What happens if you get a bad teacher?
How to cope when your child's teacher is out and out terrible.
Tips for handling a bad teacher
- Start positive, act professional.
- Document everything.
- Send the teacher an email and cc the principal.
- Listen to your kids. Even if they end up misconstruing the facts, it’s important that they be heard.
- Support your child without badmouthing the teacher, or you will undermine your child’s ability to manage a difficult situation.
- Not satisfied? Move up the ladder to the counselor, the principal and the superintendent, if necessary.
- Be generous and involved. This kind of parent is more likely to get what they want.
By Carol Lloyd
When I learned my daughter had been placed in Miss W’s second grade class, I began hearing whispers around the playground. There were complaints of strange punishments — something called “the walk of shame” — and of students being yelled at and publicly humiliated. It was also rumored that she was running a boat-parts business off her laptop and cell phone during class time.
“What class is Anna in?” I asked the mother of my daughter’s best friend. Her older daughter had already graduated from the school so she knew the terrain well. “The other one,” she said with a bright smile, not elaborating. But I knew what she wasn’t saying.
Most schools have them: Teachers whose reputations precede them in the worst possible way. Some such reputations are wholly unearned. Just as the most popular teacher is not necessarily the most effective, so too the cranky school marm may turn out to be an educational rock star. But other bad raps reflect a sad reality: There are bad teachers roaming the schools of America and every year countless kids must endure their whims.
There are bad doctors and bad garbage collectors, why should teachers be any different? Still, they occupy a special place in the occupational world. Lifetime tenure and a flaccid evaluation process can conspire to keep terrible teachers in the classroom until retirement. Firing a tenured teacher is a complicated and expensive process, involving months and even years of hearings and appeals, and thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Once they are installed in their classroom, teachers wield prodigious power over the students they teach. This vast sphere of influence makes teachers godlike in the best possible way; it can also translate to catastrophe for a young child’s education.
Yes, I know. To say teaching is challenging is an understatement. Given a big class full of diverse, often squirmy, students in an underfunded public school, even the best teachers are stretched to their limits — intellectually, emotionally, and organizationally. There are so many ways to fail. As Tolstoy might have said: Every ineffective teacher is ineffective in her own way.