That’s exactly what it felt like when the teacher dropped that news at conferences. You had no idea that IT was happening or that is was such a big deal.
But it is.
And now you need to handle it like a boss.
How to handle bad school news like a boss
Take a Breath
I know that this is hard to handle emotionally. The child in this situation is your own precious baby. Anything remotely negative can absolutely feel like the world is ending.
I know, I’ve got two little ones of my own. Bad news of any sort involving my babies hurts my heart deeply.
But rushing in emotionally or quickly won’t do anyone any favors. You won’t be able to think rationally about anything anyone says to you. There could be a rush to action or harsh words said.
Before you write that email, say the first thought in your head, or dash into school (again), pause. It’s so so so important to handle any tough situations with a cool head and flawless logic.
Get All the Info
Calmly get everything straight. Use talking points to help you get your message across calmly and as respectfully as possible.
You want to find out:
- who: who was involved or around? While teachers can’t share the identities of other students to you, they should be able to share if student, faculty, or staff were involved in the situation.
- when: what time of day? What subject or activity?
- what: explain the situation completely, including:
- influencers of the situation
- how: what evidence is there? The teacher should have hard data or other evidence about the situation. This is true whether your news was about academics or behavior.
- why: what else had/has been happening before, during, and after the concern? Is this right after/before another activity that throws off your child? Did your child miss key content in a previous grade or lesson? Is there a child/adult involved that antagonizes your child? You want to understand the background information.
- where: is this specific to a particular location, situation, class, or person? You need to know!
Before you respond, take another beat.
- How serious is the situation?
- Is your child in danger of failing?
- Could the academic struggles mean a larger concern
- Are the behaviors serious or a danger to your child and/or others?
- Are the behaviors repeated or escalating?
- Does data support what the teacher/school is sharing with you?
- There are test scores, observation reports, progress monitoring, grades that reflect the academic concerns.
- There are witnesses, recordings, and evidence supporting the behavioral concerns.
- Does the proposed plan fit the situation?
- The education interventions suggested are research-based and targeted.
- The teacher/school will be tracking academic progress and sharing data with you throughout the process.
- The consequences for the behavior fit the situation. They are meaningful and connected to the actions of your child, but not punitive or excessive.
- There is a plan in place to help prevent further negative actions or behaviors.
- Will this benefit your child long-term?
- By following the school’s plan, will your child learn necessary content and/or skills that will be useful or necessary for the future?
- Will your child gain knowledge/mastery of academic content through this plan?
- Will your child understand their responsibilities for their actions through this plan?
After you consider each of these points, continue your discussion. Offer alternative suggestions as you see fit, but do so respectfully and without emotion. Use logic to help your case. If you need more time to reflect than you have in the meeting, ask for 24 hours to think before you respond.
Whatever you agree to, make sure you get it in writing and with signatures. This will make your decision official in the system.
After you and the teacher/school have settled on a plan, it’s important to follow-up.
For academic plans, allow 4-6 weeks for the interventions to work. Remember that not every strategy, even research-based and proven ones, to work for every student, every time. During this time, the teacher or intervention specialist should be taking regular and detailed data. The data will show whether your child is responding to the intervention.
If there is not significant progress, see what else the school or teacher can offer. If after 2-3 cycles of intervention and using different strategies your child hasn’t made progress, then it’s time to explore other options.
For behavior, monitor the consequences and your child’s further actions. If this has been an ongoing or escalating behavior pattern, ask the teacher/school to track the consequences or interventions. Ensure that your child is receiving help to redirect his/her energy into more positive actions.
How do you handle bad news from the teacher? Share your best advice in the comments!