Steps to Effectively Address a Concern with a Teacher

Parent Teacher Meetings
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Even the best teachers make an occasional mistake. We are not perfect, and most of us will admit our failures. Great teachers will proactively inform parents immediately when they realize they have made a mistake. Most parents will appreciate the candor in this approach. When a teacher realizes they have made a mistake and decides not to inform the parent, it seems dishonest and will have a negative effect on the parent-teacher relationship.

When Your Child Reports an Issue

What should you do if your child comes home and tells you they had an issue with a teacher? First of all, do not jump to conclusions. While you want to back your child at all times, it is necessary to realize that there are always two sides to a story. Children will occasionally stretch the truth because they are afraid they will be in trouble. There are also times that they did not accurately interpret the actions of the teacher. In any case, there is a right way and wrong way to address any concerns brought about by what your child had told you.

How you confront or approach the issue may be the most crucial aspect of handling a concern with a teacher. If you take a “guns blazing” approach, the teacher and the administration are likely going to label you a “difficult parent”. This will lead to increased frustration. School officials will automatically go into defense mode and will be less likely to cooperate.

It is imperative that you come in calm and level-headed.

 Addressing the Issue With the Teacher

How should you address a concern with a teacher? In most cases, you can start with the teacher themselves. However, it is crucial to note that if it involves the breaking of a law inform the principal and file a police report.

Set up an appointment to meet with the teacher at a time that is convenient for them. This will typically be before school, after school, or during their planning period.

Let them know immediately that you have some concerns and want to hear their side of the story. Provide them with the details that you have been given. Give them an opportunity to explain their side of the situation. There are times where a teacher genuinely does not realize they have made a mistake. Hopefully, this will provide the answers you are seeking. If the teacher is rude, uncooperative, or speaks in vague double talk, it may be time to advance to the next step in the process. In any case, be sure to document the details of your discussion. This will be helpful should the issue remain unresolved.

Most issues can be resolved without having to take it to the principal. However, there are certainly times when this is warranted. Most principals will be willing to listen so long as you are civil. They field parent concerns quite often so they are usually adept at handling them.  Be prepared to provide them with as much information as possible.

What to Expect Next

Understand that they are going to investigate the complaint thoroughly and that it may take them several days before they get back with you.

They should provide you with a follow-up call/meeting to discuss the situation further. It is essential to note that they will not be able to discuss the specifics if teacher discipline was warranted. However, there is an excellent chance that the teacher was placed on a plan of improvement.  They should provide details of a resolution as it pertains directly to your child. Again, it is beneficial to document the details of the initial meeting and any follow-up calls/meetings.

The good news is that 99% of perceived teacher problems are handled before getting to this point. If you are not satisfied with the way the principal handled the situation, the next step would be to go through a similar process with the superintendent. Only take this step if the teacher and the principal absolutely refuse to cooperate with you in handling the problem.

Give them all the details of your situation including the results of your meetings with the teacher and principal. Allow them plenty of time to resolve the issue.

If you still believe the situation is unresolved, you may take the complaint to the local board of education. Be sure to follow the district policies and procedures for being placed on the board agenda. You will not be allowed to address the board if you have not. The board expects administrators and teachers to do their jobs. When you do bring a complaint before the board, it can force the superintendent and principal to take the matter more seriously than they had previously.

Going before the board is the last opportunity to have your problem resolved. If you still are unsatisfied, you can decide to seek a change of placement. You can look to have your child placed in another classroom, apply for a transfer to another district, or homeschool your child.