Like most people, I don’t enjoy confrontation. So when my son came home from school with an issue that I felt I needed to address directly with his teacher, I wanted to be strategic with my approach to ensure a positive outcome. Acting on emotions alone has never worked out well for me so, in an attempt to prepare for the parent-teacher mash-up, I asked a few of my teacher friends for tips on how to not be that mom at the meeting.
Here are six things I gathered from their many years of experience:
Bring your concerns directly to the teacher first, not the school administration.
Tattle-tale parents do not score points with anyone. Going straight to the top will only communicate that you’ve named yourself “judge and jury” and have already decided who’s at fault. It’s a passive-aggressive move that will work against you in the long run.
Unless the issue requires immediate attention, schedule a one-on-one meeting with the teacher to discuss your concerns privately.
Trying to have a serious conversation during after-school pick up is not going to get you the results you want. Listing off your concerns while the teacher is trying to keep children from running into the street will likely be seen as a surprise attack rather than a thoughtful discussion. Schedule a time, after school, to meet with your child’s teacher and give him/her the head space needed to focus on the issue at hand.
Understand that you may not have the full story.
While it’s very important that our children know we will have their backs and they can come to us with anything, it’s also important to remember that kids don’t always see a complete picture. We can be both strong advocates for our children and good listeners in regards to their teachers. Be willing to accept new information and allow it to change your perspective, if necessary.
Always assume the teacher has your child’s best interest at heart.
Teachers dedicate their lives to educating our kids. It’s a hard job and they get paid peanuts to do it. And no, they don’t stop working at 2:30 p.m. Most likely, they are at your school because they want to be there and they care about your child. Approaching the conversation with a “same team” mentality will not only set a positive tone but will benefit your relationship.
Be willing to be a part of the solution.
Your child needs the support of both their teachers AND parents to succeed. Don’t dump your issues onto the teacher’s lap and then expect them to clean it all up. If your schedule allows, offer to volunteer in the classroom or help with special projects. Being present in the school might help give a more accurate perspective on what is happening during the day. If volunteering isn’t an option, ask the teacher for ways at home you can reinforce any systems she puts in place as a result of your concerns. Remember, you’re on the same team.
Pick your battles.
Trying to “parent” a situation that happened while our kids were in someone else’s care is tough. As I mentioned before, it is vital that our children see us advocating for them, but it is equally important that we teach our children to problem solve and/or just walk away when appropriate. Please hear me: I am not, by any means, negating or diminishing the importance of keeping our children safe. If you suspect your child is being abused emotionally, physically, or sexually, please speak with your child’s teacher immediately. There are, however, situations that, after taking a day to think it over, might not require a face-to-face with your child’s teacher, but a face-to-face with your child instead.
The truth remains that you are the most influential person in your child’s life. Your voice is the one they will hear in their head when they are faced with a tough situation. Be the voice that tells them they are brave and smart and important and capable. Let’s do the work to establish strong partnerships with teachers as we help our children grow into confident and capable adults.