Michele Borba: Your child says she “hates” her teacher. What do you do? My Chicago Tribune interview

by | Oct 14, 2009 | Uncategorized


Posted October 11, 2009 By Wendy Donahue



I was recently interviewed by Wendy Donahue on the Chicago Tribune on that age-old parenting question: “My child hates her teacher. What should I do?” Here is some of the advice I offered Wendy from my The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. that was published yesterday in the Chicago Tribune.  (I’ve added a few other tips – Here’s part of the Tribune post here. (THANKS WENDY!)


Parent advice: The principal at my kids’ school says moving a child to a new class is not her first inclination; she likes children to learn self-advocacy — to learn that they can have a conversation with a teacher in a calm way and that it can bring about a result. … Whenever my children come to me and complain they don’t like a teacher, the first thing I do is suggest there is a life lesson to be learned. If this is a personality conflict, I remind my children there will be teachers, coaches and ultimately co-workers and employers with whom they don’t get along. Learning to coexist and, in some cases, win them over, can be among their great achievements in life.        

— Colleen Burns


Expert advice


Your best initial response is to halt your judgments, says Michele Borba, author of “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions” (Jossey-Bass, 2009). “Don’t bad-mouth the teacher; the problem may miraculously cure itself the next day.”


Next, figure out what your child really means. “Why” questions usually get you nowhere, Borba says, so pose “What” questions instead: “What does the teacher do that concerns you?” “What have you tried to make this work?”


This might be a personality conflict, or it might be masking another problem: It’s possible she is dealing with separation anxiety or has a learning problem.


If complaints persist, get perspective. Talk to other parents to see if the concerns are shared. Go to open-house night, listen to the teacher’s expectations and watch her or his style.


If your child’s behavior deteriorates — increased anxiety, trouble sleeping — set up a conference with the teacher. “Listen to the teacher’s side,” says Borba. “Begin positively, ‘Here’s what happening …’ Stick to the facts as you know them. Then ask, ‘What can we do?’ “


In most instances, especially with an older child, Borba would suggest that a child attend the conference and do the speaking. “Explain that you are there to support your child but he needs to try to work things out with the teacher. Once there, watch the teacher’s interaction with your child. Are you catching positive vibes and a genuine concern? The goal in the meeting is to see if your child and teacher are able to talk through their differences and come up with a positive solution.”


If the situation worsens, go to the principal or counselor.


Worst case, your child may have to switch schools. “A positive learning experience,” Borba says, “is crucial for your child’s education.”


Compiled by Wendy Donahue, Tribune Newspapers

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune


Here are a few other tips: 


1. Don’t fly off the handle. Just because your child came home from school full of complains about her teacher, doesn’t mean you should pick up the phone and start demanding that she be removed from her classroom. Be patient. Her complaints could be the result of a particularly bad day, her frustration with a difficult test or assignment or embarrassment over being called down in front to the class. 


2. Get some perspective from parents and peers. Talk to other parents. Do they have similar concerns.


3. Make a date with the teacher. If complains last at least a week or if you see a sudden change in your child’s behavior: he becomes more anxious and clingy, has trouble sleeping or starts refusing to go to school, then it may be time to set up a conference with the teacher. 


4. Take your issue to the higher-ups. If you’ve exhausted all the other options and things continue, then its time for you to involve someone from the schools’ chain of command. Whether it’s the principal, vice-principal, or your child’s guidance counselor, it’s important that you get someone involved that is in a position to address your concerns about the teacher with some action.