How to Talk to the Teacher

Does the thought of having a heart-to-heart with your child's teacher put you in a panic?

Many parents carry the teacher-fearing ways of their youth into adulthood, but it is possible to face the teacher without trepidation.  The main thing to remember is that you’re allies, both playing on the same team—your child’s. “Realizing you’re both on the same side, not working at cross-purposes, is vital,” says Ken Whiting, an Edmonton classroom veteran with 18 years’ experience.  Check out these common scenarios and the approaches Whiting says work best.

Jamie always gets an A in math, but suddenly he fails an exam. Your initial reaction may be to question the teacher’s ability to instruct your child properly. But the better response is to acknowledge that “Jamie seems to be having some uncharacteristic trouble,” discuss where he went wrong and find ways all three of you can work together to close gaps in his current knowledge.

Ashley’s been missing recess time as punishment for bullying other students. Your instinct may be to ask angrily why only your child is getting grounded when other kids are obviously involved. “Instead, ask the teacher what specific incidents have been observed,” he says. “If others have been disciplined, it will be documented. You tend to hear only your child’s version.”

Tamara is a shy girl who says the other kids are always picking on her. Your first reaction is to confront the teacher, demanding to know why he’s not doing anything to stop the aggression. “Again, it’s important not to fly off the handle until you have the whole picture,” says Whiting. Then figure out ways to get on the same page and help Tamara be more assertive.

Adds veteran Toronto teacher Moyra Graham: “Set up the lines of communication at the beginning of term before any problems arise.” If you approach the teacher with respect for her professional judgment, that should ease your discomfort. And remember: you’re not in school any more—no one can give you a detention!

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