How to Talk to a Teacher about a Concern

Parents often ask me what they should do when they object to something their children are taught or exposed to at school. You may be one of those parents who wonders how to handle such a situation.

It's understandable that you feel angry, but venting your anger on the teacher isn't a particularly good way to influence what happens in class. Instead, I recommend that you engage in a conversation. I call it the "Help Me Understand" technique. Here are the three steps involved:

FIRST, ask the teacher to help you understand the reason behind a method she is using or an activity she is having the class do. Literally start the conversation with the phrase "Help me understand..." Say it in a non-threatening way, not with a tone of "how dare you teach this to my son!"

At this point in the conversation you simply want to know why the teacher chose the questionable activity or book or lesson. You may discover that the teacher's reason was entirely different than what you assumed.  

SECOND, affirm what the teacher is trying to do in general. For example, you may object to the particular book being used, but you can appreicate that she wants the students exposed to a certain literary style or current issue. I recommend that you talk for a bit about what you like about the general idea that is motivating the teacher's choice. Your concerns are not an attack on the teacher. You like what the teacher is trying to do in a general sense.

THIRD, transition to your concern by using the phrase "But have you considered...." The teacher may not have considered certain unintended consquences. Maybe the material is too emotionally mature for the students; or maybe the teacher's emphasis on one topic implies that other opinions are invalid. In other words, the teacher's motives may be good, but she hasn't thought about other results from her choices.

The goal of your conversation should not only be to improve the classroom environment or lesson, it should also be to help the teacher grow in her understanding of how her lessons may impact her students. The teacher isn't your competition for your child's development, she is your partner. Having that persepective helps you show the love of Christ while also discussing your concern.