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If you're concerned that your child isn't getting the kind of attention he needs or that his school is using techniques or following policies that you're uncomfortable with, the first rule of thumb is to follow what I call your child's "line of contact" — in other words, to respect the proper chain of command. You may be able to solve the problem by just talking with his teacher.
Start by arranging to spend an hour or two in your child's classroom. This will give you a lot of information about your child's teacher, school, and classroom environment. Then schedule a private conference with the teacher. Start by telling her five or so things that you noticed about her teaching style that you liked, as well as by appreciating her for the hard work she does. Use a constructive, positive tone that doesn't put her on the defensive. Then be as specific as possible when you list your causes for concern. For example, you can say something like, "My child seems upset and nervous about going to school in the morning," or "I have concerns about some of the classroom methods you're using, such as the use of flash cards, which stress memorization rather than conceptual learning."
If things go well, the teacher will listen and agree to work with you to solve the problem. She may suggest that you begin a teacher-parent journal in which you can have direct, daily written communication. She may also suggest several specific changes that she'll make right away.
Sometimes, however, the teacher won't agree to meet with you right away, and will ask you to wait until the regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences in two months. Or she may agree to meet with you, but will come across as defensive and hostile.
In this case, your next step would be to talk to the principal. Again, begin in a non-confrontational way. Threats such as "I'm ready to pull my child out of your school" are counterproductive. (Ideally, you address the problem before you reach your boiling point.) Rather, be specific when presenting your concerns, as in: "I think my son's teacher's style doesn't quite work with my child." A responsive principal will offer real solutions. For instance, he may suggest switching your son to another classroom, a solution that addresses problems that arise if your child and his teacher are having a personality clash or if their respective learning and teaching styles don't match up. After you've come up with some solutions and they are put in place, wait two weeks. If you don't see some improvement in this period, then it's time to make another phone call.
If you don't feel that the principal is responsive, talk to other parents. You can call those you know or ask if you can address the school's parent-teacher organization. Parents have amazing bargaining power — and there's real strength in numbers. If a group of parents objects that too many teachers are relying too much on dittos and that the textbooks are outdated, the school will probably be much more responsible than if they complained individually.
Still not satisfied? Pull your child out of the school as soon as you have found another school for him to attend — don't make him tough it out until the end of the school year. The wrong school can have a lasting negative affect on a child. And a year of a child's life is a long time to waste.