How to talk to your teacher

Trouble at school? Don't panic, no child is an angel. But it's important to offer your tamariki support to improve, while still listening to what the school needs. Here's how.

1) Don't get defensive

It's hard to hear your child criticised, but remember your child's teacher has their best interests at heart. 

"My son's teacher called me and said he was disruptive in class," says Atamai. "I went off, telling him he was a bad teacher and it was his fault. I couldn't handle it, but it just made things harder for my son at school."

If the teacher is calling you, accept there is some truth in his words and he wants to help. Parents and teachers should be a team. 

2) Ask for specifics

If your teacher says your son is disruptive, ask for examples to demonstrate how. The clearer the examples she can give you, the better you can understand the problem. If you recognise that some of that behaviour at school also happens at home, mention it - then you can come up with strategies to help your child together.

3) Find out who else is involved

"My 10-year-old daughter got into trouble for hitting a boy in her class," says Gina. "But when I spoke to her I discovered that another girl had bullied her into doing it."

It may be that your child is struggling to fit in, is being bullied by others, or is trying to distract attention from the fact they are struggling academically. Work with your child's teacher to find out the full story.

4) Is this behavioural or academic?

Once you know what your child is doing and who else is involved, find out when it happens. Is your daughter always disruptive straight after lunch? Check they are eating properly at school. Is your son always rude to the maths teacher and excluded from class? Perhaps he's too embarrassed to admit he needs help. Find the root cause of the issue and support your teacher to help your child overcome it.

5) What help can we get outside the school?

This is perhaps the most important question to ask. If behavioural problems persist, then the school has a responsibility to call in extra help. Perhaps your child needs to be assessed for a learning disability like dyslexia? Perhaps they would benefit from the help of an RTLB to build a more supportive peer group? The school can ask the Ministry of Education to provide support, so if this isn't a one-off issue, ask them directly what else they can do for your child.  

Remember, you role is as your child's advocate. Always be polite, try to work with the school, and don't be too hard on your tamariki - we all make mistakes, it is how we deal with them that is important.