While a school has a culture and identity as a whole, individual classrooms vary. The single biggest factor in those classrooms is the teacher. The teacher is the king of the classroom, yielding a surprising amount of power and having the ability to significantly impact each student — for better or worse.
Of course, you hope for a teacher who is a good fit for both you and your kiddo in personality and teaching style. But, in reality, you are unlikely to get a teacher who matches perfectly with your student every year. So what do you do when the teacher isn’t a good fit?
In some cases, you may be able to arrange for a classroom transfer, but that’s not always possible. I grew up going to a small school where there was only one class for every grade. When it came to teachers, there was only one option. You had to find a way to work with it or change schools.
My own children are in a similar situation (the same school as a matter of fact), so I am dealing with this as a parent as well. Along the way, I’ve developed a few strategies for making the most of a school year, even with a teacher who’s not my favorite.
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Establish Friendly Communications
You don’t have to be best friends with the teacher or agree with everything he or she says and does in order to have an amicable relationship. Reply to emails, volunteer, and let the teacher know the good things your student says about school, not just the bad. Keeping lines of communication open makes it easier to have tough discussions.
Treat the Teacher with Respect
This one can be a hard pill to swallow, especially if you feel the teacher is not treating you with respect. However, I’m going to pull out the Golden Rule and say you should still treat him or her with the respect for two reasons. One, the teacher is a human being, who is an educated, trained professionals and deserves respect. Two, it sets a good example for your child. Disagreement does not mean disrespect.
Offer Tangible Help
Teachers are overwhelmed right now. They have a lot of (arguably too many) responsibilities, students, and concerns. It’s possible your student’s teacher literally doesn’t have the time needed to make what you see as a reasonable accommodation. Even if the teacher isn’t a good fit, you can still help in the classroom, work on at-home tasks, or ask for (and listen to) advice on how you can assist your child at home.
Keep an Open Mind
As both a student and a parent, there have been teachers who I didn’t like at the beginning of the year and loved by the end. Different doesn’t always mean bad, and it’s important to not judge too quickly. Try to give teachers the benefit of the doubt and assume positive intent.
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Choose Your Battles
If the teacher isn’t a good match, you are likely to disagree with many things throughout the year. However, addressing each one may not be the best plan. It’s exhausting for both you and the teacher. Each time you get frustrated, decide if fighting the battle is worth the payoff, or if you (and your child) can live with the situation.
Adapt and Thrive
In reality, there will be many times in your child’s life when he or she may have to work with people the child doesn’t particularly like, or just don’t click with — bosses, colleagues, peers, etc. Learning how to adapt so you can work with those people and continue to thrive in spite of the situation being less than ideal is an essential life skill, and the earlier you learn it the better.
Teachers are amazing. They do a lot with very little and have an extraordinary impact on multitudes of students. While every teacher may not be a perfect fit for your student, all students are different. We need all types of teachers so to reach them all.
As parents, we can respect the incredible work all teachers do and advocate for our children to the best of our ability, while also teaching our children to thrive in any situation.