Teacher trouble? Speak with them first - East Valley Tribune: Back To School

Teacher trouble? Speak with them first

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Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2007 10:27 am | Updated: 6:45 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Whether it’s a small misunderstanding or a big problem, conflict with a teacher can be a huge deal for students and their parents alike.

Who to turn to: Always address an issue with a teacher first. Going over someone’s head can blow a small problem out of proportion, said Debbi Burdick, associate superintendent for teaching and learning in the Cave Creek Unified School District.

http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/page/flash?h=345&w=780&file=backtoschool%2Faskexpert.swf',%20780,445);" class="content-link">ASK THE EXPERT: A parent advocate gives advice on resolving issues with school

If you’ve tried working with the teacher and haven’t gotten results, then go to the principal, Burdick said.

Or if you’ve tried contacting a teacher twice in one week and received no response, it’s appropriate to bring that to the principal’s attention, Burdick said.

If addressing a problem with the principal doesn’t solve the problem, then go to the district office. And if that doesn’t work, you can appeal to a district’s governing board.

When it’s more serious: If sexual or physical abuse is suspected, go straight to the police or school principal. As soon as such an issue is reported, schools and police departments will work together to identify other potential victims and get students the help they need, Burdick said.

Tips for approaching teachers:

Keep an open mind. There are two sides to every story, and that’s something parents, teachers and students all need to remember. “The goal is always to have it settled,” Burdick said. “Everyone listens with open ears and puts themselves in the other person’s shoes.”

Watch your tone. “When someone comes at (a teacher) and is accusatory instead of questioning, it puts us on the defensive,” Burdick said. Likewise, teachers need to take what they hear seriously. “The teacher has to remember that it was brought to them by the parent because that’s what the student feels,” Burdick said.

Involve students. As early as sixth grade, students should address problems on their own before bringing in a parent, said Andi Fourlis, director of recruitment and professional development for the Scottsdale Unified School District. But younger children can offer valuable perspectives. A child may be distracted in class because he can’t see the board — but adults will never know that unless they ask.

Write down questions. It’s easy to get emotional when talking about a problem your child is having. Fourlis recommends preparing questions for teachers in advance to help avoid getting flustered.

Watch the e-mail. While e-mail is OK for setting up a meeting, don’t try to resolve issues that way — there’s too much room for misinterpretation, Fourlis said.

Online resources: Check out the “Talking with the Teacher” section on school.familyeducation.com for more tips.

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