My six-year-old daughter moved up to a new year group and I just don’t feel confident in her new teacher. I do not get a sense that the teacher has a passion for what she does, and I do not feel she has taken enough interest in my daughter. She has a dismissive tone when she talks to me, as though any questions I have are not important. I had hoped to have a more positive relationship with her, as I have had with previous teachers. Do I grin and bear it for the year, or should I do something?
We know that students benefit from positive relationships between school and home, but inevitably in any partnership, issues will arise, so what should you do if you have concerns or doubts?
First, listen: listen to your child and to other parents; is this issue solely with you or is it more widespread? You must be careful here not to create concern but rather ask for opinions to validate your own thinking.
Communicate: if there is a concern that can’t easily be resolved, it is best to get it out in the open, as the alternative usually leads to unnecessary stress and perceptions [that may or may not prove real]. Be willing to ask questions, rather than make claims. Try to understand the issue from the school’s point of view, recognising that your child is part of a group but still expect the school to ensure that every measure is taken to allow your child to maximise their potential as an individual.
Be specific: know what the concern is, give examples and evidence if possible, explaining the priorities and expectations you have as a parent. It is difficult for a school to deal with “everything is awful” compared to “the teacher appears disinterested in my daughter” [Ideally, have examples of events that you think evidence this]. The school should then be willing to take an honest look and its policies or its people in light of this concern, asking what is in the child’s best interests? This may take time, so be patient.
Be solution focused. Be willing to share potential solutions but don’t get fixated on one, like “my child needs to change classes”. Ask what the school would suggest – this may be your first time addressing such a concern, whereas school leaders may have experienced it before and may have a variety of proven solutions.
Ultimately, as a parent you have to do what you believe is in the best interests of your child but working with the school to help them develop the best way for your child will always support their progress.
It is important for all children to observe a positive relationship between their parents and teacher. Research shows that this relationship is a significant factor in children achieving academic success as well as improving their overall social competency and emotional well-being. This is because both a child's parent and teacher are significant adults in the child's life and thus it is important the child sees both adults communicating clearly, positively and effectively with each other. When this goes wrong, the child is stuck in the middle, and this creates a barrier to making optimum progress in their learning and development.
When a parent loses trust in a teacher, they are less likely to communicate openly with them. This can mean that the teacher is not up to date about what is going on in the child's life and therefore is less in tune with their current needs, which can lead to a disconnect with the child in the classroom. Likewise, a teacher is less able to be open with a parent about the child's learning needs and thus opportunities for continued development at home will be lost.
I encourage parents to get to know their teacher, to speak to them at the beginning and end of every day, to appreciate that a teacher is in a demanding job and also appreciate that, although their child is the centre of their world, the teacher has as many as 20 other children and their parents to look after.
Likewise, I encourage my staff to spend time with parents, to get to know them and their families; a happy supportive relationship between teacher and parents is going to benefit the child enormously. If a trusting, respectful relationship can be built between teachers and parents then issues can be dealt with quickly and harmoniously.
Parents with any concerns at all should always go to the teacher first. If concerns remain, then discussions with school management should be the next step. What is not helpful is irresponsible playground gossip or the airing of grievances on social media or in chat rooms. It is in everyone's interest to work together to find amicable solutions to concerns for the best of the children.
Handled well, a little bit of discord can help children learn to recognize and work out personality differences, and can teach them how to deal with conflict in the future — a good life skill. Parents often second-guess their child’s teachers for many reasons; differences of opinion about discipline, incompatible educational philosophies, or plain old personality clashes could all be part of the problem.
Losing your cool or venting your frustration in front of your children is not going to help anyone, and it may even damage a student’s relationship with her teacher. When you notice there’s a problem, set up a meeting right away. Don’t wait, and don’t say, ‘Well, let’s see what happens’.
Talk about your issues, even if they seem small and insignificant.