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What to Do If Your Child Gets the Mean Teacher

Your Child Got the "Mean" Teacher?! Here's How to Deal

Every school has one teacher whose name instills fear — or, at the very least, low-level anxiety — in every elementary school kid and parent. You've heard the rumors. He doesn't believe in the sanctity of snack time. She has been known to skip recess. He doesn't even have a reward bucket/chest/drawer. In a word, she's the mean teacher, and your child was just assigned to her classroom.

Before you march to the principal's office and demand a redo, read the following tips on why sticking with a less-than-warm-and-fuzzy teacher might just be the best thing for your kid — and how to deal if you're positive it's not.

Don't believe the hype.

When a friend of mine's second grader was assigned her school's "mean" teacher last year, she was initially worried. The classroom environment did seem much less fun and free than what her child had experienced in kindergarten and first grade. But when she asked her daughter if she was enjoying school and her teacher, she enthusiastically replied "yes" over and over again. Just because a teacher might have a reputation for being tough doesn't mean that your child won't like them. Give them time to make their own assessments, and try to put aside the rumors to make your own unbiased judgments.

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Think of it as a "teachable" moment.

A bad teacher can actually be a blessing, providing your child an early lesson in dealing with different types of personalities and adapting to less-than-ideal situations. It might take some time to adjust to a teacher that isn't as nurturing or sweet-natured as their previous teachers, but odds are, your kid will make the adjustment and do just fine in that class. Remember, it's only one grade level, and one less-than-perfect teacher isn't likely to derail your child's education or love of learning.

If your child continues to complain about the teacher well into the school year, resist the urge to join in the negative talk. You want to teach your kids that teachers should be respected and obeyed. Instead, encourage your child to keep working directly with their teacher to solve their classroom problems instead of laying all the blame on the teacher for those issues.

Get all the info before you get involved.

If your child is suffering, either personally or in terms of their learning, because of a "mean" teacher, you'll eventually feel the need to get involved. But before you go into the classroom or principal's office with guns blazing, take a minute to compose yourself and build up your intel. Establish all the basic facts your child has provided (realizing that they might not be relaying all the information or a truly accurate report) and set up an adults-only meeting with the teacher. Take a diplomatic tone, expressing your child's concerns without accusing the teacher of being at fault. You don't want to put the teacher on the defensive, but instead enlist them as an ally in your child's education. If, after a few meetings, you're convinced your child won't be able to succeed in his current classroom environment, that's the time to reach out to other, similarly concerned classroom parents and, eventually, to confront the principal.

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