15 Ways to Survive a Bad Teacher

Having a bad teacher can feel like a death sentence for the whole family. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about it but hope for the best.

What makes it worse is when every other parent in the class starts complaining after the first day of school because they know what it is going to be like for nine months.

And then there is always that one crazy mom…

She starts carrying on loudly about how the school is terrible, and she is going to get a class change. She knows people and this isn’t right… yada, yada, yada. You know it’s gonna be a long year with her too.

To be truthful, the whole thing stinks if your child has been put in the class with the bad teacher and the crazy mom. (Yep, I just said it.)

As a parent, I know this can be hard, but as a teacher, I can see hope. There are things you can do to mitigate the situation.

Here are some insider tips from a parent and a teacher who understands. I can help you survive a bad teacher. Don’t be discouraged.

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Girl in pink and white stripes with face in hands looking down at a desk with books on it. Text overlay above.

 

How to Survive a Bad Teacher

1. Wait and see

There have been some years it really wasn’t that bad. My son had a very strict math teacher, but she loved him. They got along great. I never once called or emailed her. I was so relieved.

Other years, I wasn’t so lucky. There were emails, conferences, and constant side-stepping just to get through the year.

Remember, there is always an adjustment period. The odd years of school are harder. (1st grade, 3rd grade, 5th grade, etc.) There is a big jump in learning. More is expected of your child these years.

Your child may be complaining because he is no longer being babied. It is a natural process of shock and adjustment. Give it time.

 

2. Be involved

Keep up with what is going on in your child’s classes. Ask other parents if what you are hearing is correct. Read the emails and paperwork your teacher sends home. They are all important.

Check your child’s grades and be aware of projects. Most schools have this option online now. These are good things to do no matter what your teacher is like. You don’t need to remind of assignments, just be aware.

Related: 37 Easy Ways to Help Your Child be School-Ready

 

 3. Get ALL the details from your child.

Ask questions before you judge. Find out the exact details before you write that email, talk on the phone, or go in for a meeting. There are always two sides to a story.

You may not have a bad teacher; perhaps you are not getting the whole story.

Even as a mom teacher, I have been snookered into believing one thing from my child only to find out it wasn’t the whole truth. Boy, was I surprised! It was only part of the story.

Kids tend to slant things to their side. We all do. Just keep that in mind before you proceed.

And don’t yell at your kids when you find the whole truth. Calm down first and realize you are all working toward the same thing–learning the material.

Related: Do You Yell at Your Children

Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart-

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4. Diagnose the problem

Diagnose the problem. Here are some of the issues we had through the years. The problem was usually one of these four issues:

1. Too hard/went too fast

2. Yelled/severe

3. Too easy/lacking in classroom discipline

4. Not qualified.

Sometimes it is a combination of all the above. Know what is happening before you move forward. But be kind! Teachers have feelings too.

 

5. Address it early

There is a fine balance of when to step in and when to wait. Academic issues cannot wait very long. If you see your child come home with a few failing grades, it is time to talk to the teacher.

Find out what you can do to help your child pass the homework, projects, or tests. It is better to catch it at the homework stage instead of waiting for a few failing tests.

Work with the teacher. Get supplemental work, have your child stay after school for tutoring, or work with your child extra at home. A good education includes the parents whether you have a good or bad teacher.

Related: 25 Ways to Make Reading Fun for Your Child

 

6. Communicate appropriately with the teacher first

Go to the teacher first, not the principal! Stay calm. Approach the situation as a collaborator. You are a team working together for the good of your child. Keep it in the “I.” The following are examples of how to start the conversation: “I need your help.” “I don’t understand.” “I may have misunderstood.”

When you start a sentence with “you” or “why” it automatically puts the teacher on the defense. The teacher will feel attacked.

I have found many times my child did not have a bad teacher. It was actually my child (ugh) who was not taking notes correctly, studying enough, or talking too much during class.

Always act appropriately to the teacher. You could be embarrassed if you don’t. There is a good chance it is your child.


Don’t blow up at the teacher!

Alienating your child’s teacher is the worst thing you can ever do as a parent. As a teacher, I have only had to deal with a rude parent two times. And it was a horrible experience.

It made it difficult for me to have any real interaction with the child after the parent trashed me. It definitely made it harder for me to love the child.

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 7. Support the teacher when possible

Support your teacher when possible. Give the benefit of the doubt. There are very few teachers who would just decide to dislike a child.

Teachers go to their job every day because they love teaching. And they love kids. They sure aren’t teaching for the money!

In past years, many teachers have protected their kids during a school shooting. Some of them have given their lives for their kids. That is true dedication.

I bet you wouldn’t see that kind of love in an office or another place of employment. Most teachers do care. Don’t forget that.

Related: School Safety: 5 Ways Women Can Stop the Violence

 

8. Talk to the principal

After you have talked with the teacher, go to the principal. Not before then. Nothing makes teachers angrier than going over their head without giving them a chance to correct the situation.

If the situation is not better, let the principal know what is going on in the classroom. You may have an inexperienced teacher who needs help. This gives the teacher a chance to improve with a little more pressure.

Ask for a conference with both the teacher and the principal. Try to work together as a team. You should all be on the same page.

Don’t forget the end game is your child. You want your child to learn in a safe environment with a teacher who is not hostile toward him.

 

9. Talk to other parents

If the teacher and the principal won’t listen, talk to other parents. Get parents together and go in a group. There is power in numbers. It makes a statement.

My son had a horrible baseball coach in high school. Over the years, parents had gone to the head coach and complained individually. Nothing happened.

The year after my son left, a group of parents got together and went to the athletic director of the school district. They complained as a big group and got him fired.

Sadly, this coach had verbally destroyed a lot of boys during his tenure. I think a few baseball careers were probably squashed too. Don’t be afraid to get aggressive if you know the coach/teacher should be gone.

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10. Volunteer at the school

One of the best ways to see what is going on first-hand is to volunteer at the school. Work in the lunchroom, the library, or be a room mom. Come up at lunch and eat with your child when he is in elementary school.

You will grow two heads after sixth grade so take advantage of the limited lunch years. 

Go to the class parties. It will give you a chance to see how the teacher interacts with the students.

 

11. Learn to cope

When you have a bad teacher, you have to learn to cope with the situation. You can’t always have the best teacher, the best principal, or the best school.

News alert: There is no perfect teacher. Someday your child will not have the best boss either. This is life. Character traits can be taught and lessons learned by working with a difficult person.

Coach your older child (11-12 yrs or older) on how to handle the problems before you step in. You don’t want to rescue at every juncture.

Step in after the child has tried on his own a few times. Obviously, if the teacher is inappropriate or your child is failing, address it immediately. Those two things cannot wait.

 

12. Work around the teacher

Work around a bad teacher. Get extra tutoring after school with another teacher or hire a tutor if your child isn’t “getting it.”

My daughter had a math teacher that knew her content, but she was very impatient. She yelled and got angry when the students asked questions. She was not good at explaining the steps over and over again.

After going round and round with the teacher and the principal, we finally hired a private tutor. My daughter was able to learn math and pass the class. I’m still a little miffed we had to hire a tutor, but you can’t change a teacher.

Sometimes you have to work around a bad teacher.

Do what you need to do to make sure your child learns the subject. You may have to supplement. It happens. By the way, that math teacher was fired. I think that was because of me.

Uh, sorry, not sorry. 

 

13. Have a good attitude

Have a good attitude. Listen to what other parents have to say, but always talk nicely about the teacher in front of your child.

If you give your child an inch, he will take a mile. Your child will use any ill feelings you have toward the teacher as a way to slide through the class without putting full effort into the assignments. 

 

14. Pray for the bad teacher

I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for my kid’s teachers before they were assigned to the new school year. ( I still pray for my daughter’s college professors.)

It made a huge difference.

Several times their schedule was miraculously changed, and they got out of a bad teacher’s class. When they did have a bad teacher, I prayed for favor.

Over and over again I saw how my kids would escape the wrath of a teacher when other kids didn’t fare so well. This didn’t always happen, but I knew God was with my kids through the hard times. He protected them even when things were difficult.

You and your child can pray for your child’s teacher throughout the year. Pray for your attitude and your child’s attitude.

I remember when my son hated his first-grade teacher. We worked really hard to help him adjust. Many prayers were said over the situation. By Thanksgiving, he wanted her to go camping with us and sleep in our tent.

Prayer does work.

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 15. Change schools

Don’t be afraid to change schools. One of my kids was having a hard time at school. It had been going on for a while. The school environment was becoming more hostile to what we believed, and our child was becoming unusually disinterested in anything.

The teachers were not bad, but the classes were so big it was hard to get individual attention.

We moved to a smaller Christian school. The class ratio was 15:1. It made a huge difference. Immediately our child started thriving again.

The teachers cared, the work was challenging but manageable, and the environment was positive. It was one of the best years of my child’s life.

Related: How to Pick the Best School for Your Child: A Teacher’s Point of View

 

Make It a Good Year

Make this school year a good one no matter what the situation. You can’t always control what teacher you have, but you can control how you act. Be professional.

Don’t forget the main goal is for your child to get a good education and learn how to work through problems. Working through life problems is just as important as learning math.

It is good practice for your child to learn how to navigate hard situations before he has to do it for real someday.

You can survive with a bad teacher and learn some good life skills in the process. It just takes a little more creativity and lots of prayers.

What do you do when you have a bad teacher?

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Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Parenting and Family. This is a place for moms with preschool age kids or older to talk about their struggles with parenting, family life, education, or marriage. You will find biblically based advise from other moms who want to raise godly kids.

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70 Comments

  1. Nicole on August 12, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    These are great tips! My son isn’t at the age where I have to worry about teachers yet, but it will be coming soon. I’ll have to keep these tips in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      It will be here before you know it! Thanks for your comment.

  2. eliza on August 11, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Crazy that we need to deal with these type of teachers but yet inevitable. Thanks for the advise those we’re truly helpful.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      You are welcome. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Elizabeth O on August 10, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    This is a really helpful post, i think sometimes people do not know how to handle these kinds of situations because you do not expect a teacher to be a problem.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:30 pm

      Elizabeth, I agree. You would think that teachers would all be good. Sadly, this is not the case. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Crystal on August 10, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I’m so lucky that I’ve never had to deal with a crazy teacher. But if I did, these are great tips.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      Crystal, wow, you are lucky. I hope you keep up the good streak. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Twinspirational on August 10, 2018 at 7:40 am

    These are great tips but we were lucky to always have great teachers. Can’t remember a bad one.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      I am so glad you have really good teachers. Hopefully, it will stay that way. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Thea on August 9, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    My son is about to start school next year. I am quite nervous about it. Your tips will really help

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:33 pm

      Thea, I am sure you will have a great year. Elementary teachers are usually pretty good. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Erica on August 9, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    It is difficult working with a teacher that isn’t on your team. We homeschool now, but when my son was in preschool, we had a teacher and principal that didn’t seem to do the right thing concerning my son. He once got in trouble for biting a student and I thought that seemed odd. He’d never been a biter. When I asked him about it, he told me he and the other boy were pretending they were cars and the other boy shoved his fingers in my son’s mouth like he was pumping gas. Well, duh, if someone shoves their fingers in my mouth, I’m probably going to bite them.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:34 pm

      Ha ha. That seems pretty logical. I am so sorry that happened. I guess that won’t happen at homeschool! Thanks for your comment.

  8. Holly on August 9, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    It’s hard when you KNOW the teacher is not good to not color that for your child as well.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm

      I know. Believe me, I know. I had to really work on what came out of my mouth. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Emma Riley on August 9, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    This is such a great article to read by all parents like me. It is so important to identify the problem and good communication is a key to have a better relationship not only to your child but also to his/her teachers.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:35 pm

      Emma, yes, you are so right. Communication is definitely the key. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Lisa Rios on August 9, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Listening to your child and identifying issues is key! Ideally we won’t have to deal with bad teachers, but great tips just in case!

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:36 pm

      Lisa, hope you won’t either. Have a good year. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Amanda Friedland on August 9, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Such great tips, thanks for sharing. I remember when I was young, I had an English teacher that I thought would be the worst. Almost a decade later, we still keep in touch.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:37 pm

      Amanda, I am so glad you keep in touch. That mean’s a lot to a teacher. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Christina on August 9, 2018 at 10:53 am

    These are great tips that I will need to keep in mind for the future when my son is old enough to go to school.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:40 pm

      Christiana, I hope you won’t need this advice, but good to keep in mind. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Fibi on August 9, 2018 at 9:11 am

    This is very good information. I think communicate is very important not only with teacher, school as well.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:40 pm

      Fibi, that is true. Communication with everyone is important.

  14. Melissa on August 9, 2018 at 7:20 am

    As a teacher, I loved how positive many of your solutions were. I doubt I’m one of those bad teachers (LOL), but many of these tips are important as a general guidelines for working together with teachers. I definitely advocate getting the whole story from teachers. I’ve had some odd stories come back to me in the past that were embellished by students (they’re only in kindergarten) haha!

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      Melissa, you aren’t kidding. Kids like to embellish no matter the age.
      My kids embellished stories when they were even attending high school. It’s so embarrassing. I found out my daughter was talking all the time instead of taking notes. Ugh.

  15. Chris on August 9, 2018 at 7:06 am

    These are a lot of great tips. As a father with a daughter entering school in a couple years, I will definitely keep these in mind.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      Chris, hopefully you won’t need it!

  16. Nancie on August 9, 2018 at 6:44 am

    I’m wondering how you’re defining a bad teacher. If it’s because students are complaining the teacher is giving too much homework, I don’t think that makes a teacher bad. As long as the homework is relevant to what is being taught, teachers shouldn’t be considered bad teachers because they give homework. If they come to class unprepared and are verbally abusive, I would consider that a bad teacher. However, it’s a slippery slope. It’s important to get all the details before labelling a teacher bad. Often school is not easy for the students or the teacher.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:49 pm

      Nancie, I have no problems with homework. What I have a problem with is when a teacher doesn’t teach properly, and then expects the students to do the homework without sufficient instruction. That is a bad teacher to me. Especially when it is math.
      A bad teacher does not create a safe environment to ask questions either.

  17. Indya | The Small Adventurer on August 9, 2018 at 6:08 am

    Teachers can really make or break someone’s experience at school, from young kids to adults at uni. It really sucks when you get a bad one that you just have to deal with, but these are some great tips on how to cope with such a situation! As for the crazy mum (which mine was), there really isn’t anything you can do except for stay out of her way!

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      Indya, you aren’t kidding! Move out of the way! For sure.

  18. Thành Đạt on August 9, 2018 at 3:30 am

    I did not pay attention to the teacher good or bad. But after reading this article I just realized that this is very important to students, especially kids. thanks for the tips ^^

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      Thanh, I am sure you will have more interaction over the year. Hopefully, it will be ok.

  19. kumamonjeng on August 9, 2018 at 1:38 am

    Communication with the teacher and work as a team for the good of your child is the key. I don’t believe by just listening to one side of the story from the kid.

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:51 pm

      You aren’t kidding. You have to hear both sides. Thanks for commenting.

  20. Maysz on August 8, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    This post is really indeed! Bad teacher not means that they torture or child or what ever. HAHAHHAHA! sometimes being bad teacher can make a child discipline This is a great tips!

    • Julie Plagens on August 12, 2018 at 10:52 pm

      I believe in discipline, but I don’t believe in humiliation. There is a difference. Thanks for your comment.

  21. Heather on August 8, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    This is such a tough one. I had a teacher in middle school who, in hindsight, I realize was sexually harassing me and other girls. Of course, at the time I just knew he made me really uncomfortable. I’m trying to strike a balance with my kids where they will raise the flag on real issues with teachers without feeling like they can just get away from any teacher they don’t like.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      Yes, that is why I said if there the teacher is inappropriate, you need to deal with it right away. I think having a sexual harassment conversation and defining what that looks like is important. Thank God for the #metoo movement and #timesup! We have come a long way. By the way, I had a teacher and an administrator make advances at me. I never told about one them. I didn’t think anyone who believe me.

  22. Ina @ Crafty For Home on August 8, 2018 at 10:44 am

    There always a good teacher and a bad teacher, and I agreed with all you have said, we have to speak up and open up our voice and dealing with it in a smart way. I think it apply to the bully problem too.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Yes, we had that problem with my son in 5th grade. I hate to tell you how we dealt with it…I don’t think you can do what we did now. It worked though. After months of talking to the teachers and principal, we told my son to defend himself. The kids punched him at recess, so my son went after him. They had to pull my son off of the kids. My son punched him back. OF course, my son was suspended for a day. But he NEVER had a problem again. You have to stand up to bully some way. They will not go away until you do. My son didn’t get in trouble with us at all.

  23. Ranelle Ivens on August 8, 2018 at 9:33 am

    I remember having to switch schools one year my teacher was so bad.. Not only me but a few of my friends too. We were lucky though, as the town was sooo small. Luckily it was a slit french english community so there was a second school of english kids. The new school was so small my class included kids from grade 1 through 6 and there were still only 20 of us! I didn’t miss the bad teacher though she used to swear at us and yell all the time!

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Those are the worst kind of teachers. And it is so hard to get a teacher fired in public school.It seems the teacher has to be a psycho to get fired. It is so frustrating. I hope the small school worked out ok.

  24. GiGi Eats on August 8, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Oh gosh, if I had a nickel for every BAD TEACHER I had back in the day, I would be A BILLIONAIRE! hahahaha!

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:52 pm

      For sure. I wish the schools would do a better job of hiring quality teachers. Unfortunately, it is hard to get rid of a bad teacher. Thanks for your comment, Gigi.

  25. Ntensibe Edgar Michael on August 8, 2018 at 9:01 am

    You’ve dragged the words out of my mouth! A hand-clap is in order.

    This is the kind of parenting the world needs today and tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing. Much love, Julie.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Aww. Thanks for the Kudos. I appreciate you reading. I feel the love.

  26. Chrishon on August 7, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    This is a really great post and really great advice.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks, Chrishon. I appreciate the compliment.

  27. Clair on August 7, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Love this post and saving for just in case (even though I am hopeful I will never need it 😉 ). My older 2 kids (1st and 2nd grade) luckily attend a great school, but I will say I still have my favorites. I think communication is HUGE! So many parents just sit back and only complain without getting involved.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      Clair, you are so right. Complaining is no good when you are not a part of the solution. I hope you don’t ever need this post either. Thanks for reading.

  28. Tracy @ Cleland Clan on August 7, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Numbers 3 and 6 are so important–there are always two sides to every story and sometimes one isn’t complete or is exaggerated. Usually the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Tracy, isn’t that the truth. I know everyone wants to believe their child is perfect, but I can tell you there are quite a few little rascals in the classroom. If parents only knew some of the things their kids say to me. It is kinda funny. Thanks for your comment.

  29. Brooke Bolen on August 7, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    I remember having a teacher in Elementary school that was quite terrible. Don’t forget that your child is in the middle. So be nice and work with the teacher so you child doesn’t get the short end of the stick. On a side note, I am still a student (in college) and I still come across some terrible teachers. With that being said your child will have to learn how to deal with it and how to overcome the obstacle. Thanks for the post!

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      Yes, that is why we could never do anything about our horrible baseball coach. He would take it out on our boys. It was a terrible situation. So difficult to navigate. Thanks for your comment.

  30. Christina on August 7, 2018 at 9:58 am

    I was interested to read this because I am a former teacher. I was pleasantly surprised by your tips. These are all right on point. My absolute favorite quote is, “You are a team working together for the good of your child.” This the most truthful thing parents need to know.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Christina, I am so glad to hear you validate my points. There is nothing like having someone in your field agree with you. Good luck to you. Thanks for reading.

  31. Anonymous on August 7, 2018 at 9:22 am

    I love this! I’m a mom and former teacher. I love the steps because it’s best to look at everything before taking any action.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      I am glad you agree. I think having the perspective of a teacher can really help a parent to see both sides. Thanks for your comment.

  32. Angie Jelinek on August 7, 2018 at 8:38 am

    As a teacher myself, I don’t ever want anyone to have to survive a “bad teacher”. Sometimes parents jump to conclusions without giving things time and sometimes the school year is not so great. You made some very good suggestions on ways to slow down and help.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Angie, thanks for saying this. That is why it put it in the number one spot. You have to give the teacher a chance. Kids are not always easy to please, and they don’t like it when things get hard. Sometimes extra studying is all the child needs to do to make it better.

  33. Brenda Broadway on August 7, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Believe it or not, some things don’t change. We had the ‘crazy mom’ & ‘bad teacher too when my daughter went to school. Great article.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      HAHA! I am laughing out loud. I don’t know why this happens! I am laughing, but it is not always funny. It is horribly disruptive. Thanks for the comment.

  34. Diane on August 7, 2018 at 6:16 am

    This is all great advice! I think all too often parents jump in and act on what the child tells them rather than get all the info first. When I was a kid I had a “bad” teacher for English. I thought my whole year was going to tank. Turned out she wasn’t bad at all and was one of my favorite teachers! Waiting it out a bit is very good advice!

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      Diana, it does take time for the teacher and the students to get into a stride. I am glad you waited it out. Sometimes patience is all that is needed. Thanks for your comment.

  35. Fashion and Style Police on August 4, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I agree with all you have said here. These are smart ways of dealing with a bad teacher. Speaking up early is best.

    • Julie Plagens on August 8, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Yes, I agree it is good to speak up if your child’s grades are tanking or the teacher is horribly inappropriate. Other times it is good to wait and see if it is really that bad. Thanks for the comment.

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