Every August kids search the mailbox for school room assignments. Before spending time with a teacher, children have formed opinions, and if the card in the mailbox does not have the name of their presumed favorite, many children have difficulty, sometimes meltdowns. Tears flow, tempers rise, anxiety skyrockets, upset stomachs, apprehension and fear can surface at seeing a name on a card in a mailbox. Parents, often, act and react based on children's perceptions. It is hard to watch children struggle, but it is a golden opportunity for parents to lead children through learning to deal with people, adults specifically, placed in authority over them.
Everyone at some point in life has to learn to get along with someone they don't connect with. Everyone will have favorite teachers and likewise, everyone will have least favorite teachers. It is human nature for some people to connect and others not. The jewel of this happening in childhood is, parents become facilitators and can walk their children through the process of working with someone who is not their favorite. It can be a very valid partnership. Not having a favorite teacher will not, necessarily, compromise a child's education. They may, very well, learn things from this teacher they could have learned from no other.
Parent's first response to a teacher their child is not fond of; Do Not Rescue Them. Parents by nature want to remove children from every uncomfortable situation. This may seem the easiest solution, but it is not the healthiest. Ken Sande in writing about conflict resolution calls this an escape response. He says, "These responses are used to get away from a conflict instead of trying to resolve it. Running away prolongs the problem. It delays healing." (http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/relating/sibling_rivalry/teaching_children_to_be_peacemakers.aspx, accessed July 2009) Rescuing and removing children only prolongs the learning process that will eventually need to take place and navigated. Children need to experience, for themselves, dealing with situations they are uncomfortable in. It may not be their first choice, but it can still work out. They can learn, with parents input, to relate to and work under someone they wouldn't choose. No matter how the child reacts to the news, parents, stay positive. Make it a parent/child partnership to work under the assigned teacher. Encourage them to give it their best effort.
Help children define what "getting along" means. A Kids Health article, recommends explaining to children that, "Getting along means you and your teacher have a way of communicating that works for both of you and you both are getting what you need from the relationship. From your teacher's perspective, he/she wants to make sure you are paying attention, being respectful and polite, and trying your best to learn. From your perspective, you want a teacher who is respectful to you, answers your questions, and tries to help you learn. You can get along and learn without being pals with your teacher, although it's nice if that happens." The article encourages parents to further explain, "In every school, kids will say certain teachers are mean or tough, but don't judge a teacher until you are in his or her class and can see for yourself. In the majority of cases, your teacher is on your side. And a teacher who's called tough may be someone who feels strongly about getting his or her job done - teaching you the subject you are supposed to learn. It's also important to remember that making mistakes is a part of learning. By pointing out your errors and helping you correct them, a teacher is teaching you." (http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/school/getting_along_teachers.html, accessed July 2009)
Another important step is to open lines of communication, with child and teacher. Parents need to reassure children of their assistance to make this a good year. At the end of each day, talk about class. Have children name one thing the teacher did they liked and one they didn't like. Parents need to use it as a chance to point out that everything people do will not thrill us. Sometimes school and work is just hard and takes diligence. Functioning lines of communication will help parents get a good feel for the child's adjustment to, as well as, their perception of the classroom. Communication with teachers is key. "Writing a brief note to the teacher at the beginning of the year sets a positive tone," says Robert Brooks, Ph.D., coauthor of Raising Resilient Children. "Tell a bit about your child's strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Include contact numbers at home and at work, including an e-mail address if you have one, and invite the teacher to share any concerns with you." (http://www.parents.com/big-kids/learning/back-to-school/working-together-with-your-childs-teacher/?page=1, accessed July 2009) Find out the teacher's preferred means of communication; phone, email, note. Schedule a parent teacher conference even if there are no problems. Volunteer in the classroom, on field trips, etc. if possible. Attend Back-to-School Night to get to know the teacher. She won't have much time to talk, but hearing her talk, seeing the room, getting a feel for the child's environment will help parent's understand the world children spend the day in.
Encourage children, no matter how they feel, to respond respectfully to their teacher. Being upset is acceptable, but being disrespectful is not ever acceptable. Teach them to use their words carefully and explain their feelings with a quiet voice and kindness. Clarify that teachers don't try to upset students. It is often a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation. Explain to children the importance of following classroom rules. Help them see their teacher as a person; she is trying her best to teach twenty some children all at one time. Every teacher has good days and difficult ones. Encourage the child to think how they would feel if they were the teacher. Respecting people for who they are and what they are responsible for will be a great tool in training children to work with adults.
It is a natural inclination for parents to believe what children tell them. In this triangle relationship between; teacher, child, parent, parents are the objective observers. They are the only ones not involved in classroom happenings. Therefore, parents need to resist the urge to address, immediately, everything children tell them. Often times, just talking it out and having someone to listen are all the child really needs. Parents must remember, there are two sides to every story. Just because parents love their children, it does not give them the right to leave the teacher out of the equation. He/she deserves a fair hearing. The teacher will give an adult perspective and it must be heard before parents react. Often times, an adult perspective will help explain the child's perspective. He/She may have misunderstood or misinterpreted. Talk, first, to teachers about child/parent concerns. Don't disrespect them by heading to the guidance counselor or administrator. Everyone will benefit from this practice.
Adjustments may be slow and take work, but learning to successfully navigate children's fears and partnerships will be rewarded long-term. Parental outlook and attitude are huge in this process. They will set the tone for children making smooth transitions. Who knows, the teacher they didn't want, by the end of the year, may have become their favorite.
Out on a Limb; a Guide to Getting Along
Out on a Limb: a Guide to Getting Along conflict resolution website! This website, designed by University of Illinois, is to help teach elementary school children how to better manage conflicts and challenges they face on a daily basis. It shows three ways of handling every difficult situation clearly pointing out the best way to get positive outcomes.
To help children get along with their teachers, parents can:
Reward children's efforts, not just the results. Children who are praised only for their successes can become afraid to try new tasks. Or they might try only once and give up-which is very discouraging to teachers.
Show their child lots of love and respect. Children will be more receptive to a teacher's instruction if they understand that adults, including their teacher, care for them and want to help them.
Encourage open communication. Children who have learned to express themselves at home with parents and siblings will have an easier time talking with their teacher.
Practice listening skills around the dinner table and other times during the day. Children must not only learn to listen in class, but also to follow directions, work in a group and be patient when the teacher can't give them immediate attention.
Talk positively about teachers in front of kids. If you have a negative attitude towards teachers, your child will too. If you have a problem with a teacher, talk directly with that teacher.
(Parents Can Help Children Get Along With Teachers, Parents Institute,