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When you butt heads with a teacher
Parents don't always see eye to eye with a teacher. Here's how to handle the situation wisely to teach your child about conflict and without it having a negative impact on your child.
parent teacher (iStock)

The world is made up of different types of people. That is a little piece of wisdom I try and imbue into my kid’s life, especially when she’s experiencing social difficulty. And that is something I need to remember when I do not particularly take to one of her teachers.

We all have them, eventually – a teacher we just don't connect with, or who just doesn’t seem to understand how our children need to be taught. There’s a learning experience in here that’s essential to life: Each person has a unique personality and we all have to, at some point, learn how to cater for differing personalities.

Obviously, if your child feels penalised by the teacher, or is in some way made to feel uncomfortable, or if the clash of personalities is affecting your child academically, then seek out the teacher and have a frank discussion with them. 

Taking it up

Taryn Ras, a grade 4 teacher in Centurion, offers this set of guidelines for parents who may be facing difficulties:

• Don't run to the principal or HOD immediately: most matters can be cleared up with a frank discussion. 

• Be prepared to hear that your child is not the complete angel you expect. Children who are battling in a subject may very well act out and this can affect the relationship between child and teacher. Also, in a class with their peers, many children can act completely differently than they would at home. 

• Work with the teacher. If a parent comes prepared to find a solution with the teacher, it becomes a less threatening situation and everyone will work together better. 

• Ask your child to be specific about incidences when they felt they were treated unfairly or their feelings where hurt. This enables the teacher to give the context behind the incident.

• Any relationship takes work and trust, so too does the teacher/learner relationship. But if you aren't seeing an improvement within a week or two, follow up.

• If the above fails, then a meeting with more senior staff involved would be the next step. 

• Remember that school exists to educate and nurture you child, so working alongside and with your teacher is the best way forward. 

Mrs Ellison, a grade 7 teacher in Durban, reminds us, “Involved parents who take an active interest in their child’s education make all the difference. Of course, problems can arise, but these can be resolved by investigating an incident properly

“When a child complains about a teacher, the first course of action is to talk to set up a meeting with the teacher - don't corner the teacher outside of the school on their way in or out... it's important to set up an official meeting which is recorded and minuted. 

“If that does not resolve the issue, then a meeting with the HOD and/or principal present is the next step. But give the teacher a chance to explain, first, and use your judgment and instinct as a parent to determine whether or not it needs to go further.” 

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