If you’re the parent of a public school child, you may be wondering what challenges your children will face at school when it comes to their faith and values. It’s important that you know what values your children are exposed to in school. At some point you may need to talk to your children’s teachers about a concern you have about a classroom activity or reading selection.
Eric Buehrer, author of Keeping the Faith in Public Schools: How to Help Your Children Graduate with Their Faith and Values Intact, advises parents how to take a successful approach to talking to a teacher about a concern.
He points out that when it comes to addressing a concern in your school, you can either be a lamp or a blow torch. A blow torch certainly gives off light, but it scorches everything in its path. To be a lamp, Buehrer recommends what he calls the “Help Me Understand” approach.
Before you talk to the teacher, think through why you would like the teacher to change the activity or assignment, if what you heard from your child or another parent was accurate. Then, use the following four-steps to discuss the issue with the teacher.
First, start the conversation by using the phrase “Help me understand ...” For example, if you’re concerned about a particular reading assignment, you might start by saying, “Help me understand why you chose this book for the students to read.”
At this point in the conversation you want clarification. Don’t jump to conclusions about the motives of the teacher. Don’t be angry. Be sincere in trying to understand the point of the assignment.
The next step Buehrer recommends might, at first, sound unnecessary, but it’s important: Affirm, in general, what the teacher is trying to do. For example, you might appreciate the fact that the teacher wants the students to learn about the environment, but you’re concerned about the particular bias of the book being used. At this point in the conversation, don’t jump to your concerns. Finding “common ground” is an important part of the discussion.
Buehrer then advises that you transition to your concern by using the phrase, “But have you considered ...” And don’t assume the teacher will oppose you. In fact, it’s better to assume the teacher will agree with you once you explain your concern. It’s often the case that a teacher is thinking of one reason for the lesson or book selection, but has not considered what students might learn or be exposed to that the teacher didn’t have in mind.
Finally, if the teacher agrees with you, ask his or her advice about what might be a good alternative for the class. Of course, the teacher may ask you for your ideas, so be sure you’ve done your homework! Have some alternatives you can present to the instructor when asked.
To download a copy of these four steps along with what to do if you have to visit the school principal about a concern, visit our website, BreakPoint.org, and click on this commentary. We’ll also link you to Gateways to Better Education. Gateways helps public schools teach about the important contributions the Bible and Christianity make to the world — and helps Christian parents who want to make sure their children graduate from public schools with their faith and values intact.
So visit BreakPoint.org today, and learn more about Gateways to Better Education.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: September 12, 2012