What to Do If You Disagree With Your Child's Teacher

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Whether it is an issue with grades, how your child was disciplined, or a bullying situation that was not handled how you had hoped, there might be a time when you do not completely agree with your child's teacher or their approach. Sometimes these situations work out on their own, other times it is best to talk with your child's teacher so that you can find some sort of common ground.

"Most disagreements seem to be rooted in a misunderstanding," says Angie Frencho, MEd, a teacher and gifted intervention specialist. "Sometimes parents and teachers have a different view of, value of, or understanding of grades, discipline techniques, and interventions."

Although you may go through your child's school years without many issues, disagreements are bound to happen from time to time. This is normal. But it is how these disagreements are handled that really matters. Below we discuss how to handle disagreements with teachers so that you can have the best possible outcome for everyone involved.

Talk With the Teacher

When a problem occurs with your child at school or you disagree with a teacher's approach to their education, the most respectful—and often most effective—way to approach the situation is to go to your child's teacher first. You also should avoid discussing the issue on social media.

"It is best to begin with the teacher," suggests Frencho. "Get the full story. While your child may be incredibly trustworthy and honest, their side of the story is still only their side. Teachers can often shed more light on an event or situation to potentially explain away your initial concern."

You also want to approach the conversation from a place of collaboration. Try not to get defensive or put your child's teacher on the defensive. Share your concerns and the way you understand things in a calm voice and then listen to what the teacher has to say.

"Keep in mind that most teachers are in this profession because we love working with children," says Frencho. "Most of us are not in the business of education to discourage, deflate, or ruin children. We also want what is best for your child."

As your child's teacher explains the situation and why they approached it the way they did, try not to interrupt unless it is to ask questions or clarify something the teacher said. As you listen, remind yourself that you both want what is best for your child. This will keep you from assuming the worst.

"[You should also] address the issue once you are calm," says Frencho. "I’m a parent and a teacher. I know the emotions that can be involved on both ends of a disagreement or misunderstanding. When we are calm and can approach a situation without leading with emotion, it is better for everyone."

Ultimately, your goal in meeting with your child's teacher is find a solution.

Explain to the teacher how you see the situation being resolved and ask the teacher how they would resolve it, suggests Melissa Boudin, PsyD, a psychologist who counsels in a variety of areas including communications issues, conflict resolution, and anger management.

"If possible, work with the teacher to develop a plan to address the issue in a way that supports your child's education, safety, and wellbeing," suggests Dr. Boudin. "Ask how you can help—what you can do at home, or within the school, to assist with this plan." 

How to Respectfully Disagree

If after meeting with your child's teacher, you still disagree, it is important to do so respectfully. This does not mean that you give up on the situation or let things fester. While you still need to refrain from harassing the teacher or trying to force your views on them, you also should not feel guilty for standing your ground.

"Be an advocate for your child," says Frencho. "While it’s important to get the full story, to seek clarity, to be calm, and to remember that [teachers] are passionate professionals, it’s also important for parents to speak up. You are your child’s greatest advocate, second only to themselves. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, you should not hesitate to address it."

If the issue remains or gets worse, you may need to readdress the situation with the teacher again. This is especially the case if it involves an issue that impacts your child's well-being or safety like a bullying situation or harsh discipline.

"Gather as much information as possible from your child about the situation," suggests Dr. Boudin. "Do research to inform your viewpoint. Read through school rules, assessment guidelines, and philosophies to determine whether the teacher is acting within guidelines or expectations."

You want to come to the conversation prepared with concrete examples or reports from your child that outline your concerns, she adds. Include whether these are inside or outside of school guidelines, philosophies, or rules.

"Hear your child's teacher out," says Dr. Boudin. "Gain clarity on why the teacher has responded to your child or a situation the way they have, or why they have assessed or interpreted your child's education or behavior the way they have. Ask your teacher if they feel they are acting within school guidelines, and why."

Tips for a Successful Conversation

As a parent, you want to ensure that you are being professional and not responding emotionally, says Ciandra St. Kitts, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker with experience in conflict resolution. An emotional parent is harder to hear than a parent who is able to maintain decorum, she says. She offers these tips to prepare yourself.

  • Compile a list of examples to support your concern or concerns.
  • Write down what you want to say, which will help keep you organized and on task.
  • State plainly that you respectfully disagree, followed by your examples.  
  • Ask the teacher how to proceed since you have differing opinions. 
  • Find common ground, where two perspectives can meet, if possible. 

How to Know When to Bring the Issue to a Higher Up

If you still disagree, and you feel the situation warrants a different approach, it may be time to take the issue to a higher up. In fact, using the chain of command is helpful when addressing a concern with a teacher, says St. Kitts.

"Start with the teacher first, then go up as appropriate," she says. "Addressing the teacher first allows for the possibility of your concern to be resolved or addressed by the teacher immediately.  When involving additional parties, an investigation or fact-finding needs to occur before you will receive a response." 

You also should try to engage your child's teacher in as many ways as possible.

You might begin with an email and then request an in-person meeting to follow up and clarify things. After an in-person meeting, recap the discussion with an email or a letter, says St. Kitts. This follow-up allows you to have a written record of the conversation that transpired.

"When you have talked at length with the teacher and feel that your child’s needs are still not being addressed, then I would speak to someone else," says Frencho. "Additionally, it is in good taste to let the teacher know that you will be doing that."

This approach also will reduce the possibility of offending the teacher, says St. Kitts. By voicing that you want an additional party to look into the matter, you are letting the teacher know that you take what is happening seriously and you want the follow-up. 

"Speaking to the higher-ups shouldn't be about 'tattling' or getting the teacher in trouble," she says. "Instead, it should be about addressing what has transpired, notifying of the disagreement, and requesting an intervention to assist."

Sometimes the teacher may even suggest that you involve other parties. Just because you and the teacher disagree does not mean that they will not suggest speaking to an additional person with more authority to assist you further, St. Kitts says. 

A Word From Verywell

Disagreements with teachers can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you address your concerns before you have taken the time to think things through or gather some examples. While it is important to advocate for your child, it is just as important to make sure you do so in a calm and respectful manner.

If you disagree with your child's teacher on an issue or the way they approach a particular situation, do not hesitate to bring it up. Just be sure you do so with thoughtfulness and understanding. When you approach the conversation from a place of collaboration, you will be more likely to find a resolution that works for everyone.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert.