Resolving Differences Between Teachers and Parents

  • Teachers and parents share responsibility for the education and socialization of children, and it is important that they be mindful of the impact of their interactions as a model of problem-solving behavior. It is necessary for both teachers and parents to be discreet and respectful in expressing their thoughts and feelings to each other, and to avoid involving children in their disagreements.

    Strategies for Parents

    Listen to your child. Paying close attention to comments about what is going on at school is vital to learning about any difficulties your child may be experiencing. However, it is important to maintain a nonjudg-mental attitude while listening to your child’s side of a story, realizing that there may be aspects to the situation that are still unknown.

    Decide if a call to the school is necessary. It is helpful for parents to decide whether the issue is serious enough to warrant contacting the school. A cooling off period may be appropriate before making this decision.

    Talk directly with the teacher in person or by phone. It is important to check the facts with the teacher first before drawing conclusions or allocating blame. Direct contact with the teacher helps to define the problem accurately and to develop a solution. Keep in mind that the end of the day, when you are picking up your child, may not be the best time for a discussion involving strong feelings. If you cannot resolve the problem, it may be necessary to contact the principal.

    Avoid criticizing teachers in front of children. Criticizing teachers and schools in front of children may confuse them. Even very young children can pick up the worry, frustration, or disdain that parents may feel concerning their children’s school experiences. In the case of the youngest children, it is not unusual for them to attribute heroic qualities to their teachers and hearing criticism may put them in a bind over divided loyalties. In the case of older children, such criticism may foster rudeness or defiance to their teachers. Besides causing confusion, criticizing teachers in front of children is not conducive to solving the underlying problem.

    Strategies for Teachers

    Let parents know that they can contact you. As early in the school year as possible, take the time to let parents know that you are eager to be informed directly should questions or concerns arise. Let parents know the best ways and times to reach you and have an appointment book ready to set up meetings if needed.

    Invite parents to observe in the classroom. Invite parents to visit the class to monitor their child’s perceptions of a situation and to see what you are trying to achieve with your students as individuals and as a group.

    Early in the school year, ask parents what their main concerns and goals are for their child. Brief questionnaires and interest surveys make good bases for meaningful discussions. It is also helpful to communicate with parents as frequently as possible.

    Involve parents in classroom activities. Let parents know how they can be helpful in general, and use opportunities as they arise to solicit help with specific activities.

    Be discreet about discussing children and their families. It is important to resist the temptation to discuss children and their families in inappropriate public and social situations, or to discuss particular children with the parents of other children.

    Source: Florida Center for Parent Involvement, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida