As you get to know more about your student’s teachers this year, some will immediately stand out, and others may raise a flag of concern. Particularly, in a sometimes-difficult subject like math, parents can be on high alert.
“Most parents probably agree that math is very important for their child’s future,” said Tara Bhatta, founder of The Star Tutor in Chicago. “Given the role of math in a person’s academic and professional life, a parent may be unhappy with a teacher who cannot spark interest in his or her students.”
This type of concern speaks to the important role math teachers — and other teachers — play in a student’s life.
“Teachers perform very, very important jobs,” said Mark Kriston, owner of two Mathnasium learning centers in Chicago. “But that’s kind of a double-edged sword. It offers a great opportunity to help kids, but it can also create a situation where kids cannot receive the benefit of a good teacher and find themselves not liking the subject or feeling bored or frustrated.”
If you feel your student is in this type of situation, it may be necessary to address your concerns.
“As a parent, your first priority is to your child,” Kriston said. “The reason you’re trying to address your unhappiness with a teacher is because you are really advocating for your child and want them to have a good learning experience.”
Here are a few ways to go about resolving issues you may have with your student’s teacher.
—Figure out why
If you are unhappy with your student’s teacher, your first step should be to figure out why you feel this way.
“A parent might be unhappy with a teacher but they may not know exactly why,” Kriston said. “They may see that their child is frustrated, or they may feel like their child is getting a bad grade. A parent sees the symptoms of a problem.
“The last thing they should do is jump to the conclusion that this is because of a bad teacher,” he said.
A few contributing factors could be that the teacher isn’t prepared or supported in his or her role because of staffing or budget shortages. Class size and school curriculum choices may be factors as well.
Also, consider your student.
“Your child may not be putting forth the effort they need to,” Kriston said.
“If your student isn’t prepared, it’s going to be very hard for the teacher to connect with your child.”
—Schedule a meeting
It may be that the teacher or school administration is the cause of your concern. In this case, Kriston suggests setting up a meeting with the teacher or principal. But the most important advice he offers is to go in with an open mind.
“I recommend that parents discuss their concerns with the teacher with an open mind and without rushing to judgment,” he said. “Look at the teacher as a professional, like a lawyer or a doctor, someone you want to work with to remedy the situation.”
It can also be helpful to ask the teacher questions to gather more information about the class and how the teacher feels your student is performing. If there is anything you think the teacher should know about your student, feel free to share.
“Parents should understand the challenges associated with teaching a large group of students and giving individual attention to each student,” Bhatta added. “Parents should communicate well with teachers in order to optimize the teaching-learning process.”
—Seek outside help
Sometimes a situation can’t be remedied within the school year, and you don’t want your student to fall behind or become uninterested in a subject.
“Even if your child is having a less than optimal experience in the classroom, they can go somewhere else and get the support and encouragement they need to stay positive,” said Kriston of Mathnasium, which operates more than 700 math-tutoring centers in the U.S. and Canada.
Especially if your child is struggling, seeking outside help can prove helpful.
“Children often don’t learn that easily with their parents,” said Bhatta. “Sometimes, it’s hard for parents to put themselves in their child’s shoes. At that point, a tutor can be a great addition.”