How Do I Deal With a Difficult Teacher?

Steps Parents Can Take When a Child Has Problems With a Teacher

Students take an exam.
Students take an exam. Phil Boorman/Getty Images

It's every parent's hope that their child has a good teacher — one who not only imparts knowledge but is kind and understanding. Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn’t happen and you and your child are left to deal with a difficult teacher. There are a number of ways a teacher can be difficult to deal with, some of which can be handled easily and others of which will need some more work on your part to resolve.

First, be sure you are not dealing with a situation where your child is blaming the teacher for problems that might not be caused by the teacher. If your child describes a teacher as "not fair" or work as "too hard" without any detail, be conscientious about following up before deciding the teacher is to blame.

What’s Really Going On?

In all situations, the first step is information-gathering. There are a few ways to do this. Ask your child for more detail along with specific examples of what the teacher said and under what circumstances. Be careful not to make it sound to your child as if you doubt his or her version of events, because whatever the cause of the problem, it's your job as a parent to help them solve it.

Write It Down

The next step is to keep documentation, such as a daily journal of things the teacher has allegedly said, or an incident log, to keep track of the school's version of any incidents that arise.

Talk to the Teacher

Provided your child is not in any imminent danger, keep track of events for a week or two. Then it’s time to communicate with the teacher and share your concerns in a non-confrontational manner. A face-to-face meeting is ideal, but if you can get the teacher on the phone, that could work too.

Meet With the Principal

Not every parent will need to take this step, but if there are no improvements to the situation after meeting with the teacher, it may be necessary. Whether or not you ask the teacher to be involved in this meeting depends on the circumstances.

File a Complaint

It’s your right as a parent to let the school district know if you think a teacher is doing something inappropriate or potentially harmful to your child or the class as a whole.

Keep On Top of It

In some cases, after taking all of these steps a difficult teacher will back off enough for you to feel comfortable that the rest of the year will be OK. It’s up to you to keep track of what’s going on by touching base with your child daily and making sure whatever agreements or plans you have made with the teacher are being carried out. If the situation is just unbearable and there’s a lot of the school year left, you may want to consider asking for your child to be transferred to a different class.

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