Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: It is the end of the school year, and my son has had a lot of issues with his teacher. We have addressed them along the way, and we have learned that other parents had issues, too. The primary problem is that the teacher can be really condescending to the students. While he is a good teacher in terms of sharing a powerful curriculum, he is not good at boosting their confidence. I feel bad for the struggles my son's class had. Now it's over. I think I should say something to a higher-up so there's a chance it can be addressed formally before the next class comes in. What do you think? -- Concerned Mom, Dallas

DEAR CONCERNED MOM: I think you should definitely speak to the leadership at the school, especially if you have addressed your concerns with the teacher but believe the problems are still lingering. Just as students learn thanks to constructive feedback, so do adults, including teachers.

I recommend that you frame your thoughts carefully. To the best of your ability, do not go to the meeting emotionally charged. Think about what the experiences have been over the year. Outline what your child has experienced and what you have observed, not hearsay. Paint a picture of the year and outline your specific concerns. Let the administrator know the impact you think this teacher's behavior had on your child and on the class. Add what you hope the improvements could be in the future.

As it relates to the condescending tone of the teacher, give examples of what you have observed and how you think the behavior may have affected the children. Perhaps your input will lead to support for the teacher to work on this area.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am totally freaked out. One of my main clients has not paid my company in several months, and I fear that I am not going to be able to make payroll soon. I have been doing everything in my power to make up for this owed money, but my reserves have become too thin. How long do I wait before I let my staff know that things are bad? I keep hoping that I can keep it all together, but I don't know anymore. I don't want to lay off anyone yet, but I may not have enough for paychecks. What should I do? -- On the Brink, Seattle

DEAR ON THE BRINK: It is time to figure out your immediate next steps. If you think you will not be able to make payroll now, let your staff know. They have bills and responsibilities and will need to respond accordingly. As you look at the big picture, if you cannot see how you can afford to keep everyone on your staff, think about your options. It may be better to lay off personnel as you shore up your resources. That way they can collect unemployment insurance and take realistic steps to care for themselves. Leaving people in limbo is unkind and not good for your business.