Back to School Blues: My Child Hates Her Teacher!
(Long Island, N.Y.) Hear that? It’s silence—the bitter-sweet sound of back to school! On one hand, your sad to see your kids are growing up so fast and you’ll miss them hanging around the house all day. On the other hand: Woo-hoo! Finally–some peace and quiet. Yep, summer’s over and the kids are back to school.
You covered all the bases: the outfits, the supplies, the morning routine. Everything’s going as planned– until your faced with a big, unexpected problem: Your daughter stomps into the kitchen and declares she HATES her teacher. Great. Now what do you do? I asked Carmella Van Vleet, former teacher and author of Yikes! It’s Due Tomorrow? How to Handle School Snafus to help sort out some common teacher/student issues.
Long Island Exchange: What’s some basic advice you can give to parents–if their child does NOT like their teacher?
Van Vleet: First of all, don’t panic. Fortunately this is usually a temporary issue as kids warm up to news teachers. Often times the teacher your child can’t stand at the beginning of the year is the same teacher she counts as her all-time favorite by the end of the year! Encourage your son or daughter to give the teacher a chance. If they have and it’s still not working, encourage your child to focus on the positives. Maybe the teacher reads aloud every day after lunch or doesn’t believe in pop quizzes.
Second, listen to your child but assume nothing. Try to get your child to open up about what exactly is happening in the classroom or what happened to make your child feel this way. Did the teacher scold your child? Is the teacher big on writing and your child is into math? Is the new teacher’s style different than your child’s previous teacher’s style? Get details.
Finally, meet with the teacher. Bring an open mind, not an attitude. Share any specific incidences your child has told you about. Chances are good the teacher will have a different side to the story to share or be able to give you more insight. At the very least, you’ll be able to see for yourself if the teacher is really the creature from the Black Lagoon your child claims she is! Even if it turns out that there is serious personality clash between a teacher and your child, there are things that can be done.
Long Island Exchange: For fickle kids who LOVE something one day, and snub it the next, should parents take this “disliking the teacher” seriously? Why?
Van Vleet: If you know your child is the fickle type, there’s no reason to worry when he says he hates his teacher one day and loves her the next. Pay attention, though, to how often your child is coming home saying, “I hate my teacher!” and ask why he feels this way. Being in tuned to these feelings or patterns can help alert you to a serious problem.
Whatever you do, don’t feed negative feelings. If your child complains one day, offer something like, “It sounds like you had a tough day.” Badmouthing your child’s teacher in front of your child only undermines the teacher’s authority.
Long Island Exchange: What are some of the common reasons a child wouldn’t like their teacher?
Van Vleet: Good question! Unfortunately, it’s tough to answer. Kids dislike their teachers for any number of reasons and those reasons are as varied as kids and teachers themselves! The teacher gives too much homework, is strict or likes to joke around, prefers one subject over another, is a man (or older or younger or whatever), dresses funny or dresses boring. The list is endless. Usually, though, a child doesn’t like a teacher because his or her teaching style clashes with the child’s learning style.
Long Island Exchange: What if YOU don’t like your child’s teacher?
Van Vleet: This is a tough one, but unless the teacher is causing real harm, keep your mouth shut! Complaining about your child’s teacher undermines the teacher’s authority. It also devalues your child’s feelings. He or she may feel, “Gee, Mom doesn’t like Mrs. Stewart, maybe I shouldn’t either.” Try to find something positive to focus on; there must be one good thing about the teacher. If all else fails, remind yourself that it’s your child who’s in the classroom all day, not you!
Long Island Exchange: If you do plan a “meeting” with a teacher, can you offer some tips to make the meeting go smooth?
Van Vleet: Come prepared and try to check your ego and any prejudices at the door. Greet the teacher warmly; after all, the two of you both should be working as a team to do what’s best for your child. Spend some time just getting to know the teacher. Ask her about her family, education or experience. Ask her why she went into teaching.
Next, bring up any specific events that your child has shared. Avoid judgmental language. Saying, “My son tells me you’re mean,” won’t go over well! Try something like, “My son tells me you didn’t accept his homework even though I wrote a note explaining why it was late. Can you please explain your policy?” This kind of open-ended questioning gives the teacher a chance to share her version of things. Remember, there’s your child’s story, the teacher’s story and somewhere in the middle is probably the real story.
If your child is downright miserable in the classroom and you suspect, for whatever reason, that the teacher is as bad as your child says, then ask the school principal and school counselor to join the meeting.
Long Island Exchange: Any other information about this topic that you feel is important for parents to know?
Van Vleet: Of course, on the flipside of the “I hate my teacher!” challenge is the “I love my teacher!” challenge. You may feel a little hurt and left out. After all, you can remember when your child wanted to marry you. But rest, assured, it’s not at all unusual for kids to have crushes on their teachers. Thankfully, crushes on teachers are generally short-lived, quickly coming to screeching halt when the teacher does something offending, like mentioning a spouse or giving extra homework!
To learn more about Carmella Van Vleet’s awesome books, check out her website: http://www.carmellavanvleet.com