At some point during their school years, students will likely encounter a teacher they don’t like or cannot connect with. If left unresolved, these situations can result in a declining grade or loss of interest in a subject they used to enjoy. Teens are generally reluctant (and often mortified) at the thought of their parents going into their school and meeting with their teacher. As parents, we don’t like to see our children suffer, and want to rectify the situation without doing more damage. Having a face to face meeting with a teacher when you’re feeling frustrated and emotional can be an intimidating concept. After raising two children in the public school system and counseling parents on this subject, I have come up with a process to help you get the answers you need without making the situation worse for your teen.
- Make the initial contact by email: In the email, outline your concerns, and ask for a face to face meeting. You may need to send this twice as teachers are often overwhelmed and can miss one email. I would suggest putting “second attempt” or something of the kind in the header. If the teacher does not respond to two email attempts, send a third email, but his time copy the person who is next in line in the school’s chain of command. This could be the principal, a vice principal, or the head of that particular academic department. If you’re not sure who this is, contact the main office and they will tell you who should get a copy. You will get a response with this email.
- Meet with the teacher:I recommend you meet the teacher with your teen present in order to avoid any miscommunication, and if possible, your spouse/partner, or other adult family member for moral support. Come with your concerns on paper and take notes while in the meeting. This will help you to focus better and will show the teacher that you are taking this seriously. In most cases, when you meet with the teacher you will be able to get the situation resolved. Simply bringing the teacher’s attention to your teen may be the thing that solves the problem. You may also find out things at this meeting that you were unaware of which will help to bring a resolution to the problem. Most teachers are happy to work with a parent who is respectful and interested in serving as their teen’s advocate. In the rare case that you meet with a teacher who is unwilling to work with you, and you feel the problem is large enough that it could have an unfair negative impact on your teen’s grade, academic career path, or overall attitude towards school, leave the meeting on cordial terms, but inform the teacher you will be going to the next person in the chain of command.
- Moving up the line:If you decide to take the situation further on behalf of your teen, your next meeting will most likely be with the principal and the teacher together. It’s a chance for the principal to assess the situation and offer a solution. This should do the trick, but keep in mind that the principal does not have total authority over the teacher. In rare, more serious situations, the assistant superintendent would be the next person to contact.