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What to do when you disagree with your student's teacher

Caroline Duda has years of experience as an SAT tutor for Varsity Tutors. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As a parent, you may not always be on the same page with your child's teacher. However, you must learn to move past any frustration and instead maximize your relationship with that teacher. Keep your child's best interests in mind with the following tips.

Every parent hopes that her child's experience in school will be a pleasant one. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Your student may struggle with a particular academic subject, such as English or math, or she may have a teacher that your family does not see eye-to-eye with. When the latter situation occurs, it can be extremely stressful, and it can also negatively impact your child's opinion of school. So, how do you deal with this sensitive situation? Below is a four-step guide to responding to your student's teacher when you do not agree with his or her behavior or decisions.

Remain calm

You love your student, and when she claims that her teacher assigned her an undeserved grade or was unkind to her, it is simple to become agitated or angry. For the sake of your child, resist this impulse, especially if she is present in the room. Your response may affect her perception of her teacher, or even worse, of school as a whole. Only the most serious of complaints result in classroom changes, so it is important to avoid behaviors that may negatively impact your daughter's enjoyment of the remainder of the school year.

Review classroom documentation

Before you contact anyone at your student's school, gather any past communications from her teacher. These may include explanations of classroom procedures, homework policies, etc. Occasionally, conflict with a teacher stems from simple miscommunication. Perhaps your child was absent when the teacher stated that she does not accept late work. Perhaps your child forgot a rule when lining up for gym class. Consider re-reading these documents with your student. Ask her to elaborate on her experience with her teacher (i.e. request that she share specifics), and then, if confusion still remains, politely reach out to your child's teacher to discuss the situation.

Schedule an in-person conversation

The term conversation is key here. If you feel it is necessary to speak to your student's teacher, ensure you do so in person (an email or the telephone can contribute to misunderstandings). Also ensure that you recognize that this is a dialogue. This is not an interrogation or a performance review. You and the teacher are partners in your child's education, and a calm, rational discussion is more likely to reap results than an argumentative one. Approach the teacher with a phrase like, "I hope you can help me understand... " rather than, "My student says you did... "

Assess potential next steps

Was your in-person conversation with your child's teacher productive? If so, commit to remaining in close contact with him or her. Relationships require weeks or months to cultivate, and a strong relationship with your student's teacher is the best defense against future issues. However, if you feel that your discussion was ineffective, only now is it possibly appropriate to contact your child's vice principal or principal. If it is in your student's best interest to escalate your concerns, do so, but take care to avoid acting rashly.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: Jupiterimages/Creatas Images/Getty Images
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