“My teacher doesn’t like me.”
Maybe you've heard your child utter these words. As an educator and parent, I have heard the statement from children about other teachers, my own children and even from parents of my students.
I asked one of my seventh grade classes today if they had ever made this statement to their parents. Almost every student raised their hand. I also asked them how many of them believed that was actually true. Again, almost every hand went up.
This realization made me want to clarify something with both students and parents. For almost every teacher I have ever worked with — including myself — I can assure you we don’t dislike your child.
Teachers are human. We will encounter students that do frustrating things or challenge us. However, I love each and every child who comes in my classroom. I want them to be successful.
Students are also human; they make mistakes. Although your child may make a poor choice, most teachers understand and know that it’s just that — a mistake. Every day is a new day in the life of a classroom teacher. If a student calls me a name or refuses to do an assignment the day before, they are welcome back in my classroom. We’ll process what happened and learn how to improve, but the next day is an opportunity to grow and keep going.
When I think about why I chose teaching as a career, I believe that it is part of my purpose. My purpose in life is to help others understand their purpose and why they matter. When the young people I teach make a mistake, it reminds me that adolescence is a challenging time. Not every child has an easy life, and even children who live with great families and all the privileges in the world can face adversity and hardship.
My job is not just to teach content but to teach character. If, as adults, we expect our children to show empathy and understanding towards others, we must model that as teachers and parents. For me, that means whenever a child makes a mistake or doesn’t show their best version of themselves, I want to give them the opportunity to start over the next day.
Parents, your child’s teachers love them and care about them. However, when they tell you their teacher doesn’t like them, their perception may be their reality. They may truly believe that. Use this to have a conversation with your child about school and the people around them who love and care about them.
If you determine there really is a conflict with the teacher that needs to be resolved, reach out to that teacher with empathy and understanding towards both your child and their classroom teacher. Chances are, you’ll find out just how much they care about your kid.
Jen Schneider is a local middle school teacher and mom to two children.