5. School

Conflicts with the Teacher

“I don’t know why, but my physics teacher has it in for me. He’s always trying to make me look stupid in front of the other kids. I can’t stand being in his class.”

For the record, we are avid supporters of teachers. Most of them are dedicated professionals who devote themselves to the welfare of children and are deserving of parents’ admiration and respect. Years from now, when your youngster reflects back on the adults who most inspired him while he was growing up—aside from Mom and Dad, naturally—one or more teachers will probably rank high on his list.

What You Can Do

The question many mothers and fathers have is, when if ever does a teacher’s action warrant parental intervention? Under certain circumstances, it is appropriate to speak up on your youngster’s behalf, particularly during the junior-high years. Legitimate gripes include a teacher’s humiliating a child in front of the class or not responding to a struggling student’s repeated requests for help.

In situations like these, approach the teacher first with your concerns. Explain the problem, refraining from accusatory or insulting language. Then allow the instructor to recount his version of events—which may differ appreciably from your teenager’s story. Ideally, a resolution is reached right then and there, but if not, take your complaint up the chain of command. Start with the guidance counselor or assistant principal, who can perhaps act as an intermediary. If this fails to produce a satisfactory solution, your next stop is the principal’s office. Rarely is it necessary to go any further.

Now change the setting to high school. At this point, youngsters are old enough to handle minor crises themselves. Offer advice, of course, but resist the urge to dash to the rescue. One of the central lessons of adolescence is coming to the realization that Mom and Dad can’t always make everything okay. Learning how to deal with disagreeable personalities, overbearing authority figures, small injustices—welcome to Life, kid.

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