What to Do When No One Will Listen to Me
First determine what it is that you want to say. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the job of parenting and your child’s problems at school seem to be the last straw, venting to your child’s teacher is probably not your best option. Choose family or friends for that, or maybe a parent website on the internet. On the other hand, if your child is having a problem at school and you want to be part of the solution, go ahead and call the school. Your child’s teacher will listen to you, if for no other reason than that it is part of the job description. He will also listen, if he is a good teacher, because he wants your child to learn from him. Teachers are paid to impart knowledge, and if your child is having problems learning then his teacher is having problems, too.
So don’t hesitate to contact your child's teacher. It's important to resolve problems as soon as possible when they occur. Don't wait for the school to contact you – no one but you knows that last night your child was able to spell every one of the words she missed on a test. Remember that when you talk to the teacher; you are privy to information about your child that he does not know. Before you assume an adversarial position, keep that in mind. The teacher did not hear your child explaining Hamlet’s fatal flaw to you at breakfast, so she may not be surprised at the below average test grade on the play. Neither did she hear your child crying over the grade, so she may not realize the impact it has had.
When parents work with teachers, they are often able to improve a child's performance in school. Ask your child's teacher for specific activities you can do at home with your child and help the teacher better understand what works best with your child. A child who can track his allowance but doesn’t seem to understand fractions may simply need to hear a teacher say that a quarter is ¼ of a dollar – in fact, a “quarter” of that dollar. Your child who can’t seem to sit still in social studies will certainly not be able to sit still in science if the teacher had her stay inside and read quietly during recess. How still is still enough? A reprimand that allowed her to burn some energy during that time– cleaning blackboards, picking up books, running errands – might have a better result. Offer your own observations and carefully consider the teacher’s observations, too. You each see the same child in completely different contexts and together you have the opportunity to unite and conquer whatever the problem may be.
If you feel like no one will listen to you because you don’t have the time or opportunity to meet with your child’s teachers, then take a deep breath right now and slowly release it. You are not alone. It is often difficult to arrange time from work for a conference, especially when you want and need to address the problem now instead of a week or two down the road. Make a phone call during your break and leave a message for the teacher, being sure to mention the best times when she can call you back. Ask the school secretary for the teacher’s email address – it may even be available on-line at the school’s website. That way you don’t have to worry about being available for a phone call during work. Your school should try to work with you on this. Parent involvement is a driving force in education these days, and no concerned parent will be turned away at the door.
Make it clear that if the teacher sees a problem developing, you want to hear about it immediately. Then, meet or correspond with your child's teacher frequently until the problem is resolved. Be respectful of the teacher’s time – yours is not the only child she has in her classroom – and hold up your end of the resolution process. If you pledged to read with your child, or do sums with your child, or check her work or go to the dinosaur exhibit at the museum, do it. Yours is the example your child will follow.
Finally, make sure that you are willing to listen yourself. Any attempt to resolve a problem in your child’s education will be cooperative between your child, the teacher, and you. Yours must not be the only voice you hear. Perhaps when you thought no one would listen to you, you were just speaking too loudly to hear their response!
As a parent, you will feel a sense of accomplishment when you help your child succeed in school. You cannot solve all their problems or fight all their battles – it wouldn’t be right or appropriate if you could -- but you can offer complete support and positive reinforcement. Children get the sense that education is really important when they see their parents involved with their teachers and their school.
If you feel like no one will listen to you, you are mistaken. Again, be sure to pick the right audience – venting has its place and it is not your child’s school. But if you are respectful and reasonable and appropriately concerned, your child’s teacher should listen to you. In fact, you might be welcomed with open arms.
There are further options, of course. The school administration should be told if your child’s teacher does not return calls or emails, or is uncooperative in person. If you seem to run up against a brick wall, there is always the school board, or the option of changing schools.
Also take advantage of the parents’ forums and websites on the internet. Find out how others solved the problem when no one would listen to them. In these communities of concerned, involved parents, you may find a valuable resource of support and encouragement throughout your child’s school years.
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Phone: 800-979-4436 - Fax: 530-295-3583