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‘My teacher hates me!’

Boy unhappy at school
There are some things you never want to hear your child say, and when it comes to his education, “Mummy, my teacher doesn’t like me!” tops the list. So what can you do if your child insists the teacher thinks they’re bottom of the class? Sarah Ebner offers some advice.

Your child-teacher conflict action plan

  • Start by finding out more about why your child believes there is such a problem with their teacher. Don’t panic – it’s vital that you stay calm in order to try to help. You can’t just go rushing to school making accusations; you need to be properly prepared.
  • Give yourself time to chat through the problem with your child, and ask specific questions about what has happened and when. This will help reveal how serious the problem is, or if your child is overstating the facts a little (for example, they might not actually like the teacher, but that doesn’t mean they’re being treated badly). This is also important because, if something really serious is going on, you will need to arm yourself with proper evidence before you speak to the school.
  • Personality clashes can, and do, happen in the classroom, and they can prove to be particularly tricky in primary school because children have just one (or sometimes two) teachers each year. If the situation sounds salvageable, speak to the teacher about it first. Make sure you’re tactful, as Margaret Morrisey from Parents OutLoud recommends. “Suggest to the teacher that your child is struggling to form a relationship with them. Ask if they could try to keep an eye on what’s going on and for suggestions on how best to work it out. Don’t infer that it’s the teacher’s fault or accuse them; their defence will be that you don’t know what the child is like in the classroom. You need to be polite, but also to get to the bottom of it. You could always suggest meeting again in a few weeks to see how things have improved.”
  • If the situation is seriously affecting your child and you don’t think it would help to speak to the teacher, make an appointment to see the headteacher and make sure you bring your evidence to the meeting. The head’s responsibility is to work with your child and the teacher to sort out the problem if at all possible. Sometimes the whole thing is a misunderstanding, and the teacher is horrified when it is mentioned. Unfortunately, at other times, this is not the case. The headteacher can address this through discussions with the teacher, as well as lesson observations.
  • If your school is a two-form entry school, you could ask for your child to switch classes. Leaving the school altogether is not a brilliant solution as it could look like “running away”. Do try to see if the situation could be resolved in other ways.
  • Approach the school governors only if you feel there is nothing more the headteacher can do (or if you think they haven’t done enough). Contacting Ofsted is a much more serious last resort.

Uncover the real problem

Don’t forget to consider that sometimes children use the “my teacher hates me” line to cover up other challenges they’re facing. Yes, it could be a personality clash or a genuine example of bad teaching, but it could also be that your child is struggling in school or behaving badly. In other words, ask yourself some honest questions about your child’s school experience, and consider if there are any other issues (friendships, for example) which might be the real cause of their unhappiness.

Sarah Ebner is the author of The Starting School Survival Guide: everything you need to know when your child starts school.

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