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Dealing with teacher-student conflicts:

A reader has asked for Sue’s opinion on how to deal with a teacher-student conflict.
By Sue Evans
Date: October 05 2014
Editor Rating:

Over the course of their education, your child is likely to have a conflict with at least one teacher.

For teachers, it can be multiplied as they come into contact with many more students over a career than a student does with teachers. I always tried to be fair and objective with all my students equally, but I must confess to there being about four student over 40 years of teaching who would make me grit my teeth before interacting with them. One I recall easily is now a Member of Parliament – but I’m not saying which Parliament or which gender. smiley

Sometimes there is no particular reason for a teacher-student conflict other than personality - two people who ‘rub each other up the wrong way’.

It happens in school; it happens in the playground; it happens on the sporting field; and it happens in the workplace. For teachers, our professionalism demands that we work to deal with it, and my experience is that teachers will respond positively to approaches about the learning environment if made appropriately.

When your child believes she hates her teacher, and the feeling is reciprocated, it can be a long and miserable year for all. As with any relationship issue, the first priority is to try to resolve it. Let your child know you care about her feelings, but also help them to deal with the situation because, ultimately, that will help more than anything.

By “deal with the situation”, I don’t mean ‘put up with’ because if things really are bad, then other action must be taken.

But for most ordinary situations of teacher-student conflict, what can parents do to help their child ‘stuck’ with a teacher they don’t like?

Here are some suggestions that might help.

Working with your child

  • Surprise surprise! Teachers have different teaching styles just as students have different learning styles. If your student likes structure and predictability, he may not like a teacher who is happy to go along with the flow. The reverse is also true.

My first reaction to this is to try to convince your child that it’s good for them to learn from someone who is a different personality trait to them, because we all know that we’re going to encounter, and have to deal with, these differences throughout life.

  • Make sure you understand what it is your child doesn’t like about the teacher. For example, is the child exaggerating or misunderstanding the situation? Or does a problem really exist?
  • Depending on their age, encourage your child to take up the issue with the teacher also. You can practice this with them by role-playing and having your child take both her role and the teacher’s role.

One of my nephew’s was encouraged to do this with his teacher whom he felt was marking him too harshly compared with his peers, and because he was always asked the more difficult questions in class which he felt unable to answer. My nephew was convinced it was because his teacher ‘hated’ him; but when he finally spoke to the teacher about it – after practising what and how he was going to say with my sister-in-law - it was because his teacher had high expectations of him and felt that he was “cruising”. The teacher made a judgement that marking him harshly and asking him tough questions would push him and spur him into action. Once the teacher and the student realised this wasn’t working for either of them, the teacher changed her style and my nephew started to become more attentive and less lazy in class and homework.

Working with the teacher

  • It helps if you already know the teacher. But if you don’t already have a relationship with the teacher, develop one that is based on respect for their professionalism and trust that they want only the best for your child also. 
  • Do not ambush your child's teacher in a public place (eg. shopping centre, car park, corridor). Call them up; make a time to meet with them; ask the teacher what can you do to help improve the relationship. This shows that you’re not expecting the teacher to ‘fix’ the problem alone. 
  • Even when you agree with your child that the teacher is mean or unfair towards your child, try to keep your view out of the discussion. In situations of conflict, teachers tend to treat your child as well as you treat them.
  • Don’t go straight to the top! If you can’t get anywhere with the teacher, step through the hierarchy. The next step – depending on the stage and size of school – may be the head of the department, or the year coordinator; but the principal is the last resort.

I hope this helps the reader with the question, and any others interested in the topic. But remember … it’s just an opinion. 

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jimmy meraz says: 2015 11 21

The abilities of students to take good and successful decisions are the product of good academic structure. The knowledge of custom writing various things gives the ability to take successful and effective decisions about life activities. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made.

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