Tackling Teacher Troubles
By Melinda Means
CBN.com I was mad. Fit to be tied. I had just pulled into the school parking lot when my 11-year-old daughter sprinted to the van, clearly upset. Unable to contain herself, the words tumbled out in a breathless, angry, jumbled rush. Gradually, I untangled a disturbing tale. Molly’s teacher had just ripped up her language final exam – worth one-quarter of her grade.
“Mom, you know I wouldn’t cheat. A lot of people were talking during and after they finished the test,” she explained tearfully. “I only said a couple of words, but then all of a sudden she blew up and said she was making me the example!”
I was not surprised. It had been a rough year so far. Molly’s teacher was often moody and inconsistent. She’d let chaos reign one day only to rule with an iron fist the next. Molly knew better than to talk during a test. Still, I was frustrated with yet another instance of seemingly inconsistent and unfair execution of a rule.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, as I made a furious march toward the classroom, determined to right this injustice. Fortunately, it was a long walk because it gave the Holy Spirit a chance to speak to my heart. Maybe Molly can learn something from this, He seemed to say. Calm down. Listen to what her teacher has to say.
By the time I reached the door, my blood pressure had almost returned to normal. Instead of attacking, I listened to the teacher’s side of the story. While it still seemed unfair that my daughter was the only one who paid the price for an infraction many committed, the fact that she broke an obvious rule could not be disputed.
In the end, I decided not to protest the consequence and the resulting “C” on her report card. It was an expensive lesson, but a memorable one that I believe may help Molly avoid costlier ones later on.
Over the course of the school year, I learned that it is possible to minimize conflict and promote understanding even if you often don’t see eye-to-eye with the teacher. Here are a few principles that I found helpful:
Be present. I volunteered in the classroom often and chaperoned as many field trips as I could. It showed the teacher that I cared and helped bank some goodwill when I had to approach her with an issue of disagreement.
Be calm. As frustrated as I was at times, I quickly realized that I’d make more progress by approaching Molly’s teacher with a calm and open demeanor. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Prov. 29:11)
Be instructive. Life isn’t fair. The difficulties, however, provide many opportunities for our children to learn and grow. Some lessons we explored included respecting authority figures even when we don’t agree with them and accepting personal responsibility for obeying the rules even when they aren’t being enforced consistently. I emphasized that our Ultimate Authority is God and He is always fair and worthy of our love and obedience.
Asking questions, listening to my daughter’s feelings, and helping her problem-solve herself without always “coming to her rescue” enhanced our relationship and her ability to handle future challenges.
Melinda Means is a freelance writer who lives with her family in southwest Florida. Her work has appeared in Focus on the Family's Focus on Your Child newsletters; Vista: A Journal of Holy Living and Journey, A Woman's Guide to Intimacy with God. She is a regular contributor to A Time to Love online magazine.
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