Teacher from Hell: Tips for Dealing With Difficult Teachers

Wondering how you should be dealing with difficult teachers? Make nice with your child's not-so-nice teacher with these 16 tips.

Maybe you knew you were in trouble as soon as you realized your son or daughter got “that” teacher this school year. Dealing with difficult teachers is no picnic for kids — and same goes for parents.

But if you’re left feeling out of the loop, misunderstood, frustrated or even infuriated, don’t fret.

Fostering a better relationship with your child’s teacher may take a little work at first, but the results are well worth it in the end.

If you’re lost on where to start, try these tips for dealing with difficult teachers and pave the way to school success.

1. Meet the teacher

Have you met your child’s teacher face-to-face? A five-minute introduction can develop rapport and make a world of difference.

If it’s truly impossible, a friendly email or note is invaluable.

2. Don’t project

Your old school anxieties are precisely that — yours. It is common for a son or daughter to have similar school struggles, but try not to fall into this trap. A fresh mind is best.

3. Show up

Get involved with your kid’s school. Attend open house, meet-your-teacher, back-to-school and talent show events. Most are held in the evenings, so working parents can come. If not, call the administrator with suggestions.

Discover what your child is learning. Ask questions. Encourage your child to share. Communicate. Send quick “just checking in” emails to the teacher throughout the year.

4. Keep emotions at bay

If you’re upset over a school-related incident, allow yourself the chance to rant, rave and growl to a friend or loved one. Then, prep yourself to meet the teacher when you are calm.

If you find it difficult, send a neutral note or bring a friend to the conference.

5. Create a common ground

Don’t like what you’re seeing? Start with some common ground. “Miss Smith, I simply love the new social studies project, but I do have questions about the homework procedures.”

6. Use humor

Remember that a teacher is human who gets up in the morning and sometimes grumbles about school as well. Insert humor into your interactions to create rapport.

7. Fill them in

Tell your child’s teacher about your child’s positive qualities. No need to immediately reveal weaknesses. Often, a child behaves very differently at school. If there’s a problem, the teacher will make you aware.

8. Keep the teacher out of it

Never make it personal. Instead of saying, “I just don’t get your grading system,” you should say, “Let’s chat about the grading procedure in your classroom.” Always make a complaint or question directly about school procedures, curriculum or philosophy.

9. Don’t jump to conclusions

Ask a lot of questions. Factor in junior’s age and the possibility that some of his perceptions may be a bit off.

Instead of an accusatory “Why didn’t you punish John for yelling at my child?” try saying, “My child said something to me yesterday that concerns me. I would like to fact check this with you.”

10. Add some charm

Remember holidays and teacher appreciation days. Teaching is difficult, and most teachers are in it for the love of children. Maybe some have lost sight of that.

Try warming their hearts with a child-made card, a gift card to a coffee shop with a note or try a creative gifts for teachers.

11. Volunteer in the classroom

What a great way to get a bird’s eye view into your child’s world at school. A one-time afternoon goes a long way toward showing appreciation to the teacher.

By volunteering at school, seeing your child in her daily environment may also relieve some of your concerns.

12. Show enthusiasm

Yes, there are inadequate teachers and schools. Teach your child that learning can be separate – and fun. Nourish the love of learning in your child.

13. Appreciate the opportunity

If your child is having difficulty, seize this teaching moment. Let him know problems are a part of life. Teach your child how to deal with problems through honest communication and a positive attitude.

14. Make a list

Do parent-teacher conferences give you the butterflies? Make a list of concerns or worries to take with you. Or send an email with these questions prior to the conference.

15. Don’t badmouth

Try not to complain about your child’s teacher in front of the child. A child’s relationship with his teacher is significant. Don’t undermine it.

Help your child become comfortable in his classroom. Help him to become an excited learner. The more passionate a child is about learning, the more education he will seek.

16. Involve the administrator

Ideally, he or she should be involved only if other methods of communication (above tips) haven’t worked. This gives a clear message that the parent doesn’t feel heard by the teacher.

Have you had difficult situations with your child’s teacher? How were you able to work it out? Let us know about your success with dealing with difficult teachers in the comments.

This post was originally published in 2010 and is updated regularly.

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  1. Unsurprisingly this article reflects the typical out of touch bias and self centeredness of the typical school parent. My sister is a grade school teacher and is constantly complaining about these entitled types.
    The author urges readers to consider the possibility their child’s perceptions may be “a bit” off. How about assuming for starters that your child is exaggerating or flat out lying? Children think about little besides their own desires and feelings. One should not jump to defend their child against a teacher. If your child thinks the teacher doesn’t like him or her, considered that the teacher may have good reasons. Teachers are human and they are not going to like children who misbehave in their classroom. If my sister has a parent come to her accusing her of persecuting their child, it’s because the child was a brat and was being punished or because the teacher isn’t going to tolerate the same type of behavior or provide opportunities from the troublemaker as other students. And don’t think that you will sound friendly by suggesting a “chat” about the teachers grading policies. For one, at this stage your kids grades do not matter at all. Additionally, teachers work hard on devising a grading scheme, and making sure assignments are fairly graded. It’s not your place to you question them or make critiques or suggestions based on your limited view as a parent of a single child in a classroom of several dozen. Parents tend to think that teachers are just individuals who failed at other career efforts, and they assume that they couldn’t do the teacher’s job better than them if they chose to. Nothing could be further from the case. Given that a good portion of all children are bratty and spoiled, even though they grow up to be normal well adjusted adults, chances are if your child is having problems in school they are the source of the problem and should be the focus of your remedial efforts.

    • Goodness, it sounds as though you’ve been touched by some rather negative experiences during your time as a teacher, but are a good portion of children really so “bratty and spoiled” as you suggest? This sort of language often comes from a place of frustration and insecurity. If you are confident and grounded in your abilities as a teacher, you should be able to step back and see things a little more philosophically. Parents will always want to know what is going on in the classroom, some more so than others, they simply want what’s best for their children, and this is especially true of younger primary age pupils. Young children are learning to negotiate a new world based on a limited set of experiences, which in itself is full of challenges, and if you can help them navigate those experiences in a positive way, then you will have an easier time of it. It’s true that some children will require more patience than others, but then that is the challenge you signed up for, isn’t it? Children come with parents and parents come with expectations, it’s as simple as that. Learn to navigate the parents and keep an open channel for communication and you will have done half the job. And remember, teachers judge too; a ‘challenging child’ does not make for a ‘bad parent.’ Try to be a little kinder to yourself and a little more open to communication with the families of your students and perhaps you will understand better their concerns. The article above has clearly come out of a necessity for parents to want to communicate better with their children’s teachers, but it only works if both parties are on board. Good luck and stay level-headed.

      • Well explained. Thank you, Michelle, for your reply
        I truly appreciate there are still great educators out there like yourself that leave great memories on students’ life that they will always appreciate.
        Thank you!

    • Not necessarily. I know a student that’s suffering now. And we have sought meeting after meeting to no avail to have my student removed from the class. They won’t do it

    • I think your sister needs to quit teaching . We need teachers that will be able to handle any situation that comes there way. But not with anger or hate or bullying. Picking & choosing who they like or do not like because of the effort she needs to make Maybe the kid is going through something at home and is seeking attention or understanding. Quit making excuses for your sister. A child needs guidance & direction from the teacher and if she can not give it than she needs to remove herself and let someone else step in that’s wants too.

  2. To any parent who considers approaching a teacher in the manner suggested above, please understand how obtuse and self-centered you will appear to the teacher by trying to nitpick and focus attention on your child. Teachers do not have time or the compensation to oblige them to check in with parents, exchange emails, or hear unsolicited advice from a layperson on how to perform the jobs they spent years being educated and trained for. So understand that engaging in such behavior, no matter how much “charm” you apply or how much you volunteer, approaching your child teacher in this way will make them despise you, which may also cause them to anticipate behavioral issues from your child and unsolicited and unhelpful feedback from yourself (over volunteering or being overly eager will be seen by teachers as a transparent warning sign that you are a “problem parent” and will not be appreciated. It’s very distracting to have you around the class, particularly to your own child. And parents who seem to expect high levels of interaction with their child’s teacher signals that your child is a behavior problem who has required frequent interaction with past teachers).

    If you’re now wondering, well how do I ensure my child is keeping up in school? there are normally parent-teacher conferences usually scheduled on at least a bi-yearly basis. If more involvement from you is required, rest assured your child’s teacher will make sure you are on notice of that. Besides these opportunities, you’d do yourself and your kid a favor by resisting all urges to monopolize the time of school faculty. Just relax and enjoy the free childcare provided by the state. Ensure there are consequences for poor report cards and poor classroom behavior. Your sphere of influence is the child’s home life, let the professionals handle them at school

  3. I think this is great advice. As an educator, I would hope that if a parent had a concern that they would reach out so we could figure out best how to support their student.

  4. That Wesh character is terrifying. I sure hope she/he is not an educator. They clearly have some anger management issues and should stay far away from children.

    Wesh stated that “Teachers do not have time or the compensation to oblige them to check in with parents…” “approaching your child teacher in this way will make them despise you…” “…will be seen by teachers as a transparent warning sign that you are a ‘problem parent’ ”

    That right there is the problem!

  5. Unsurprisingly there is someone responding with a generalization that only wants to lay blame on parents and students when in fact, there are bitter, biased and unprofessional teachers that went into the wrong field. Unless you know each situation individually, you are making an assumption and we all know what kind of person does that. Maybe if your sister is complaining all the time, she is in the wrong profession. I have worked in schools for over 20 years and there are absolutely “humans” that should not be in charge of a classroom. From the anger and tunnel vision view you seem to have, it may benefit you to reflect on why you get so emotionally upset over an article and likely many other things in life.

  6. Thank you for this article. I am currently dealing with a teacher that may be showing favoritism to certain students based on merit. It’s so scary how within 3 months time the teacher has hand picked her “angels”. This article has helped a lot. Seeing things or addressing things objectively can be a challenge when it has to do with your own child. This article really helped to see what is considered overreacting vs reasonable concerns.
    Thank you so much


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