When the Teacher is a Rotten Apple
For the longest time I wanted to be a teacher, because it was a teacher (several, actually) who saw the potential within me and inspired me to do something with it. I also have the gift of seeing the potential in others, and I naturally want to bring the best out in them as well. Often it’s as simple as teaching them a new tool that will unleash their gifting – but teaching them in a way that they get. That’s why teachers are so inspirational!
But every once in a while you get a teacher that is a rotten apple… I had them. My sister had them. My son has had them… Teachers that are excellent masters of the content they must teach, but their ability to click with some students is just rotten. What do you do?!
Following are my tidbits of wisdom I’ve gained from our experience. I’m not a licensed counselor or educational psychologist, so just keep in mind that this is simply advice from a battle-worn parent. 😉
Be Mindful of Your Words
Remind your student to do everything in their power to still respect the teacher. It can be easy to compare horror stories with other students. Being empathetic with others’ struggles is one thing, but to exaggerate or bemoan the situation won’t help their in-class attitude. Encourage them to always assume the best about their teacher.
Also, be mindful of your words. Use your words to honor the teacher while talking to your child, and also use your words to make sure your child knows you understand their emotions and frustrations. Use your non-verbals to assure your child that you hear them and your heart hurts when their heart hurts. Offer them a hug and a cup of cold water or hot chocolate while you talk. Listen, listen, listen…. And then… Ask them for their ideas on what could improve the situation. Be sure to validate the good ones! Then add your own ideas with, “What do you think?” to invite their feedback.
Diagnose the Problem
Have a conversation with your student to help uncover what is really going on. What is happening at the time that your child is having a problem with the teacher? Is the problem with the teacher or the student, or some combination of the two? Is it a personality conflict? A misunderstanding? Is the class unusually unruly? Is the teacher worn-out? A novice? Is there additional stress in the teacher’s life that you may be unaware of? Is your student surrounded by rabble-rousers and got lumped into that group by the teacher? Is anyone else having difficulty with the teacher (your child may generalize the answer to this question, so try and get them to be specific)? Encourage your student to talk to the teacher first (learning to handle conflict is a good life lesson, but have a friend go with your student for support). “We seem to struggle with each other. Is there something you would like me to change?” Follow up with them after the conversation to see what they learned and if there are action steps to take that could improve the situation.
Pray for the Teacher
Prayer is the number one tool in my arsenal to keep my heart soft toward someone I struggle with, and it’s a simple tool to teach your student. If there really is something else going on with the teacher, then prayer will help that situation because the Holy Spirit can work in situations that we’re completely unaware of. If there is a heart attitude on either side of the struggle, praying and blessing will help fight that battle as well. Prayer is a great tool to keep the attitudes of our heart and our motivations in check! While you spend time listening for direction in the situation, the Lord can also bring you some insight and prompting.
Take Advantage of the Parent-Teacher Conference
I encourage you to do a good bit of listening at the beginning of the conference. Let the teacher cover their agenda first, and then ask questions like,
- “What do you enjoy about the class this year?”
- “Is there anything I should be aware of about my child in particular?”
- “How can I support you at home?”
After you have spent a lot of time listening, then you can bring up the notion, “My child seems to be struggling in your class. Do you have any ideas why?” Again, listen more… Offer insight on your child’s learning styles or contributing circumstances (after all, you are the leading expert for your child). Ask for their ideas first, and then offer your ideas. A cooperative parent generally leads to a cooperative teacher!
Find an Advocate
Find an advocate – maybe a favorite teacher from a previous year that knows your student. Relay the situation to them and ask for their advice. They can often shed light on how the teacher could work with your student, insights into the teacher you struggle with, or if there is something serious going on. For example, perhaps your student just needs a tutor in a particular subject because the teacher doesn’t teach according to your child’s learning style. That’s an easy fix!
If there is abuse of the position happening, then that advocate can guide you through the red tape of correcting and stopping the situation. Note: If you see a significant personality change or unusual emotional distress in your student, then I would even suggest finding a Christian counselor for your child to speak to as an outlet.
Decide What Battles to Fight
We had one year where we went through all these steps and still couldn’t improve the situation with our son’s teacher. In the end, we made the decision to be an emotional safe house for him at home. We made sure he had extra time to decompress after the school day before expecting him to be cooperative with chores, errands, or family activities. Our agreement with him was that he did his best to participate in class and finish his assignments, but that we would take all expectations off the table for grades. This happened to be a year when we were living overseas and he was in a local school, being taught in his second language. Typically I would have additional English lessons for him at home, but I saw the stress he was under just from his normal school day and decided he didn’t need additional stress of more school work. When we learned that the bad apple (I mean, teacher) was moving to the next grade with the class, we made the decision to switch schools (as there was no other teacher at his grade level).
What Has Worked for You?
I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below – especially if you’re a teacher or a school counselor!
- Posted by hellobabs
- On September 19, 2018
- 0 Comment