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volunteer conflictsNow that school is back in and life is settling into its normal fall routine, it may be a good idea to think about the essential relationship you and your child have with those people responsible for your child’s education: teachers.

As a parent, you want nothing but the best for your child. When it comes to academics, you know your child is a genius. And he or she learns in their own manner – which may include not paying attention in class (because they already know everything and are bored) or not doing homework (because it’s simply a waste of their valuable time since they already know everything) or sometimes not even showing up for class (see above).

So it may come as a shock when your child’s grades don’t reflect how you see them, or when you get a note from a teacher expressing concerns about what’s going on with your child in school. You’ve asked your darling child and have been assured again and again that the teacher is an absolute ogre, with no hope for redemption.

What do you do?

The answer is simple, although not always easy: Regular open and honest communication with your child’s teachers is definitely the best policy.

While not every teacher your child will have is going to be wonderful (some may be downright awful), the best way to help your child is by connecting with their teachers and treating them with respect. (After all, they didn’t pursue this career for the fame and fortune. They’re trying to do their best for your child.)

When there are problems, the first thing to remember is to not go into a meeting with a teacher in attack mode. Righteous anger and finger-pointing won’t go very far toward solving any problems.

Instead, expressing a desire to work together is a strong first step toward resolution.

Second, ask questions. Come with a list of items for discussion, so you can clarify the issues and find out exactly what concerns the teacher has. It’s always better to get the facts rather than making assumptions.

Third, listen to what the teacher has to say and don’t interrupt every 10 seconds with excuses, and to explain away your child’s behaviour or issues. You may not like what you hear and you may not agree with everything the teacher has to say, but by listening you can at least begin to understand the teacher’s perspective and get a sense of what’s happening.

Fourth, even if you feel frustrated, don’t get into personality conflicts, lay blame or tell the teacher how to do their job. Focus on your child and their challenges. By working together, you can hopefully find resolutions.

Fifth, let the teacher know of any mitigating circumstances that may negatively impact your child’s behaviour (e.g. medical problems, a family crisis).

Lastly, even when you come up with solutions, consider volunteering in your child’s class or at their school. This might be just what you need to better understand your child, their teacher and your child’s educational experience.

And remember, while this article deals with the relationship with your child’s teacher, these recommendations apply equally with your child. Respect, and open and honest communication will go a long way toward solving problems and resolving conflict.

Troy Media Columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

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