My child is currently taking online lessons due to Corona lock-down. The teacher takes about 40 minutes to explain today's lesson and then the children (7, 8 year) do exercises online and offline with their parents.

There is a problem with the math software. It is meant to be 'adaptive' but my child who is very good at math gets boring counting exercises. The software indicates that he has mastered addition and subtraction without somehow mastering counting and knowing which number is larger. According to the software publisher, teachers can adjust the software.

When discussing this with the teacher, I could do this in a private message or in a group messages. The way I see it, in a private message the teacher is less 'on the spot'. But by putting it in a group message others who may have the same problem can benefit, and the teacher will feel more pressure to solve the problem.

I am inclined to do this in a group message, and I will phrase it as a request to solve a software problem. But I want to make sure that the teacher does not experience this as some kind of affront.

At the same time my goal is to put some pressure on them, because we encountered this problem before. During the previous lockdown (April) the teachers were just starting to use this software, and the teacher at that time (a different one) convinced me to just help my child with using the keyboard and trackpad correctly. The idea being, that once kids get up to speed with laptop use, the software will present them with adequate course material.

As this obviously did not happen, so now we have to handle it differently.

Are there aspects I am overlooking? My goals are, in order of priority:

  • to have this fixed ASAP
  • have the teacher still be friendly to my child afterwards
  • to make the teacher aware of the problems with the software and to help other parents.
  • Hi again, Ivana! I'm glad to see you took the time to improve your question. For next time though: Please edit the original post instead of deleting and reposting. See this help-center page on what you should do with closed questions. Reposting closed questions is not a good thing to do as they could get you to a question ban faster if the improvements wouldn't have normally led to reopening. – Tinkeringbell Jan 6 at 11:29
  • I'd keep in mind that if you start off hard, you cannot easily reverse the hostility perceived nor the hostility returned. A private talk can always be escalated later. – Yosef Baskin Jan 6 at 22:43
  • @YosefBaskin What you say is true. However, while a group post does put pressure on the teacher, it also fits in the kind of things that are discussed in the group like trouble logging in and so. So the pressure can be seen as a side effect. If I start with a private message, then escalate to group, it is clear my intention is to escalate. – Ivana Jan 7 at 10:56
  • Do you know how the software works and in what way it is adaptive and adjustable? Are you sure your kid has already mastered everything and needs no repetitions? If you haven't convinced me, you may not convince the teachers that put their trust in that software. Also, school and homework is boring and tedious. That's the #1 thing most kids will feel. You will not manage to revolutionize school and make it fun and challenging equally for everyone. Could you elaborate a bit more on how bad it is and what your kid is feeling and saying about it? – Raditz_35 Jan 8 at 17:05
  • @Raditz_35 You are not wrong. What i know about the software i have gleaned from the publishers website, this may not be entirely up-to-date. What i know about teaching is very little. But when i compare the math my kid does for fun, and what he does for home-work, the homework makes little sense. – Ivana Jan 25 at 21:48

If the group chat contains other troubleshooting questions then I'd definitely put this concern there as well. The trick to avoid your child's teacher feeling attacked is simple: don't attack them. Describe what you're experiencing and what you expect to experience and ask if you're missing anything or what you can do to fix it. I suggest something like this:

The math software says my child has mastered addition and subtraction but hasn't mastered counting. This seems counterintuitive to me, as surely you must master counting before you can perform basic arithmetic, right? He seems like he understands counting to me, so I'd expect the software to give him harder problems, not easier ones. What can we do to get him some challenging and interesting math problems to work on instead?

You haven't accused the teacher of doing anything wrong at all. Your kid is getting homework below his ability, you want to get him something more interesting, and you're asking for the teacher's help to do so. What could they possibly object to?

If the teacher suggests something that doesn't work, keep your tone the same: "I did X, I was expecting Y to happen, but Z happened instead. Any ideas?" If the teacher blows you off, then you can press about their ability to configure the software, but there's no point in starting there. Give the teacher a chance to solve it. You can always escalate things, but it's very difficult to go in the other direction, so start with a tone of collaboration. If the teacher seems stumped but obviously wants to help, then I'd mention how you saw the software claims to be configurable by them and ask if maybe that could help.

I've used this technique countless times in a variety of situations (work, school, in relationships, even on this site), and I'm always glad when I do. Even if you're 100% right, nobody wants to hear that, and people are much more likely to cooperate if they don't feel criticized. Plus the best solution may be something you haven't even considered, and this approach focuses on finding a solution rather than debating whether your solution will work. You don't actually know the teacher can fix it by changing a couple of settings, so don't act like that's definitely the solution.

  • This is really an excellent answer and i will bookmark it for future situations! In this case, it did post a similar message but the whole thing took a different turn then I expected. I was thinking of this as some kind of one-time action, that i had to do right to make it work. But in fact it was only the first step of an ongoing journey. It is not solved yet, but no bridges were burned and other parents are now somewhat aware there may be problems with the software. – Ivana Jan 25 at 21:40

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