- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

With ineffective student-teacher relationships, "you'll rarely find a situation where one party is 100 percent right or wrong," says Diane Smallwood, president of the National Association of School Psychologists.

Ms. Smallwood, who holds a doctorate in psychology and has spent 24 years as a school psychologist, offers suggestions to parents whose children face a dicey classroom experience.

•First, talk to your child to learn more about why the classroom situation is not working. What is your child reacting to? Beyond the "I hate school" statement, there must be other underlying factors. Once you understand those, you are in a better position to explain them to your child's teacher.

•Talk with the teacher. Give the teacher more information about how unhappy the child is in the classroom. Parents can help teachers understand their children by offering information about strategies that might work best, because observant parents know their children better than anyone.

•Talk to the principal. School leadership is an imperative link to the success between students, teachers and parents. The principal might choose to sit down with the teacher and the student to do some problem-solving. The principal and other administrators will be supportive of their staff, but the principal also will be the leader in terms of helping to improve a situation.

•Refrain from being critical of the teacher to your child because it makes the child less likely to feel comfortable in the classroom. Most situations have good and bad elements. Find the positives and help your child build on those.

•You can ask for a switch, but policies about class assignments vary from school to school. In most cases, the principal will want to work things out in another way. Do not expect to have public disclosure about whatever actions are taken by the principal to help remediate the teacher's deficiencies, whatever they might be.

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