Teachers do their level best to make certain each of their students is treated fairly. In fact, the idea that a teacher would favor or slight a student is likely in the top hits of an instructor’s no-no list.
But this is real life. As parents, we cannot expect our children’s’ teachers to get along swimmingly with every student that walks in their doors (or signs onto their Zoom class). Without realizing it, teachers may tend to gravitate to students who help make their job easier. And despite the best intentions, personalities can clash.
Teachers—especially in these times—are looking for any way to make the path to knowledge a little less resistant. They search out help in any way they can get it, and they focus on reducing hinderances that prevent the class from moving forward.
So what do you do when your child falls into a precarious position of teacher’s pet or teacher’s peeve? Here are a few tips:
Teacher’s Pet Peeves
If you discover your child is not engaging with her teacher the way you had hoped, don’t immediately dismay. Take a breath and take stock of the situation to know how to best move forward.
- Is this a pattern? If there haven’t been issues in the past, this could be an instance where your child—or the teacher—had an off day. No one is perfect, and your child is bound to make a mistake or two. Hear your child’s side of the story with an empathetic yet discerning ear and express compassion. Make a note of the incident and how it was handled. Then, unless it was an egregious situation, let it lie.
- Avoid overreaction. We all want to protect our children from unfair treatment, but resist the urge to call in the cavalry because your child feels slighted one or twice. Understand that the story you’re getting is colored by your child and her very big feelings, especially if she isn’t used to being “in trouble.” This isn’t to say you should immediately discount a negative incident. But remember, you are the adult. Stay calm and keep a level head.
- Make a plan. If a pattern begins to develop, and you sense an exaggerated negative slant toward your child, it’s time to go to the source. Spoiler alert: That’s the teacher, not the principal. Establish a time when you and the teacher can speak privately. Use that time to share your child’s feelings and your notes. You are the advocate, and your child needs you to express in a grown-up way what’s happening. This means leaving assumptions and bad attitudes at the door.
- It won’t—and can’t—be fair all the time. Teachers have an incredibly difficult task at hand. They must dole out attention, care, concern and time to many bodies all at once. Understand that though your child’s previous teacher may have had an extra bit of affinity for him, the new teacher may not. It does not mean your child is being slighted; he is just receiving an adjusted balance of care according to that teacher’s unique personality.
- Know when it goes deeper. There may be a situation when your child and her teacher genuinely do not relate with each other. Although a lack of connection is acceptable and likely inevitable, your child should never be singled out or receive demoralizing treatment because of a personality conflict. If a one-on-one doesn’t resolve the issue, you must call in reinforcements. Set up a meeting with the principal and include the teacher. Going behind a teacher’s back to enact a change will only make things much worse. The teacher, the principal, your child and you all want an appropriate resolution. Get there together.
- Don’t ignore your gut. History has taught us there can be an occasional bad apple of a teacher. Do not second guess your intuition if something truly feels off. If you feel your child (and other children) are truly being mistreated physically or emotionally, take steps. Use your common sense and first-hand knowledge to do so appropriately with facts and documented instances.
It sounds like a dream come true. The teacher gives your child rave reviews and couldn’t be happier with his performance. Although this sounds like the best-case scenario, bear in mind that others may not appreciate this special relationship. For other students in the class, a child who receives such praise and warmth could be perceived as a threat, and your child could even be teased for falling into favor.
Make your child aware. It’s completely acceptable to praise your child for earning a special place in the teacher’s heart. Explain that it is fantastic to do well but advise him to avoid bragging about it with others. Teach your child to be gracious and kind to others who might be struggling with the teacher.
- Let them lead by example. Your child is in the unique position to be the eyes and ears for the teacher. Perhaps he notices a fellow student is being bullied and therefore acts out. Encourage him to speak privately to the teacher about what he’s witnessing. The teacher will appreciate the insight, and the child being bullied will almost certainly appreciate the newly acquired understanding from the teacher.
- Don’t let them slip to fit in. Some children might consider actively trying to get in trouble, so they won’t be the teacher’s pet. This is a difficult line to toe. Teach your child to ignore it if someone calls him out for being the favorite. Over time, it will likely die down.
Ways to Improve Your Child’s Position in the Classroom:
- Overcommunicate – Although you shouldn’t spam the teacher’s inbox, a bi-weekly check-in to share how your child is working to improve his performance will be welcomed. After all, teachers love to see students make an effort!
- Hold up your end – We’ve all forgotten to sign a grade card or failed to bring cupcakes on the appointed day. Understand that repeated instances of these oversights can reflect negatively on your child, even if it’s unintentional. Do your best to make sure your child is up to speed on all tasks and papers each week.
- Can’t buy their love – Teachers won’t be bought. They have the relationship daily with your child, not you. Don’t expect a teacher to overlook bad behavior because you had your kid bring a Starbucks gift card. Encourage your child to improve the relationship by behaving, listening and participating. Buy the gift card afterward.
Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for KC. She lives in Liberty with her husband, stepdaughters and son.