How to Resolve Teacher-Student Disputes

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It’s that time of the year again when the teacher-parent conference rounds may have some of you on edge. If your student isn’t getting on with their educator, you may be tempted to discuss your concerns with the teacher, but being confrontational during your meeting may actually make the situation worse. Author of “I Hate School: How To Help Your Child Love Learning,” Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, interviewed 100 educators to get their take on the best way to resolve tensions. We share some of her insights here.

First of all, every child will eventually get a teacher they dislike in their academic careers. This may be as serious as a personality clash that results in mutual dislike or as simple as a classroom embarrassment that the teacher isn’t even aware of.

When trouble is brewing in the classroom, try to get your student to resolve their disputes themselves. Learning to deal with people you don’t like, especially those in authority positions, is an important life lesson to learn.

When you child says the teacher picks on her, ask for specific examples and then discuss ways in which she can handle the situation appropriately. Role play scenarios so that your child will know how to react. Role playing not only teaches your child how to respond to difficult situations, but also gives her the confidence she needs to speak up.

If the situation remains unresolved and you feel it is negatively affecting your child, then it may be time to step in. The first thing Tobias recommends is not ambushing the teacher with your concerns. Start by building a relationship with them that is based on respect. “They’ll treat your child as well as you treat them,” says Tobias.

When you get to know each other well enough, it will be easier to work together to create a happier classroom environment. Ambushing them with accusations will only make them defensive and may make the situation worse.

Always give them the benefit of the doubt; remember that they are professionals who are able to put any personal feelings aside to deal with students appropriately and fairly. Don’t play the blame game, instead explain the situation and ask: “How can I help?” This will make the teacher feel like you want to be part of the solution and that you are willing to be an involved parent. It will also make them less defensive. Teachers have a lot of experience dealing with students who they don’t gel with, so they may actually have some really great ideas on how to restore harmony.

If at all possible, resist the urge to go over the teacher’s head. Try your best to resolve situations with the teacher as speaking to the principal may only strengthen the teacher’s dislike of your child.

Picture by DFAT

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