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Ask the Experts

How Should I Handle a Problem With the Teacher?

By Dr. Ruth Jacoby, Educational Consultant


What should you do when you have a problem with your child's teacher and other parents also seem to have the same kinds of problems?


Make a list with all of your concerns with exact documentation if you have any. Call for an appointment with the teacher to see if you can resolve any of the issues. Do not worry yourself with how others feel. Your only concern is what is best for your child.

Be prepared to listen, listen and listen. You may learn a lot more about the teacher's philosophy and who she is. You may want to practice first exactly what you want to say, so you are precise. Bring a checklist with you to the meeting so you hit all the pertinent points that you want to make.

Some of the concerns you may wish to report are: your concerns with her academic teachings, with projects, with too much or too little homework, with how she explains the lessons, with her communication, with her attitude or with your feelings about not being welcomed into the classroom.

If you leave the meeting still carrying the same concerns, you may wish to seek out the advice of an administrator (principal, assistant principal, and/or guidance counselor). Explain that you already had a parent-teacher conference, but not all your concerns were addressed to your satisfaction. Ask for their assistance and guidance. Remember not every teacher your child has through the many school years ahead—especially in middle and high school, where there is one teacher for each subject area—will be perfect. Changes sometimes can occur if your approach the problem with "a lot of sugar and honey."

Dr. Ruth Jacoby has been involved in education for more than 30 years as an educator, principal and currently as an educational consultant in Florida. She is the co-author of the School Talk! Success Series including Parent Talk!: The Art of Effective Communication With the School and Your Child, Homework Talk!: The Art of Effective Communication About Your Child's Homework and Test Talk!: Understanding the Stakes and Helping Your Children Do Their Best.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I have had the same concern that I am desperatly and have been for years, trying to research online to find some information on what to do about teachers in our town have all "adopted" a bad attitude towards our kids. This includes principals, secretaries, janitors, teachers, bus drivers. There seems to be a complete lack of reguard in how they talk, (cursing) and act to our kids. The teachers have been known to "gang" up on students, make fun of them, ignore their pain and believe it or not, cause the pain! They have gotten comfortable and are abusing the fact their are no parents around and anyone in the school will look the other way or back them up. I'm hitting a wall. I don't even know what kinds of programs or literature is out there or how to go about trying to do something about it myself! Please help!! Is there andseminars or programs that goes around to schools or talks to eduators about what is appropriate behavior, and language for teachers? Better yet wat about ! someone/something that could remind them the price at which these things cost? Like a childs well-being and wholeness or their potential loss of success! I just cannot do nothing anymore. Please help. "
"This is more of a question then a comment. I have raised concerns to the administration regarding a teacher along with other parents. This teacher is often not very nice to the students and they are bored. I feel she is a lazy teacher and very uninspiring and the administrations solution was to give her another class to teach as she is a "specials" teacher and we as parents aren't even sure she is qualified to teach this ne subject. What could be done in this situation? "
"For goodness sake don't assume the teacher is wrong. The advice to listen is great. More than likely you will find that the teacher is correct. Why not forget your concern for the moment, and volunteer to be an aide at some school function. Just watch. If after helping and watching and listening, you still feel like there is an issue, then schedule the conference at that time. That is, volunteer first, complain second."
"phones in school,,,,,when the bell rings school is out.the child should be allow to turn on the phone i case someone from home is trying to tell them something befor the get on the bus. things happen that a mom should be able to call a child. to save the lifes."
"I would love if the parents of my second grade students would come to p/t conferences with their concerns written down. That way we could go down the list and address all their concerns. My biggest problem during p/t conferences is the parents that need to come to conferences don't show up. Their children are the ones that are academically having problems or are having behavior problems that disrupt the learning of others. When I contact parents between report cards for concerns with behavior they say that the student does the same misbehavior at home. How can a teacher with 20 students hope to address the behavior problems of 2 or 3 students when their parents don't try to correct the misbehavior at home. Allowing the misbehavior at home only reinforces the misbehavior. I try to get the parents to work with me to reward the children when they show improved behavior. But so many parents today don't want to be bothered or are scared that their child will use the 'chil! d abuse' threat when they try to discipline the child for misbehavior."
"My daughter seems to be an physical learner. How do approach her teacher about my concern that her lacking academically in reading may be because she is not a visual nor audio learner. How would I, at home began to train her to use physical learning techniques when she reads for study and fun? "