Email From A Parent & My Response:
When it becomes necessary to go beyond helping our child cope with a class as in Charlie's
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.
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
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
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:
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
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)
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
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
to Say To Your Child:
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,
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.
makes him feel more grown-up and responsible)
And he will smile.
Then you can say,
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
these suggestions are helpful.
Next Installment: #20
Installment #20/Issue #4/Grades vs. Achievement
H20 to Go!
Growing Emotional Resilience and
Navigating Through Childhood
Hear, Humor & Optimism
BY MARGO JUDGE
to Go! Copyright, 2004
By Margo Judge
All material on this website protected.
Permission granted for reprinting with
to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)
Next Installment #20