When a child confides in you that they are feeling targeted by a teacher, it can be difficult to know what steps to take. This can be a sensitive issue and it is important to get all the facts from your child so you are well prepared before approaching the school. It is important to note that generally speaking, teachers do a good job, often under stressful circumstances. However, there are times when pupils are being bullied by teaching staff and knowing how to deal with this is essential.
Gathering all the information from your child
Without disbelieving your child or sounding as though you are, it is important to be able to distinguish whether this is bullying by a teacher or a conflict between your child and teacher over specific reasons. There are some questions you can ask your child in a sensitive manner just to get all the facts, such as:
How long has your child felt this way about this particular teacher?
Has there been any issues of negative behaviour from your child in the class?
Has the teacher acted this way to other students?
Let your child know that you are going to address this and ask them for specific examples that you can use with when and where. If there has been verbal comments that have left your child feeling humiliated or with low self-esteem, find out what was said so you are able to relay this back to the school.
Make some discreet enquiries amongst the parents of your child’s friends. Overt unpleasant remarks are likely to be remembered by other children and reported to their parents. If other parents also have concerns about the way their children are being treated then that might indicate a problem. Discuss with your child what sort of remarks are made and in what circumstances. It might be worth speaking informally to a teacher at the school that either you or your child has a good relationship with. They may be able to give you some insight too on what is going on.
If your child is being criticised for not completing work, then a simple call to the head of year, or a note to the teacher explaining the situation and asking for a meeting with them should help to resolve the problem.
Taking this to the school
Depending on your relationship with the school, you might want to take the first step of resolving this by speaking to the head of year. If you feel a teacher is taking issue with your child and it is becoming regular, you might want to consider making a written complaint to the head teacher, and then to the governors if the problem continues. Particularly if as far as you are aware your child has never had a problem with any other teacher. It is important to request a follow up meeting with the head teacher so you are able to give specific examples and explain in detail how this has left your child feeling.
Obtain a copy of the school’s mission statement or ethos so you are able to point out that your child is not being treated with the respect or courtesy. Ask for a copy of the school’s complaint policy and follow the necessary steps and follow up everything you can in writing so you have a record of all communication and responses. If you feel you have a genuine concern and the head of year or head teacher hasn’t been able to resolve it then make a complaint to the chair of governors.
It is much better to try to sort the problem out diplomatically at a much earlier stage, where possible, because your child is likely to have contact with a teacher over a number of years. Be open to hear what the school have to say, as there may be a behaviour issue in the classroom that you were not aware about so getting all the facts from both the child and the school is important. Try not to overreact and stay calm when speaking to the school. It is normally a good idea to get things on a more formal footing anyway which can carry more weight.
Talking to your child
Supporting your child through this is very important too as your child may be anxious about going to school or really upset about the situation. Give your child space and time to talk about how this has made them feel and encourage them to discuss their feelings openly. They may not want to talk straightaway and perhaps they may feel more able to write down how they feel. For some children, they may feel like they are causing issues, but reassure them that this is not the case and if they are feeling bullied, you are there for them and will get this sorted out. They may need lots of reassurance and comfort at this time so be on hand to be there for them whenever they need your support.