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Three Tips for Navigating Tough Conversations with Teachers

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Talking to teachers isn’t always easy. While I’ve had the honor of meeting with some awesome teachers to have amazing conversations about how well my kids are doing in school, I’ve also endured some really challenging meetings. The last couple of years have been dotted with a lot of the latter as my oldest son went from struggling to falling behind to finally being diagnosed with dyslexia.

The first of the hard talks came in third grade, and I found myself wanting to blame his teacher for his struggles. After all, he hadn’t had a hard time before. In fourth grade, I started to feel really frustrated. I cried. A lot. And at the beginning of fifth grade, I felt a bit hopeless. I sat across from my son’s teacher, tried my best to argue on his behalf, and come away mentally exhausted.

There has to be a better way, I thought one day, realizing that these conversations were getting us nowhere besides flustered. I was tired and ready to try something new.

That day I came home and prayed about it. I asked God to give me some insight—to show me how I could walk into these conversations like he would because conversations with God don’t end with worry, they end with peace. And I really needed some peace. At the end of my prayer, I grabbed my journal and I began writing a list of ways that I could bring the peace of the Lord into my conversations with teachers. Here are the top three ideas that I came up with:

  • Remember that the teacher wants what’s best for your kid. This is especially helpful to remember during hard conversations. It’s easy to see the teacher as a villain when your child is struggling, but it isn’t helpful, and seeing them in that light probably won’t make for the best environment. On the other hand, remembering that people often get into teaching because they have a passion for kids and that they signed up for this job because they want the best for every kid that steps into their room, takes the edge off. Acknowledging their passion doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it changes the way you interact, and in turn changes the outcome of the conversation.
  • Listen first. I almost always walk into parent-teacher conferences and conversations with a list of things I’d like to talk about. Afraid that I’ll miss a key point about something they need to know about my son, I miss out on what they’re trying to tell me. The truth is, teachers see our kids almost as much as we do, and they have some great insights into what may be causing the issue. If we speak first instead of listening, we might miss out on something important that we need to know.
  • Say what you mean. A large part of my frustration can probably be directed back at me trying to find the best way to phrase something rather than simply saying what’s on my heart. Like anyone else, teachers can’t read your mind, and they actually appreciate straightforward dialogue. Not only will it save time to say what you mean, but it also helps you avoid rabbit-trails, directing the conversation where it needs to go.

At the end of writing these ideas, I prayed again. I asked God to help me keep these three things in mind before, during, and even after my next meeting, and I was surprised by how well the conversation went. Approaching these meetings from this new perspective, seeing teachers as passionate, taking time to listen, and being upfront about my own feelings really worked. I left the room not in tears, but with a direction. It opened up the lines of communication so well that I began getting more emails and notes from my son’s teacher to update me on his progress.

If you’re where I was and tired of trying to navigate these tough conversations, I would encourage you to try these three things as well and take the time to ask God how you can bring his peace into every interaction.

rebbekkamessenger
Rebbekka is a mother of two awesome boys and a wife to a super cool teacher. She works in children's, women's and youth ministry, and as a Development Director for Vision for the Children International. Her husband recently took a job in Germany where their family will live for two years. You can follow her blog to read about the ups and downs of moving the family abroad at travelingmessengers.com.
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