Problem With a Teacher?
Most teachers are pretty good and it can’t be an easy job, but occasionally parents may have an issue with a teacher that needs to be addressed. We look at how to approach the issue with sensitivity and understanding and asked some mums of school-age kids about their experiences.
How to complain
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that you have all your facts straight. Kids may stretch the truth and as parents it is very easy to be oversensitive (happens to us all!). If you are sure that you have a legitimate concern, then you should make an appointment to discuss the issue with the school principal or head teacher. The school will have procedures set up to deal with complaints, and should be able to deal with most complaints effectively. If you are not satisfied, you can take it to your school’s Board of Trustees.
All teachers have areas of good performance and areas for development, and accordingly, all schools and early childhood centres have in place programmes to support teachers in improving their practice. In some circumstances, however, a principal or head teacher may make an evidence-based judgement, that despite these programmes there are still concerns about teaching competence. In these situations, the school/early childhood centre, if possible, will follow a process to support the teacher to become competent.
In extreme circumstances, you can lodge a complaint with the Teachers Council of New Zealand. Schools must report any complaints of serious misconduct to the Teachers Council. You can only make a complaint to the Teachers Council directly,
• if the teacher is not currently working as a teacher and so the school is unable to deal with the complaint
• if you think the employer will not be able to deal with the complaint because of a conflict of interest
• if you are not satisfied with the way in which the school is dealing with the complaint
• in other exceptional circumstances
For more information about making a complaint to the Teachers Council, see their website.
What our mums had to say
“Everyone has bad days where they’re a bit grumpy and short of patience, but my son’s New Entrant teacher was like that most days. She was cross and actually quite mean to the kids, and pretty rude to parents too. I spoke to some of the other mums who felt the same way, and some had actually complained to the principal. Sadly, nothing came of it as the teacher has been there for many years. We ended up just putting up with it because we were so worried it might make us disliked by the staff. Luckily the next year his teacher was absolutely lovely.”
“I’m currently wondering whether to make a complaint about a teacher my son has for reading recovery. She simply cannot pay a compliment without immediately putting him down and saying something negative – in front of him too. No doubt she’s like this in her personal life as well, but I feel she just has to be negative – even when she’s telling me what huge strides he’s making! I really appreciate getting the feedback, but there is a time and a place for bringing up issues, and that is not in front of the child. I think I’ll start by sending her an email explaining this, because I’m losing too much sleep worrying about it!”
“Several mums approached me to ask if I had any issues with the teacher – they’d all realized that the kids spent hours every day on art, but none on learning to read. In fact, over half the class failed to meet national standards – they’d not even been taught to spell their surnames! A complaint was made to the principal, who was very diplomatic in the way he dealt with it. The teacher did not get her contract renewed at the end of the year and a new, young and motivated teacher took her place.”
Have you experienced any problems with a teacher? Please let us know what happened in the comments below (in the interests of confidentiality please do not identify school or teacher).
Special thanks to www.cab.org.nz (Citizens Advice Bureau) for information.
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