Dealing with Teachers


The dreaded phone call from a teacher or principal asking you to come to the school rarely means good news. Here are a few tips to help your interaction go more smoothly at the school.

Don’t Contradict the Teacher 

“Why, Sally could never have done something like that!” is not the appropriate response when you hear that she has been accused of cheating. Chances are, the teacher has good reason to make the accusation in the first place, and your protests will simply discredit the teacher. If your child is also in the meeting, you’ll also be setting him or her up for a lifetime of entitlement. Let teachers have their moment to talk, and then ask for your child’s side of the story. That way, you’ll be sending the message that fairness is valued. In the end, though, you have to back-up the teacher. If further issues with this particular teacher and no others arise, then it may be time for a conference in which the discrepancy is discussed, but until that time, you have to respect the teacher’s authority over your child’s claims.

Listen More Than You Talk

Rather than talking the whole time, listen to what the other people in the meeting have to say. You weren’t at the school when the incident happened, so you have to depend entirely on what other people tell you occurred. Even if some of the things said bother you, take a deep breath and try to remain pleasant. Nothing makes  a tense situation worse than a parent who goes off the deep end during a conversation. However, if Rafe is being accused of cheating on a big class project, but you sat by his side the entire time and helped him create the diorama, you will have something to say in the meeting. If he pulled Jordan’s pigtails during lunch, that’s another matter entirely.

Mediate, Don’t Fight

Rather than thinking of yourself as on your child’s side, think of yourself as a mediator between the school and your child, and vice versa. Advocate for your child’s rights, but also advocate for the authority you’ve placed in the school to take care of your child. If you side too strongly with either, the meeting will end up going very badly. Just play it neutral.

Don’t Fight the System

If the school wants to give your child detention or a failing mark on the test, don’t fight with them over consequences. As long as they seem reasonable to you, accept them. Even if your child maintains innocence, this can be a great conversation to have about why the teacher would have thought he or she was cheating in the first place, or why some behaviors can be considered bullying. Don’t let the conversation end in the principal’s office. Take it home, and if necessary, think of another way your child can help make up for what he or she did. That doesn’t mean punishing your child; think more along the lines of restorative justice.

What are some other tips you have for dealing with your child getting into trouble at school? How do you keep your cool in the principal’s office?

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Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences

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