When A Teacher Is The Bully: Tips for Resolving Student/Teacher Conflict

When A Teacher Is The Bully Tips For Resolving Student Teacher Conflict

“She will never be good at math. She’s just not made for it.”My daughter’s 4th grade teacher told me this at a parent-teacher conference, with my daughter sitting next to me. She was nine years old and her teacher basically condemned her to be terrible at math the rest of her educational life.

I’ll give you three guesses how well my daughter did in math that year. The first two don’t count.

My daughter has no problem with math, in reality. Her struggle was performing under the eye of a worn-out teacher that constantly yelled at her and the other students in the class.

It’s difficult when someone who should be your child’s advocate instead becomes their adversary. When that happens, it’s up to us as parents to step in and help our children until they have the tools to help themselves.

As a mother and a former teacher, I have been on both sides of the desk, so to speak. Many of the CRMB team members are teachers or work in schools. I fervently believe that most teachers care for their students and work hard to help them succeed. However, if your child has a teacher you feel has crossed the line with your student, I want to give you some tips to help intercede and make the learning environment better for your child.

Teach children to advocate for themselves.

There are things kids can do when they feel a teacher is being unfair. They can ask to speak with the teacher for a moment after class, then ask them to explain. “You gave me an F on this paper, but I followed the directions in the packet. Can you explain to me why I failed?” “You gave Tommy and I a detention for talking, but the only thing I said was to tell him to leave me alone.”

If kids came to me with genuine concerns, and were respectful about it, I had no problem listening, and often even corrected my mistakes or apologized.

Obviously, the ability to do this depends on the age and maturity of your child. You can model this for younger children.

Make sure you have the correct information from your child.

I’m just going to say it. Kids exaggerate, and sometimes even lie (yes, even your child). Before you go in, all steaming mad, to a conference ( or even before shooting off a nasty email), make sure you have the details right, as much as you can be sure. There is a difference between a teacher’s stern voice and yelling. There is a difference between following the school discipline plan, which can upset a student, and being unfair to your child.  

Speak directly with the teacher first.

Oh, it made me mad when a parent would talk to my department chair or even the principal before ever speaking to me at all! How could I know there was an issue if no one brought it to my attention? Luckily I had supportive administrators who always referred the parent back to me before handling the problem. 9.5 times out of 10 I could solve the problem by speaking to the parents myself.

Make an appointment

Teachers often have responsibilities before and after school, so barging in and keeping them from those duties won’t make your position any easier. Give yourself and the teacher time to prepare by scheduling a time to meet without any disruptions.

Speak calmly and come with examples

If your hope is truly to resolve things between your child and the teacher, then you must stay calm and treat him/her as an ally, at least at the beginning of the process. Speak calmly. Explain your side and let them know exactly what has upset you or your child. Let the teacher speak and explain in return. What he or she says may surprise you.  

 If you are not satisfied with the teacher’s response, or if problems persist, then move to the next step.

Arrange a meeting with the teacher and their superior/boss/etc.

Every school handles this slightly different. I had a department chair. Others will bring in the vice-principal, or principal. Others may bring in counselors. Find out what process your school uses and follow it. The process is there for a reason.

Be prepared to make changes if necessary.

If a resolution isn’t reached between you and the teacher, you may often request your child to be moved to another class. While this is often a last resort, sometimes it is absolutely necessary for your child’s success.

A conflict with your child’s teacher doesn’t have to ruin the whole year. Using these tips will help you resolve problems and set your child up for lasting success. 


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