15 Smart Strategies to Surviving 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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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.
In 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.
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.
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/goes too fast
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.
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.
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 with other worksheets. 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.
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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