Teaching Profession Opinion

When You Disagree With Your Child’s Teacher, What Can You Do?

By Starr Sackstein — April 01, 2019 4 min read
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When Logan was young, I did my best to stay out of what went on in his school life. Trusting his teachers, I reviewed what came home, asked him about his learning, and everything was great.

When something came up, I was contacted by the teacher, and we discussed it like adults.

Then something changed.

At the end of 5th grade, Logan stopped wanting to go to school. Something wasn’t right. Up until this point, he eagerly went to school and easily learned the lessons being taught. He even won Mathletes in the 4th grade, in a school that competed up to 6th grade.

So what changed?

Logan told us he was being bullied. This was NOT OK. As soon as I found out, I called the school. When the principal didn’t get back to me right away, I took the day off of work and camped outside his office until we had a chance to talk. He assured me that it would be taken care of. I trusted that it would.

It wasn’t.

This was the beginning of an acrimonious relationship. I won’t claim that my son had no part in what was happening or that he was helping himself to make it better. Although my son is gifted, he has emotional needs that seem evident given how intelligent he is.

Let’s just say that last year of elementary school, 6th grade was terrible. Logan didn’t attend much school and still managed to get all 3’s and 4’s on his report card. Throughout that year, Logan’s dad and I went to many meetings and expressed our growing concern for Logan’s education.

To pre-empt any potential challenges in Middle School, I reached out to Logan’s future guidance counselor and started the discussions. We wanted his Middle School experience to be a good one and were hopeful that a new location, more students, and different teachers would be the change Logan needed, and at first, it was.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last as long as we wanted.

As an educator who is very vocal about what works in education and what doesn’t, I’m often troubled by the position I feel myself in. Although my son’s dad and I don’t always agree on what good education and learning look like (he is not an educator and was successful in traditional school settings a while ago), we both agree that Logan’s school has not supported him as well as they could have.

So when do you speak out, and how do you do it when you disagree?

We have had many “team” meetings to address our growing concerns and none of what we have requested has come to fruition. The teachers almost never reach out to us, even when we are reaching out to them. The guidance counselor has been as helpful as she can be, but that hasn’t made change happen.

And now as we are circling the end of 8th grade and are looking toward High School, our concern is mounting further.

The High School is a much bigger school. This can be a positive or it can be a place where Logan will fall through the cracks. He is a very intelligent young man but doesn’t like to do school the way it is being done, and having me as his mother, railing against the system doesn’t work to his advantage.

Having me as a mom feels like a detriment sometimes. When he comes home and reports what happens in his school ... how they use iPads as glorified textbooks, how he is expected to do hours of homework for a particular class or two directly from a textbook. How his teachers teach from a textbook. How there is inflexibility in the way he is assessed ... etc., I kind of go nuts, and he knows it.

So what can educators like me who are in the know do?

What I have learned is:

  • Some educators are never going to change.
  • Some schools don’t ascribe to the same beliefs I hold important, and no matter how much I complain, reach out, nothing is going to change. I will just become increasingly more frustrated.
  • Moving my son to a private school will not necessarily solve the problem as he is going to have to learn to function in a society that will likely not be kind to an outlier.
  • Being different is not a problem; we just need to find a way to make our values known and not expect that they will be supported.
  • Every year really is a new opportunity so I won’t project that High School will be a Greek Tragedy waiting to happen. I’m extremely hopeful that if we continue to work with Logan, he will learn to advocate for himself in a respectful and meaningful way that will prepare him for a life of potentially not agreeing with the norm.
  • Despite all of the above, I will never give up fighting to get my son the best education ever, but I won’t fight his battles for him. As a parent, I will continue to support and nurture his needs, both emotional and intellectual, and help him understand that the world will not always be so kind.

So as I continue to navigate the waters of change as an educational advocate for students, I’m eager to find a balance between my own personal crusade and the needs of my own child.

Educators out there, how do you deal with disagreements with your children’s schools and/or teachers? Please share

*Photo made using Pablo.com

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