Town Talk Features

The Honest Truth: Back-To-School Blues

I’m not thrilled with my son’s assigned teacher for school this year. I have heard valid complaints from my friends. I think we should request a switch. What do you think?

Jill: I’ll admit that as a grade-school parent, I poked around for intel on the teachers. One friend said, “I hope you don’t have Mrs. X. She’s the worst in the school.” Panicked, I plotted how to get my kid in the ‘right’ class. Then, another friend said, “I hope you get Mrs. X. She’s the best teacher. She made my kid love learning.” My point? This best/worst, good/bad teacher judging is all pretty subjective. Go in with an open mind.

Beth: I bit my tongue during this time—mostly out of fear of being labeled that parent. Plus, even if you can sway the decision, there is a chance you will move your son away from what might be a great experience for him. Short answer: Let the school do its job, and stay out of the way.

My 18-year-old daughter started babysitting for a new family, and the kids are really difficult. She’s supposed to work for them every week, but she says the kids are too much to handle. What should she say to the parents? Should I let her quit? Should I intervene?

Jill: This is a great opportunity for your high-schooler to develop some real-life career skills. Encourage her to set up a meeting to speak frankly with the parents about specifics regarding their kids’ behavior and her difficulty handling them. She could ask for ideas to make things better. Or, she may decide it’s not a good fit. But quitting without this important (albeit potentially uncomfortable) conversation would be sidestepping responsibility, in my book.

Beth: This sort of situation is tough—even for adults. As a consultant, I was brought in by numerous schools and businesses to teach staff how to deliver difficult feedback. And this (telling parents that their beloved children are monsters) officially qualifies as difficult feedback. You never know how people will react when you tell them something they don’t want to hear. Will they thank you for your feedback or do quite the opposite? People can be defensive when it comes to their kids, and it can be a lot to handle. Jill covers option one, but there is a second option here: teaching your daughter how to bow out gracefully.

Jill Farmer is a master certified life coach, author and time management aficionado. Beth Chesterton is a master certified executive coach and an expert in organizational development. If you have a question that needs an honest answer, email