5 Ways To Deal With A Mean Teacher

September 7, 2015  |  

When my oldest son went to the fourth grade I entered the school year with the same optimism I have every year.  I hoped to join the PTA, build a cordial relationship with his teacher and most importantly support my boy in having the most educationally stimulating fourth grade experience possible.  And for the first two months that exactly what I did, but I sensed some tension between his teacher and me.

Trips to the school every other week for a progress and problem update and emails to ensure all homework was complete were not welcomed by his fourth grade teacher as they were in previous school years. It seemed like every time I attempted to build a positive teacher-parent relationship with Mr. Fourth Grade, I was brushed off or given the “what’s so special about your child” look.  So, by Christmas break I knew there was no chance of having a friendly relationship with this teacher.  This meant I needed to develop some strategies for dealing with a non-engaged, mean teacher.

  1. Strictly business: Other than good morning and good afternoon, I stopped exchanging niceties with my son’s teacher.  Before making my bi-weekly visit to the school I made a list of questions or concerns that I wanted addressed.  During our conversations I would no longer stray from that list to ask how the school year was going or how his Christmas break was.
  2. Make friends with the teacher next door:  If the teacher is truly anti-social, trust me, everyone knows already.  I’ve even had other teachers give me a rundown of the “good v. bad” teachers.  By forming a close relationship with another educator who teaches the same grade or a parent of another child in your kids class a parent can still keep their thumb on what’s going on in the classroom without further straining the relationship with the teacher.
  3. Absolutely no emails: When dealing with a teacher who doesn’t like you, or vice versa, the last thing you want is to send an email that is misconstrued in a negative manner.  Not only is it now written fodder for the playground of teachers at your kids school, but it also sets precedent for the teacher’s excuse to no longer deal with you.
  4. Get principal visibility: Unless the situation becomes unbearable with your kid’s mean teacher, I’d stay away from complaining to the principal. She has bigger fish to fry.  Before resorting to that,  I would make sure the principal and guidance counselors know your name.  Whether you show up to PTA with cookies the last Thursday of every month or offer to fill-in for the secretary’s lunch period occasionally, once the principal knows you are actively involved at school the teacher will have less validity to claims your presence at the school is useless.
  5. Maintain privacy: This is a biggie.  Never, I mean never, talk down or reprimand your child in front of a teacher who you are unsure has your child’s best interest at heart.  Teachers are people too, and can be manipulative.  While I truly believe most teachers are loving and want the best for all of their kids, some will use the divide and conquer strategy of pitting a parent against a kid.  Once a parent begins to equate their visits to the school with negative behavior from the child, a parent is more likely to keep their distance.  Teachers can use this to their advantage if they don’t want parents checking in on their class style.  Always handle behavior, homework or peer issues with your child at home.  Simply respond to the teacher: “We’ll work on that at home.”


C.C. Mendoza is an audio journalist with American Urban Radio Networks and blogs at brownmamas.com.

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