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158: The Roadmap for: How to Have a Productive Convo with a Teacher

By October 5, 2021November 8th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast

In this episode, I’m sharing a tangible roadmap for how to talk to your kid’s teacher when there is a problem at school.

  • Start by seeing the teacher’s perspective. Teachers get a lot of emails. Keep yours short and sweet. Acknowledge and respect their time.

I know you are juggling a lot and your time is valuable. I’m concerned about _____ and would like to get your thoughts and/or set a time that works for you to discuss ways to support my kid at school. 

  • Listen more than you talk. Hear from the teacher.
  • Ask what and how questions to empower the teacher in supporting your child.

As always, thanks for listening, and be sure and head over to Facebook and you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community, where we post tips and tools and do pop up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

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0 (1s):
My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast at Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. You’re listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode 1 58. So this week I want to talk about how to have a productive conversation with your kid’s teacher. This is inspired by my daughter’s college roommate Italia, and we got to know Italia. She lives in California. We live in Texas and the girls go to school together. It was a potluck kind of random selection.

0 (44s):
And these two girls have just fallen in love with each other, both from very different backgrounds. We’re Jewish Italia is her. She was brought up as an evangelical Christian. So we’re, you know, you would think that we were so different. And yet these two girls came together and they are like soul sisters. So we got to know Italia because we spent some time in Colorado this last summer, and Italia came up and stayed with us for about a week. And, you know, whenever you live with people, it’s like you become family.

0 (1m 24s):
And, and it was so neat because my daughter has two brothers. And so she’s never had a sister. And, and because the girls lived together last year, it was like this sisterly connection. And it just was like very quickly Italia became part of our family. So I was talking with, with the girls one night, we were out to dinner and, and we were all just having, you know, it’s so funny when kids are little, it’s like the worst to go out to dinner with them. And it’s just, I mean, indigestion, like I just, eventually I realized like I hate going out to dinner with my children, so I’m just not going to do it.

0 (2m 7s):
And the good news is for all of you who are like, but how will they ever know that believe me, they they’ll learn how to behave out to dinner when they’re actually at an age where they enjoy being out to dinner. So we were out at this like really nice restaurant in this tiny town in Colorado. And, and it was, it was just like so fun to talk with the teenagers and just to have conversations, you know, they’re like full fledged people and they are like appreciating good food and just super fun. So, so Italia is a math major and, and we were just talking about, you know, what do you think you’re gonna go into?

0 (2m 48s):
Or do you have any idea? You don’t need to have any idea yet. I think it’s ridiculous that, you know, kids go to college and at 18 years old, you’re supposed to like, know exactly what you want to be when you grow up. When I kind of feel like college is the time to take lots of classes and explore and figure it out. And so we were just talking, I was like, what do you do as a math major? Like, does that mean that you’re on the path to becoming a teacher? And she was like, oh God, now she’s like maybe a college professor, but not a teacher. And I was like, why? After getting to know you, she has this joy in her, this like, love of just like nature and the, the simple things in life.

0 (3m 36s):
I mean, literally, like she would see things where she had never been to Colorado before. And there were these little foxes that would just, and we were right in town, but we got these glimpses of these like foxes that would just be like running behind our house. And she would see beautiful things, like beautiful flowers, foxes, birds, and it would bring tears to our eye. Like, she just was like, she’s just a lover of life. She’s just a delightful human. And she does have a childlike joy about her that I could just imagine her being like the pied Piper, you know, like she’d be in a magnificent Teacher.

0 (4m 19s):
And, and I said, I said, I said, why not? She’s like, well, I did some tutoring in high school. And, and I was like, yeah, it’s not your thing. You didn’t like, you didn’t appreciate like helping a child get a concept that they couldn’t get before you, and then you explained it in just such a way. And it didn’t feel rewarding. She’s like, no, no, no, that part was great. She’s like, it’s the, it was the parents. And I was like, yeah, tell me more. She was like, it’s the worst? Like the parents are all crazy. And I’m like, yeah. She’s like, yes, it’s like, they just care about the grade. And they don’t really care about their kid getting the concepts.

0 (5m 1s):
And, you know, she’s like, you know, I love math. You know, I, I, in my daughter had also had loves math and she had an amazing math teacher in high school for two years. He taught her and like these advanced classes and he described math as solving math puzzles. And, and he had a very different approach for teaching math. And I was telling her about this teacher and Italia was like, yes, it’s like, you’re, it’s like a tangible puzzle that you’re trying to solve. And I just, I love math. She’s like, and I could imagine loving teaching math, but the parents didn’t care about all that.

0 (5m 44s):
They just cared about the grade and the grade and the grade. And they just got so crazy about it. And, and they put so much pressure on their kid and their kid would be stressed out and then it would stress me out and they, and they would just like, she was kind of describing a lot of helicopter parenting. And I was like, yeah, that’s I was like, and I said, you know, it’s just, it shouldn’t be that way. Like parents want great teachers, like, like knowing you and knowing your brain, you would be an amazing teacher. And parents want their kids to be taught by amazing teachers. And the fact that it’s parents who are running amazing teachers off, like, I feel like parents need to know this, you know, we get, so I think because so many of us were raised in that fixed mindset culture, which is it’s all about the grade.

0 (6m 36s):
It’s all about the achievement. It’s all about the trophy. We forget that. Like, it’s really all about the, the feeling, a sense of accomplishment feeling a sense like, like instilling in our kids, a love of learning, a love of figuring out that math puzzle. Like I remember the math teacher when we went to the parent night, Avery’s favorite math teacher. He was like, a lot of you are not going to like the way I teach math, because I’m not going to give your kids 30 problems to figure out on the test. A lot of times I’m going to give him one and y’all, this was advanced math. It was like, it was like calculus or something. And, and he said, I might give him one.

0 (7m 17s):
He goes, and it’s a two hour test. And I’m going to see for, you know, an hour and 50 minutes, your kid breathing heavy and, and, and, and tugging at their hair and, and stressed and doing all the things. And then in the last 10 minutes, I see kids jump up out of their seat, pump the air and like, say things like, yes. And that is the moment like, that is the moment that I live for. And I thought about that. And I’m like, yeah, that like, there’s a, and I don’t know, I can’t remember the term, but it’s like, it’s like that sweet spot of, of you’re challenged just enough.

0 (8m 7s):
Like, you know, that it’s not beyond you to figure out this challenge. And so you stick with it and you stick with it. You know, like if you were sitting there, you know, trying to figure out a calculus problem, but the highest math you’ve ever done was algebra two. Like, no, that’s too much challenge that it’s going to cause you to feel defeated and just give up. But when the challenge is in that sweet spot, and then you conquer it and you, and you solve the problem, like the intense dopamine hit that comes from that, you know, you can receive that on the athletic field. You can receive that in lots of areas in your life.

0 (8m 47s):
I mean, I know I receive it when I’m trying to figure out different, you know, business challenges or how to convey a message, just so, and I can’t figure it, but then I crack the code and it’s like, ah, that dopamine hit that you get from, from overcoming and succeeding. I think so often we’re like, we miss that. We miss that. That’s kind of the point. That’s what helps people to feel alive. And we have an opportunity if we stop being so focused on the grade and the trophy and the achievement and the getting into just this college in exactly the grade point average.

0 (9m 28s):
And where’s your class ranking and dah, dah, dah, dah. And a lot of times those things do come when we sort of just like, get out of the way and allow our kids to have some struggle, but we’re in so much fear that they’re not going to achieve, and they’re not going to do the thing that we accidentally that fear is kind of like driving the bus and we get in the way, and then we run the good people off because fear is in charge. And anytime fear is in charge, it’s never, it’s just never going to turn out the way we’d hoped. You know, even if we allow the fear to be in charge and we brow beat our kids into that same fixed mindset of achieving, achieving, achieving, but then your kid goes in, you’re hiring all the tutors and you’re putting all the pressure on the tutors and, and you’re doing all the things and everyone’s in fear, nobody’s really working together and maybe your kid does get the high act score and into the great college, but then your kid goes to that great college and they have a mental health crisis, you know, where’s that coming from?

0 (10m 39s):
And so I was just like, oh, kills me that, that a lot of the people who should be the most impactful teachers, the future teachers are not going into the profession because of the parents. Like, they’re even look, I could get on a whole other tangent about how it’s app. It’s actually disgusting to me that we live in a culture that doesn’t, you know, the pay scale for teachers doesn’t reflect the importance of their jobs. Like it’s kind of like moms, you know, feeling like, like when you talk to a mom who is a stay-at-home mom and she’s like, well, I’m just a mom.

0 (11m 24s):
And it’s like, really just a mom shaping and raising a human, you know, like yeah. Or, you know, oh, you know, tell me about you. Well, I do, I’m a lawyer and I’m a, this and I’m that. Oh yeah. And I’m a mom like raising and shaping the humans is sort of the most important thing. Like, like without raising and shaping the humans, like we don’t, we don’t evolve. Like that’s why we are here and we exist. So like the whole teaching profession, I know in other cultures outside of America, it is quite often, you know, I’m the same kind of par with being a doctor or being a lawyer, but it is not that way in our culture.

0 (12m 9s):
So here we have these brilliant young minds who could be, you know, these impactful teachers, not going into the profession. And it’s not even because of the pay scale. Like she didn’t even mention. Yeah. And I want to make more money, which is understandable. Like I’m the smart kid. And I, I want to make more money. You know, I want to make more money than the teaching profession provides. She didn’t even mention that. She just mentioned it. No. Cause cause dealing with parents would be a nightmare. So, so I want y’all to think about how you are approaching teachers when your kids are struggling at school, when they bring home a grade that you believe is, you know, below their aptitude.

0 (12m 58s):
Right. So how are you then approaching, solving that problem? You know, do you email the teacher? Do you set up a meeting with the teacher? How are you talking to your child about it? Do you feel like you’re working with your kid’s teacher and with your kids’ school to help solve that problem, to help give your kid the support that they need. And are you being a part of the problem? Are you being part of the solution? Okay. So the SAP productive conversation process that I teach S a P how to master empathy without feeling like a SAP so that you can have a truly productive conversation, right?

0 (13m 44s):
We’re we want, we here’s a problem we want to solve. How do we actually communicate with the other people involved in this problem and then work together to solve the problem? Okay. So this is your tangible sort of Roadmap to solve the problem. So how are you approaching it? And if you send your kids Teacher, if you always start it by number one, going over your kids, teachers had, and going directly to the administrators, I want you to reconsider that. Okay. Always start with the direct parties involved.

0 (14m 25s):
First and foremost, you talked to your kid. Okay. And if your kid’s like, she hates me or he hates me, they’re just unfair. They’re a bad teacher. They like other people more than me. They didn’t tell us something was on the test. Yada, yada, if there’s a lot of, I’m a victim and there’s a lot of blame, just know chances are, you know, where there’s blame, there’s shame, lurking somewhere around. So your kid feels bad about themselves, that they aren’t performing in a way that makes you feel proud. And so they’re blaming the teacher. Okay. And so, as long as we stay in shame and blame, everyone’s going to be defensive. No, one’s going to have a productive conversation.

0 (15m 7s):
Okay. So if you notice that with your kid, don’t argue with them, just maybe do a little digging, doing, do a little investigating and, and then find out if they would like you, you know, if you’ve got a very young child then say, would it be helpful if I reached out to Ms. So-and-so and just found out, like, if she suggests that there’s something else we could do at home, or, you know, just ways, you know, you look and, and always explaining to your kid the teacher’s perspective. And I, and I think that it’s easy to do. If you just remember this saying to your kids, nobody becomes a teacher for fame and fortune in this country.

0 (15m 54s):
Cause unfortunately there’s a lot of stress and teachers don’t make the, the, you know, the salary that they deserve. And it’s really unfortunate. So teachers go into teaching because they care about kids. Well, so Ms. She doesn’t act like she cares and it’s a super stressful job. And a lot of times there’s kids that, you know, have behavior that’s hard to deal with. And the teacher doesn’t know exactly how to handle it. You know, she hasn’t received enough training on how to handle behavior issues because in, In, you know, when teachers are being trained, unfortunately they don’t get a lot of that training.

0 (16m 39s):
And so, so she’s not, you know, making as much money as she should be making she’s, you know, like pointing out the teachers, but nobody goes into teaching because they hate children and they hate teaching and explaining to your kid, teachers mostly want to be a good teacher. And so if there’s something that you’re not understanding, you know, it’s probably because everybody’s brain is wired differently and she would want to know, you know, she would want to know she wants to be a good teacher to you, but right now you’re not grasping those concepts. And so maybe she needs to try a different approach or we could hire, you know, somebody to help you outside of the classroom, or I could be able to help you.

0 (17m 22s):
Or maybe there’s a little extra something we could do. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just, everybody’s brain is designed to learn differently. Like really having that conversation with your kids and letting them know your teacher would want to know, she wants to get even better at being a teacher. Like, like all of us want to get better and better and better at our profession. That’s how we grow. Just like you get to learn more, whether you’re in second grade or third grade or fourth grade or fifth grade, like your teacher every year, she’s a teacher. She gets to learn how to be an even better teacher. And, and unless we give her feedback, she’s not going to know those things. So really having conversations with your kid and, and say, would it be helpful for me to reach out to her, maybe email her or, and get some suggestions from her?

0 (18m 8s):
Would, would that be helpful? Like checking in with your kid, because let me tell you something, my kids, 90% of the time will say no, don’t and 10% of the time, they’re like, yeah, that would be helpful. I’ve tried going in and meeting with her or, you know, and, you know, I don’t know what to ask her. And, you know, and when I give them a suggestions, sorry, I just had to take a little sip, you know, maybe they shut down or whatever. And so in those moments, they do want you to help them. So check in with your kid. And then when you email your child’s teacher, okay.

0 (18m 50s):
I want you to remember that, like the, like teaching is a high stress job. I Googled what percentage of teachers leave before five years? And the answer I got was in the United States, the attrition rate is higher among teachers than in many other professions, 46% of new teachers leave their job in the first five years of service. And it’s because it’s a low pay for high stress. Like it’s not hard to do the math on that and, and figure that one out. Okay. So we don’t want to add to the stress. Okay. So if you’re going to email your kids Teacher, okay.

0 (19m 31s):
Start by seeing their perspective. Teachers get a lot of emails. Okay. They’re in the classroom performing an on and having to like be with people and little people who might be struggling or having behavior issues or fighting with each other. There’s a lot like a teacher’s nervous system is like, like zapped by the end of the day. Okay. And remember, then they get, have to respond to all the emails that they get from administrators, from parents. Like it is a thankless job in many ways. So they get a lot of emails, Keep yours short and sweet, start by acknowledging and respecting their time.

0 (20m 17s):
Something like, I know you are juggling a lot and your time is valuable. I’m concerned about state the issue at hand. And I would like to get your thoughts and, or set a time that works for you to discuss ways to support my kid at, you know, in your classroom. Okay. So send them a short and sweet email. You know, you can, even in the subject label, it not urgent, you know, something that lets them know that like you get it, like, this is not, you know, I’m not about to tell you that my kids had a death in the family and they’re going to be out of school. And you know, like, like, you know, what’s urgent and what’s not urgent.

0 (20m 59s):
The fact that they got a C minus on a spelling test is not urgent. Okay. So, so, so, so keep it in perspective. Okay. When you meet with the teacher or talk to the teacher, I want you to Listen more than you talk, Hear from the teacher. Okay. Hear from the teacher. So productive conversations, SAP doesn’t always happen in one sitting, we’re going to see the person’s perspective. Seeing the teacher’s perspective could be as simple as you’re juggling a lot. Your time is valuable. I’m sure you have a ton of emails to answer. This is not urgent. Okay. That’s basically saying I get it. I get it. You know, I’m not going to be a PA, a parent.

0 (21m 40s):
That’s part of the problem. Okay. See their perspective when you actually speak to them or meet with them, Listen, more than you talk. This is active listening. Anything may say you reflect back, you mirror back, you hear them. Okay. When you P problem solve together, you’re going to Ask what and how questions to empower the teacher to support your child before you add in all your stuff. Well, he’s the, all the labels got ADHD and executive function and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like before you add that in say, based on what you’ve noticed in the classroom, and you know, his lack of focus or her, you know, you know, ability to get sidetracked in, in conversations and be wrapped up in social thing, what do you thinks the best approach to help my child in doing, you know, improving, improving their behavior, improving, you know, how they do on tests, improving how they’re learning, you know, what are your ideas?

0 (22m 53s):
You know, what do you think we could do at home? Do you think some outside tutoring would be helpful? I’d love your suggestions on this. I just, I want us to work together because I know, you know, she has a, you know, a brain that never stops and a body that never seems to stop. And I just want to support my kid because, you know, this is her only chance she’s going to be in third grade or fifth grade or seventh grade. And I want to make the most of the year. And I know I can tell that you really care. And so I just want to work with you. Y’all I’ve, I’ve been working with teachers behind the scenes and I’ve had three kids in school for my oldest is now, well, he’s still in school, actually.

0 (23m 44s):
I’m not having anything to do with his school since he went to college, but he’s 23. So I have been a parent and I have been also behind the scenes, helping teachers with, you know, their, the behavior challenges that they deal with in the classroom. And just hearing the real inside scoop from teachers and administrators for many years, they are not used to being approached like this from parents. So when you’re the parent who is approaching the, the, the problem that needs solving, supporting your kid and showing up, you know, to the best of their ability, showing up, you know, putting in the effort that is going to make them feel proud, allow them to have some of those amazing dopamine hits from overcoming the challenges and, and learning.

0 (24m 35s):
You know, that’s what we’re meant to do as humans we’re meant to learn and grow and evolve. So when you’re the parent who gets that, who really gets that, let me tell you something, all these people that went into the teaching profession and went in for the right reasons, which I think is probably, you know, 99.9% of them, you are a breath of fresh air. You are, and we’re all humans. Like we don’t really have the ability to be objective. We all are subjective. We’re all going to bring our experiences in.

0 (25m 15s):
And so when you are that parent, that is a breath of fresh air and they know you get it, I’m sorry, but it does end up transferring to your child in this teacher’s classroom. This teacher is all of a sudden looking at this child, knowing they have parents that really get it, that are going to work with them. The teacher is not being blamed. There’s a lot of growth mindset happening. Like your kid experiences that in this teacher’s classroom and that teacher truly is rooting for them, as opposed to the parent who shows up the kids blaming.

0 (25m 57s):
And the parent shows up in fear, you know, in their emotional brain, you know, sort of blaming and acting defensive. And then the teacher is a human and the teacher’s going to feel defensive. And so, you know, they’re going to bring their, their subjectivity on that level is going to be, you know, not so positive towards your kids. And they don’t even realize they’re doing it, but everybody’s a human here. Every, you know, we’ve got to take that into consideration that this is all humans, just trying to human better. And so, so use the productive conversation model when you’re dealing with your kid’s teachers in helping to support your kids ultimately, and having the best experience possible at school.

0 (26m 47s):
Like, like nothing bad comes from that. I promise you nothing, that, and if you’re over here going, yeah, but what about, look, there is an I’ve experienced it over a year over the years. Like the rare teacher who like is a headcase and taking it out on your kid and being a total freaking asshole. And when you’re a parent who shows up with fresh eyes and being part of the solution, you’ll recognize when your kid is experiencing one of those types of teachers. And, and then you’ll go to the administrators and then you’ll take matters into your own hands and you’re advocate for your kid. And you’ll help to support your kid in, you know, navigating that minefield every day.

0 (27m 35s):
But I don’t want y’all to assume that that’s the case, because I promise you it’s the exception way more than the rule. Okay. So that’s what I’ve got pre this week. Hope it was

1 (27m 48s):
Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household. I want you to go to my website and check out Mastermind, Parenting dot com. We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support, then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you. And as always, we’re on all the social channels under Mastermind Parenting on Instagram, it’s mastermind, underscore Parenting.

1 (28m 33s):
And you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives, where I give you teaching and coaching. And I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better because when they feel better, they do better. And I love, love, love, getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you liked this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review super, super appreciative.

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