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How to Handle Things When You Disagree with Your Child’s Teacher or Coach

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The saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Adults volunteering to work with our kids bring so much to the table: different points of view, valuable skill sets and expertise. With kids in younger grades, it can be helpful to have an initial meeting with the teacher/coach while things are positive. We really are all working toward the same goals.

During that first meeting, it’s important to find out the best method of communication (email, texts, phone messages, agenda) as well as the best time for this to happen. It can be really tough for a teacher or coach to have parents wanting to ask questions and share information at drop-off or pick-up. Many families + confidentiality rules = communication disaster.

From that point on, communication may not happen frequently, and if everything is working well, that’s just fine. Sometimes, though, there is a misunderstanding or a misbehaviour and we end up have having to connect with the teacher or coach when we wish we didn’t have to. For those times, here are some tools to use:

24 Hour Rule: In the heat of the moment, whatever has gone wrong can feel incredibly scary and overwhelming. Take time to breathe and calm down (possibly for 24 hours) so that your communication about the event can be productive. It is important for our child to feel heard and it is important for us, as parents, to realise that a child’s version of the situation is only one version. Saying something like this can be helpful:

‘We wanted to let you know that Johnny told us ____. We would love to get clear on how you think things happened and how we can help everyone to feel better about the situation.’

Document what was discussed and the resulting tasks. When you do meet with the teacher/coach, make a plan for follow up: when, and how. Keep communication consistent (for example, every Friday until things are running smoothly).

Be respectful of working hours. If you are emailing a teacher/coach at 10pm, understand that she may not get back to you until the next work day. If you are curious, ask about turnaround time during your meeting, ‘When can I expect to hear back from you on this?’

In all relationships, communication is the key. Creating a plan for clear and consistent communication with teachers and coaches sets everyone up for success. In addition, it models the process for our children.

Once they are in the upper elementary grades, kids can begin to take responsibility for communicating with their teachers when they need help: emailing to say that they tried a number of math questions and didn’t understand the concept; asking the coach to review a portion of the drill that they didn’t understand.

When we encourage our children to do this, through modelling and allowing them to practice, we are teaching them how to advocate for themselves. By the time they are in high school, they will feel capable of getting the help that they need from teachers and coaches.

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