The ‘Bad Teacher’ Blues

badteacherIt’s the Friday before the new school year starts and your kiddo is soooo excited to find out who the teacher is! With butterflies in stomachs, you log on to the school web site, and … OH, NO! Anyone … but not Ms. BurnOut! She’s the one teacher each and every family dreads. You’ve heard the stories. Mass meetings with the principal, conferences with Ms. B herself, even sucking up with a great holiday gift, nothing seems to help. It can’t be. You won’t tolerate it.

What’s a mom to do when the new teacher is your worst nightmare? Well, now is the time to look for that silver lining. We’ve all been there, and here are some tips that may help you make it through Labor Day and beyond …

Give yourself a couple of days to gain some perspective. There’s a reason why schools wait to post the list until close of business on the Friday before school starts. Let it settle in over the weekend, and most important, resist making negative comments about Ms. BurnOut in front of your child.

Distinguish between a not-so-good teacher and a truly destructive teacher, because there’s a world of difference. Which category does Ms. B fall into? If it’s the latter, think about taking constructive action that will accomplish your goal of snagging a change. But if it’s the former, read on.

Consider this: It’s not a great thing for your guy to have only extraordinary teachers year after year. That is SO not how the world works. In life, we all experience imperfect authority figures. Coaches, other family members, bosses … there’s lots of disappointment out there. A big part of growing up is learning how to deal with all kinds of people — the ones you adore and the ones you don’t.

And this: We’ve never met a teacher who entered the profession for selfish or dishonorable reasons. Most started out with their ideals intact, expecting to make a positive difference in the lives of children. Ms. B may have lost it somewhere along the way, but chances are the desire is still deep inside somewhere. Can you find it?

Don’t believe everything you hear from other parents. Trust your own judgment, and wait to see how things go with your kid.

We all know how challenging it is to work with kids in any capacity in this age of helicopter parenting. We all have stories about teachers or coaches who’ve been terrorized by overzealous parents who believe they’re advocating appropriately for their child. Choose your battles carefully and don’t be one of those parents.

Be involved. Get to know Ms. B and stay connected. Most teachers love and appreciate involved parents. Perpetually critical parents? Not so much.

IF you’ve thought through all of the above and you’re still (really) convinced that a year with Ms. B will cause permanent damage, don’t be shy. Schedule a meeting with the principal and respectfully state your concerns. It helps if you’re not starting out with a reputation as a whiner (that’s where the ‘choose your battles’ part comes in). In most cases the school will do their best to accommodate you.

And don’t forget that old cliche about getting more flies with honey … it couldn’t be more true.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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