Back to School Edition: Tip #2

If you missed the introduction to this series and tip #1, click here!

Back to School Tip of the Day #2

You may not like a teacher’s style, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work together for the good of your child. Let’s say that you and your child’s teacher really do have totally different approaches to, well, everything. Let’s say that you don’t like the worksheets that she sends home or the way that she organizes her classroom or her dry sense of humor. Let’s say that you have conferenced with her about some of your concerns, but you are convinced that last year’s teacher did everything better. As long as your child’s safety and success are a priority for this teacher, your difference of opinion does not mean that the year is ruined – unless, of course, you choose to look at it that way.  Suck it up, Buttercup. 

This is a tough one, I know, but the reality is that you can be supportive of your child’s teacher even if the two of you are polar opposites. First, remind yourself that there is usually more than one way to the same end result. You may not like the technique, but that doesn’t mean that your child will not learn and grow, maybe even exponentially, this year. Give it some time. Second, remember that this teacher is another human being, not an evil super villain. He is just a guy who is continuing to develop in his career, who has feelings (Can you believe it?), and who faces challenges outside of work, you know, like everyone else. Make an effort to get to know him better. Try offering encouragement when your impulse is to write a nasty note instead. Share your concerns, for sure, but throw in some positive comments to open the lines of communication. Make sure that you are building a bridge and not a wall between you and the teacher. Finally, keep in mind that a teacher is accountable to lots of people – the board of education, school administrators, students, and parents, to name a few. Whatever it is that you don’t like about her classroom, another parent loves. If you think there is too much homework, someone else thinks there is not enough. If you think the teacher is too relaxed, someone else thinks she is too strict. I know that your friends all agree with you when you complain, but I swear this dynamic is true. It may just be necessary to accept that “different” does not necessarily mean “wrong,” and if your child isn’t complaining, then be careful not to project your own frustrations onto him. You want him to be happy, even if you are not.

If your child is complaining about something that bothers you, too, then have an honest, age-appropriate conversation about it. (If you are worried that your child might announce to the class that her mommy says the teacher does everything wrong, then your kid may not be ready for this.) It’s important for older kids to know that adults can work together and respectfully disagree. There have been a couple of occasions when I have said something like this to my frustrated child, “I understand how you feel. I would feel that way, too.  If I were your teacher, I probably wouldn’t do it this way. But I’m not your teacher, and this isn’t my classroom. I have talked to her, and I know that she has reasons for doing things this way, and we both really want you to be successful. It’s okay that we don’t agree. But it’s not okay to be disrespectful or to disobey the rules of her class.” Even when you tell your child that you disagree with the teacher, be sure to emphasize what the two of you do have in common – a commitment to your child’s achievement. Your child shouldn’t have to choose sides.

Although it can be frustrating, it can actually be GOOD for your son or daughter to learn to work with different teachers who have their own unique styles and routines. After all, school is not just about academics. It is a training ground for real life. Being adaptable is a life skill that has helped my husband and I to survive marriage, for example. (I would suggest that one of us has had to endure a little more than the other, and he would agree, although I think he might be applying that to the wrong person.) Anyone who has been employed knows that adaptability is also essential to achieving success at work. If my husband and I had quit a job every time we disagreed with a co-worker, then we would not have been able to afford a new air conditioner this summer, which also might have ended our marriage. I really can’t stress enough how important adaptability is to long-term relationships.  (I’m only partly joking here, people!)

If all else fails, think of it like this. You are Gwyneth Paltrow and the teacher is Chris Martin, and you have vowed to work together for the good of the kids despite your differences. On the bright side, you will only share child rearing with this teacher for a year, while Gwyneth and Chris will be working out their issues until the end of time. See. There is always a silver lining if you search for it.

Come back tomorrow for another back to school tip!  How much should you tell the teacher?

photo credit: <a href=”″>Macro of sharpened colored pencils aranged in a circle</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

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