How To Disagree With Your Child’s Teacher

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had your child’s entire education mapped out since the moment of conception. I planned for my son’s to look something like this: 13 consecutive years of awesomeness, academic excellence, and a few citizenship awards for good measure; he will graduate with honors, attend an Ivy League college {or my Alma Mater — both equally acceptable}, and then become an upstanding, productive member of society. Simple enough, right?  

Well, we’re only halfway through PreK-3 and already struggling to stay on track. My lofty plans for a smooth, worry-free educational experience didn’t make room for the normalcy of bad days, or human error on behalf of my child or his teacher. So, you can imagine my dismay last week when I received a note saying that my son was struggling to follow basic classroom rules, along with a recommendation for occupational therapy to help him learn to stay on task during structured activities.

I value this particular teacher’s opinion very much. Her credentials are great, she sends weekly updates via email, and my son adores her. I also know firsthand how beneficial therapy can be for young children. But something about the recommendation didn’t feel right. I couldn’t define the feeling, but it was there – in the pit of my stomach. My initial reaction was to avoid any possible awkward interactions and not respond to the note. Shamefully, I also considered withdrawing him from this silly, expensive, amazing preschool where he has been, otherwise, very successful. Notes concerning therapy recommendations are not a part of his educational plan. I mean seriously, was this lady trying to sabotage his entire preschool experience or what? 

Of course she wasn’t, and I quickly recovered from my brief mental lapse and decided that being a thoughtful, mature adult was a better plan of action. 

Nothing can throw a wrench in your day {or that educational blueprint you’ve set forth for your children} like an incoming call from the school or a handwritten note stapled to the front of the homework folder … Especially, when that call or note is to inform you that your child is misbehaving or under-performing. Mostly, we are able to reconcile these issues without second thought. We have heart-to-heart talks with our children. We discipline them. We contact the school to apologize or take other appropriate parental action. We make minor adjustments, and then we move on.

But what actually happens when you disagree with the teacher? How do you voice your opinions and concerns without becoming the crazy, defensive mom who everyone hates to see coming?

Teachers are well-trained, self-sacrificing individuals who love our little ones and care for them in our absence, but as parents, we are equally qualified to offer input about what is best for our children. No one is more of an expert than us, not because we’ve had special training, but because we have this internal mommy-thing that motivates us to look at situations from every angle in search of what is best. Teachers and school administrators also make suggestions motivated by care and concern, but sometimes those ideas don’t settle well with us. Sometimes, they don’t feel absolutely right, and we are forced to do the unthinkable and disagree with the teacher

After a few days of reflection, prayer, and research, I decided to politely decline the teacher’s recommendation for therapy. This doesn’t make her any less credible as an educator, or my son’s school any less wonderful. After all, we are still on track for Ivy League in a few short years. The teacher and I still get along very well. I still brag about his school and raise money for the PTA. No one’s feelings are hurt. No one is upset. No one is at fault. Everyone is ultimately concerned about my kiddo’s success, and I consider that a win-win situation.

If you’re ever faced with having to disagree with your child’s teacher, use these three pieces of advice as a reminder of how to appropriately advocate for your child.

1} STAY CALM

It’s important to remain calm and clear-headed. Take some time to assess the situation from all angles before addressing it. Don’t devalue all of the good work that your child has done with a teacher because of an isolated incident. Getting to the core of what is best for your child is far more productive than placing blame and pointing fingers.

2} THOUGHTFULLY & RESPECTFULLY RESPOND

Unless an immediate response is required, take some time to process and craft your thoughts and words. Impulsive emails and impromptu demands to speak with a teacher will not be as effective as clear, organized communication. Remember the importance of preserving a good working relationship between the teacher and the student, as well as the teacher and the parent. Everyone is on the same team. Don’t forget that. 

3} FOLLOW YOUR HEART

A mother’s intuition is not something to be ignored. Never feel like you’re unqualified to make decisions about your children. Although we are not experts in subject matter like math and science, we have infinite mommy wisdom and gut feelings a plenty. If something does or doesn’t feel right, trust yourself enough to do what you feel is best, even if that means disagreeing with the teacher. 

As mothers we are our children’s God-given buffers, and we have a right to sift through all the multi-syllable words, all the paperwork, and all the recommendations for speech therapy or after school tutoring or ADHD screenings. It is our responsibility to actively monitor the decisions that are being made regarding our children’s education, and we should feel empowered and honored to do so.

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Vinicia “Vi” is originally from Livingston, a small but awesome little town in East Texas, but she has recently relocated to Houston. With a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Sam Houston State University, Vi works with women who are recovering from alcohol and drug addiction - and absolutely loves her job. Vi plans to dedicate her life’s work to empowering women and moms to live their best lives despite whatever obstacles they may face. Vi is the proud momma to her son Malachi {June 2013} who was born deaf but wears cochlear implants. In her free time {which is rare!}, Vi writes and performs original poetry, jams out to every genre of music imaginable, and spends as much time as possible making lasting memories with her kiddo. She believes in authenticity, transparency, and honesty. Read more about the craziness that is her life at viverseslife.com.

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