With the beginning of the next school year swiftly approaching, moms are gearing up for all of the changes -- and in turn, potential challenges -- their child will likely encounter in their new classroom. And as tightly as you may cross your fingers that it won't happen, it's always possible your kid may end up with a "bad" teacher, otherwise known as an educator who doesn't resonate with your child.
"Having a 'bad' teacher or, as I’d rather call it, a 'bad fit,' can be very detrimental to a child’s social, emotional, and academic growth," explains Kimberly Kulp, director of marketing and product development at Bridgeway Academy. No wonder moms dread it! Thankfully, there are red flags to look for that can help you confirm your suspicions or your child's accusations, so you can preempt problems down the road. Here, 6 signs your child's teacher really isn't up to par.
- Your child is suddenly disinterested in school. If your kid was psyched about all the books he was reading or acing his math homework last year, but his attitude about school has taken a turn for the gloomy, his teacher may be at the crux of his crankiness. "Parents need to watch out for their child verbalizing and showing a decreased desire to go to school and learn," Kulp notes. "He may say, 'I don’t want to go to school' or even, 'I hate school.' Typically, when the struggles are related to the teacher, this will be a big change from how your child has felt about school in the past. If you’re lucky, he’ll be able to tell you that the teacher is the root of the problem, but he will likely not say anything."
- Your child suffers a staggering drop in self-confidence. "Your child may begin to call himself 'dumb' or 'stupid' or is overly anxious about homework," explains Jessica Parnell, president of Bridgeway Academy. "This is often a sign that the teaching style your child is meeting in the classroom is in direct conflict with what he or she requires to learn. Conversely, if your child is not being challenged, you may notice that he or she has started to act out in the classroom or regularly complains about being bored at school."
- You hear (either from your child or another parent) that the teacher is having temper tantrums. "Your child may report that the teacher screams and yells at all the kids -- for any reason," notes leading child and family psychotherapist Fran Walfish, Psy.D., author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond With Your Child (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2010). "There is no excuse for teachers losing it and modeling bad behavior in the classroom."
- You're told that kids aren't actively engaged or involved with their classwork on a regular basis. The mark of an exceptional educator is one who gets kids fired up and excited. But every teacher relies on handouts or silent sustained reading from time to time. That said, teachers who disengage from their students more days than not are likely problematic. "Your child might inform you that the teacher does not lecture or facilitate class discussions," explains Dr. Walfish. "He or she simply assigns quiet reading or individual solo desk work to the kids during class lesson teaching time. This may indicate a psychological trauma the teacher is suffering from or pure laziness."
- The teacher is MIA for parent-teacher check-ins. Sure, you have to have realistic expectations about how much emailing and phone calling the teacher will be able to do, but poor, lacking, or nonexistent communication may signal a problem, explains university administrator Chester Goad, Ed.D. "It's prudent for parents to ask educators their preferred method for contact because it lets them know you respect them and their time," advises Dr. Goad. "If you've done that, and you're still not getting a proper or timely response, that may be a red flag."
- The messages the teacher sends home are consistently negative and/or point the finger at Mom and Dad. "Be on the lookout for the blame game," recommends Dr. Goad. "Most parents at some point are going to receive bad news from the teacher regarding academics or behavior. But an effective teacher will work cooperatively with parents and the student to address the problem as soon as it surface, not wait until the issues are out of control." Ideally, a teacher will want to work with parents, not go to battle with them.
Even if these signs ring a bell, it's important for parents to tread lightly. The first step: "If a mom has a suspicion about her child's teacher, she should request a classroom visit to observe the candor of rapport between the teacher and all of the students," advises Charisse Beach, assistant principal of Joliet Public Schools in Illinois and author of At-Risk Students: Transforming Student Behavior (R&L Education, 2013). "Much can be learned about a teacher based on how he/she communicates with other students."
You may determine that the situation isn't necessarily as dire as you had thought. Or your hunches may be confirmed. "Part of life is sometimes learning to cope," says Dr. Walfish. "On the other hand, if you've determined you're in a hopeless situation, that's never worth the misery. A lot of ground can be lost in a year, and there's nothing wrong with demanding a positive, quality experience for your child."
Has your child ever had a "bad" teacher? How did you cope?
Images ©iStock.com/shironosov and ©iStock.com/Spauln