Time for Change? How to Know Your Child Needs a New Teacher

As long as you are not planning to homeschool your child, you can count on having a long-term relationship with your child's school and its teachers. You want to send your student off each day with confidence knowing the school will make your child successful. Your child's classroom teachers can be extremely influential people. As a parent, you want your child to like these people, but naturally kids will encounter teachers they dislike. At what point do your concerns merit changing teachers? Take these simple steps to help you recognize and resolve real problems.

Take the first step before the first day of school. Introducing yourself to your child's teacher can be incredibly beneficial. Generally, teachers are accessible to students and parents a few days prior to the start of the school year. This is a great time to familiarize yourself with the school building and its staff. Call ahead to see when the teacher will be available to meet with you and possibly your child for a few minutes. If your child has special needs, use this opportunity to tell the teacher about past successful teaching interventions and current concerns. Do not become a stranger to the teacher following your introduction. Stay connected by monitoring your child's progress. Be proactive; regularly keeping an eye on your child's daily work, projects, and tests will alert you to problems when they first arise. Build discussions about school into your daily conversations with your child. Too much time will elapse if you rely on a report card to show your child's progress. Once the daily routine has begun and your child begins complaining, be ready to react in a way that will bring effective results.

The next step is to investigate your child's complaint. What parent has been spared children's complaints about an injustice suffered at school? While many children exaggerate and talk in half-truths, red flags should go up if your child is being subjected to discrimination or if the teacher is ignoring your child's IEP or 504 Plan. Listen to your son's or daughter's concern, but try to remain reserved. Discuss the issue with the teacher before demanding a change to your child's schedule. You will want to avoid meeting with the school's principal right away; instead, call or email the teacher about having a one-on-one conference either in person or by phone. (This, of course, does not need to take place during designated school-wide parent-teacher conference times. The earlier you begin dealing with problems, the greater the likelihood at correcting them before they get worse.) Prepare for these types of meetings by making a list of discussion points you will want to cover.

When you are able to address the concerns that you have for your child, keep in mind that the teacher most likely has this student's best interest at heart. (Don't allow yourself to be mistreated though. A teacher who behaves inappropriately to a parent should raise a red flag. Report this to the school's administration immediately.) The plan of action recommended by the teacher may not match the way you would proceed, but that does not mean the method will fail. It is important, however, for you to see the teacher follow through with his or her plan of action. Discuss how changes or improvements will be measured and at what point the problem will need reevaluated.

Hopefully, your child will show signs of improvement following this. If the problem continues, investigate it with the teacher again. You may have confidence that the teacher will meet your child's needs. Nevertheless, if the teacher is not proceeding in the way you had discussed earlier or if you have serious doubts about this person's professionalism, then it is time to schedule a meeting with the principal.

When meeting with the school's administrators about a possible change in your child's teacher, you will want to bring evidence that proves your previous attempts to remedy the situation. Bring along samples of your child's schoolwork, logs showing prior contact with the teacher, and copies of any written correspondence related to the problem. Do not be surprised if the administrator wants to give the teacher another chance to reach your child, but that does not mean you will have to settle for failure either. You may need to meet with the principal a second time or you may want to discuss the matter with the school district's superintendent. Just remember, you must continue to be the greatest advocate for your child's education.

Your child may benefit from attending the meetings at school with you, but before the student comes along, see what the teacher or the administrator recommends. As you proceed through these steps, keep your emotions in check. Stay positive and refrain from arguments. The school must be held accountable for educating your child, and your child must also be accountable for meeting the set expectations, too.