to get the facts?
2. Be in regular contact with your child’s teacher. Don’t leave issue until they’ve become such major issues that you feel the need to go in guns’a’blazing. Every once in a while, pop into the classroom after school is over and say hi, check how your child is doing, etc… Teachers are partners in your child’s education so keep in touch, take an active interest, and cut off problems before they become major ones.
3. That said, don’t be a nuisance or a nag. No teacher likes to hear from a teacher every day about how much homework they assign, why your son/daughter needs a special exception, etc… They’re professionals, let them do what they do.
4. That said, if a teacher ever pulls rank on you and dismisses you with, “I know better, I’ve had four years of training”, then you stop, look them in the face and calmly say, “I’ve had (#years old your child is) years of training with this child and I know them better than anyone.” As a parent, you need to view yourself (and be viewed) as an equal partner in your child’s education.
5. If you have an issue, check with the teacher first. Going to the principal to deal with minor issues (like bad grades, minor punishments, etc…) is only going to create animosity. There is a ‘chain of command’ and if the teacher can’t resolve your issue, take the next step up the chain.
6. Treat the teacher how you would like to be treated – with respect. Don’t remind them that you pay their salary and thus they have to listen to you, they should listen to you because they are showing you the respect you’ve shown them. Don’t command them to do anything, they’re not your servants. Education is a partnership and, like all partnerships, respect is a must. Be willing to listen and keep an open mind and, in return, they will do the same.
Your child’s education is important so building a good relationship with their teacher’s is key. Think of it as a triangle where your child is one side, your child’s teacher another, and you, the parents, as the final side. Without one of those sides, the whole triangle collapses.