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Book: Install #18 Teachers/Final Word

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Installment #19

Chapter 3: Gaining Perspective One issue At A Time

Issue #3-Teachers Complaints

Handling Teacher Complaints &

Going To The Principal

When It Comes to Teacher Complaints

1)    Cardinal rule-Go to the teacher first. Even if it turns out badly, you must show that you made the attempt. A good principal will insist on that.

2)    With a teacher/principal, never be confrontational-use reasoning and logic and ask lots of questions. That way, they have to answer, and you get to access their answers.

3)  If a teacher feels threatened, he/she will become defensive and nothing will get solved.

Show him/her plenty of respect. You can say things like,


I'm pleased with the curriculum, and Sammy is learning a lot. He likes (the subject) and really wants to do well, but has become a little concerned with (and then state the concern). Perhaps, you can give me more insight into this...

(and let him/her talk)


Well, Sammy might have seen that occur just one day.


That might be true, but my confusion is that I talked to other parents and their children have seen the same thing-On the other hand, if there is something my child is doing that is unacceptable, I'd really like to know. I believe in giving teachers the utmost respect and I would never want Sammy to be rude.

(This will help you determine whether a particular situation is in play-for example, a bunch of kids giggling, or one or two kids egging others on-where is your child in all of this)

4) No matter what your concerns, or how justified they might be, stay respectful and show that you honor the profession of teaching. Do not give any excuse for a teacher to say, this parent was aggressive, or rude, defensive, or unable to see my side.

5) And, if after your best attempts, the situation does not improve, then you might have to consider whether or not the issue is important enough to warrant changing schools.

With a child, try to include yourself at their age. Let them think you, too, had this issue. They need your support, and your trust in what they feel. Turn the issue on its head. Give them an opportunity to see humor in it, by making what disturbs them funny, and give them a way to be in control of it by giving them a chance to report on it to you.

And, a last word of advice‑

If one of you has a short fuse, stay home! Let the other go to the parent/teacher conference-Do not include any family member whose reactions are volatile and who you cannot trust to act calmly.

 Installment #20/Issue #4/Grades vs. Achievement


Book-On-Line: H20 to Go!

Growing Emotional Resilience and Navigating Through Childhood

with Hear, Humor & Optimism


Updated 2009

H20 to Go! Copyright, 2004
By  Margo Judge

All rights reserved.
All material on this website protected.
Permission granted for reprinting with
Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)







An Email From A Parent & My Response:

When it becomes necessary to go beyond helping our child cope with a class as in Charlie's Story
when it becomes evident that even after trying to talk to a teacher, concerns remain;
and when finally, we must go to the principal,
how we maintain perspective while we communicate those concerns
will make all the difference.

When We Are Concerned About A Teacher and Want To Go To The Principal/A Letter

The following letter was sent from a parent whose child is in kindergarten in another country.  However, it serves as an example of parent concerns and my response as a blueprint for how to approach class issues in general.  

Teachers can be very powerful assets. And there is always a very delicate balance between concern and respect.  How we approach teachers can show our children how to approach teachers.


Hi Margo,

I just finished reading your webpage on handling teachers. Actually, It's Not About The TeacherAs always it was very helpful. My son has two teachers in his class this year. (Ms. Scott) comes on Monday and Tuesday and basically does all the ground work for the rest of the week.(Ms. Poole) comes on Thursday and Friday.

(Ms. Scott) is great, has a wonderful personality, both with the children and the parents and is recognized as the best teacher in the school. (Ms. Poole) is tiny, blond and meek-doesn't communicate with parents and is not liked by the children. She shouts a lot, throws coats and rulers on the floor, and basically creates a bad atmosphere in the class. It has gotten to the point where a lot of children don't want to come to class on the days when she teaches.

Anyway a bunch of parents want to go to the principal to complain because they feel that she is turning off their children from school. What do you think? Is that the right way to handle it? Some parents have already talked to (Ms. Scott) about it but there is not much she can do about it. She has a working relationship with (Ms. Poole) and just has to get on with her... Anyway it is really annoying. I have always had a great relationship with my son's teachers but with her it is a total no relationship!


Dear E,

You must always go to a teacher first. Otherwise, she will feel you have gone over her head and a principal will simply tell you to go back and speak to the teacher. So, in this case you can make an appointment to see her.  Sit down and pre-empt your concern with how difficult you know it must be to handle children this age, on a daily basis. Then explain that for your child, some of what occurs in class is a little disturbing.  Can she shed any light on this?

This allows her a chance to explain, qualifiy or deny.  Just listen. She might have some interesting insights from the other side of the desk. Or, she might become very defensive.  Just let it be and take mental notes.  If at the end of the conversation, you feel better then you can wait to see how things progress.  If, on the other hand, you have tried to talk to the teacher and that has not worked, or proven unsatisfactory, I think, absolutely, it is a good idea for a group of parents to go to the principal-there is power in numbers, especially when a parent wants to voice concerns about a teacher. Principals might be reluctant to take the word of one parent, but will be more likely to consider their concern if several have the same complaint.

This is how I would approach the argument to the principal:

I would first say, that it was with great thought that you decided to talk to the principal. You are aware that parents should first go to the teacher involved and try to talk to him/her and only if or when that does not work, should one then take the next step of going to the principal.

(This shows you've followed protocol/procedure and have not gone over the teacher's head first)

You are also aware that kids can be sensitive, they can sometimes over react, or exaggerate what goes on in a class. For that reason, you are very careful to make sure there really is just cause.

(You want to be the first to put forth any response the principal might have in defense of the teacher)

When you found out that not only your child but a group of children had reported the same incidents, and had described them in a similar way, you came to the conclusion that this was something you as concerned parents wanted to BRING TO THE ATTENTION OF THE PRINCIPAL BECAUSE YOU ARE SURE HE/SHE WOULD WANT TO KNOW.

(That way you are very subtly implying that you view the principal as a responsible person who would not want such behavior to go unchecked.)

4)Then, state the concern you all have:

It is one thing for a teacher to sometimes get exasperated-so do parents.

But do teachers really need to yell, or should they be throwing things around? (Good to pose concern as a question) For one thing, it would seem to set a very bad example for children for how one handles stress-Souldn't a teacher ought be above that, and simply not need it.(You have now posed a concerned question that is open to answer and dscussion)

And, if there is such behavioral stress, and behavioral problems in that class, then should she not be talking to the parents of those children involved and telling each of them about their particular child?

It is of great concern to you when your children do not want to attend class, and you cannot get the teacher to communicate with you.

5) You, as a group, would be more than willing to meet with this teacher and hear her side. But you just want the principal to know how the parents and the children feel, and perhaps the principal can help the parents better communicate, in some way, with this teacher.

(All the way through this conversation, you want to convey your willingness to be fair, open and objective-it will give your concerns far more weight.

It also, again quite subtly, makes the principal have to get involved. He/she will probably then talk to the teacher alone, and make some recommendations. Then, you can watch and see if there is any change)

What to Say To Your Child:

As far as your child is concerned-you can tell him a little white lie if need be (Yes, there are good white lies) that you had a teacher like this once too! You did not like the way she behaved either, and sometimes it was a little scary when she yelled, and she was also your least favorite teacher so you completely understand how he feels. Compare notes about teachers (Again, another opportunity to put their world into wider context and perspective) Then make sure to add if your teacher had any good qualities.And ask him if Ms. Poole has any nice things about her.

For one thing, this will get him talking in detail about his teacher, and you can both end up laughing Then, you can say,

It sounds pretty silly to have to throw things around doesn't it?

And he will undoubtedly smile and nod yes.

And then you can say,

Well, I am very proud of you that when you get angry you don't throw things around! You used to, when you were r-e-a-l-ly little.

(This makes him feel more grown-up and responsible)

And he will smile.

Then you can say,

Listen, your teacher might need a little longer to stop being silly, but until she does,

don't let her bother you. You have better things to do. Just concentrate on what you need to learn, so you can become so-so smart!(This is the 'Charlie' philosophy)

And every time she throws something just think to yourself, don't tell her, but just think to yourself‑

Nope not today! she hasn't stopped being silly yet!-Maybe tomorrow will be the day!

And every day, I can ask you if today was the day your teacher stopped being silly and you can tell me.


This way,  you've completed two missions:

1)You have made a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and how one should behave when angry.  You have also validated his feelings.

2)You've created perspective and given your child an opportunity to step outside the moment. He now has three reasons to go to back to class--1) to learn 2) to see if she has stopped being silly and 3) deal with what would otherwise be an uncomfortable situation. You've not only put him at ease and back in control, you've used humor  Preface: And The Importance of Humorto take a lot of the sting out of this situation and to give him some perspective. 

Hope these suggestions are helpful.

Take good care,

Margo@MomOpinion Matters

Next Installment: #20


Installment #20/Issue #4/Grades vs. Achievement


Book-On-Line: H20 to Go!

Growing Emotional Resilience and Navigating Through Childhood

with Hear, Humor & Optimism


Updated 2009

H20 to Go! Copyright, 2004
By  Margo Judge

All rights reserved.
All material on this website protected.
Permission granted for reprinting with
Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)


Next Installment #20


Issue #4/Grades vs. Achievement

Installment #19

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