How should Gaither students handle complaints about teachers?


Brielle Allison

Brielle Allison

At some point in their lives, a student could have a complaint about a teacher. However, students may not know how to handle these complaints properly, or how to handle them at all.

The first step to resolving a potential conflict with a teacher is understanding what qualifies as a valid complaint. 

For example, a teacher having a bad attitude is not something to make a serious complaint about. But a teacher being verbally abusive to students would absolutely qualify. Before going to teachers, students should review the validity of their complaints.

“A valid complaint is something that’s truly unfair, a teacher decision or action based on anything other than student performance,” said Gaither teacher Lorien Mattiacci.

Students may believe that they’re in the right when it comes to complaining about teachers or starting arguments without reviewing their side of the story. Teachers agree that students should reflect on their effort and actions before addressing issues.

“They [students] have got to look in the mirror. The complaints that I get are from kids who are failing the class, yet they haven’t turned in work,” says Gaither teacher Karen Hough.

However, there is support for the claim that students can be right to complain about teachers, whether it be an issue of attitude, grades or anything in between.

“I believe my complaints are valid when you have AP or higher performing students not living up to their successes. For example, AP students shouldn’t have failed test grades, or C’s on their report cards if they’re putting in as much effort as they can,” Singer explained.

“If you [the student] took care of everything you could have, and there’s still a problem, that’s a valid complaint,” said teacher Etorre Minutillo.

At times, teachers do have students with legitimate concerns that become major issues. When students keep teachers in the dark about worries they may have, teachers don’t know that there is anything to settle.

“If kids speak their opinions on teachers, nothing happens,” said student Emily Brooks. 

This sentiment is likely caused by someone mishandling the situation. Most students never take the action to address their complaints with teachers, citing the lack of resolution for their silence.

“The problem is, they try to talk about it during class, students try to call teachers out about problems in front of the whole class. They can raise concern from other students, and excite things, and then the teacher has to shut it down,” says Minutillo.

According to the procedure provided by Gaither administration, students should approach their teacher first and inform their parents about the situation. If the issue can’t be resolved with just the student, teacher and parent(s), the department head will step in. 

If they cannot resolve it, assistant principal of curriculum Stephanie Matthews, or assistant principal of administration Jackie Eisenhauer will be brought in. Principal Thomas Morrill will take measures to handle the situation as a last resort. 

“Issues with teachers are normally resolved with the APC, or beforehand. Rarely do they ever reach Mr. Morrill,” said Eisenhauer.

Students who want to settle a dispute should meet the teacher in person, and on their own time. Trying to handle issues with teachers during class time or out loud in front of everyone is not an appropriate time.

“Students think that their opinion doesn’t matter and try to fight for things, when in reality it can be worked out without a fight,” Minutillo continued. 

Other students say they will speak up, but only if they feel comfortable enough and, despite their personal opinions, students know that they can address their concerns if they’re severe enough. It is normal for teachers to address problems so students shouldn’t be uncomfortable doing so. 

“If I’m comfortable with the teacher and they’re open, I’ll tell them how I feel. But if not, then I’ll just keep it to myself and hope it works itself out,” said senior Viviana Burgos.

However, teachers agree that students don’t need to be as worked up as they are over issues with grades because most can be solved with a quick and simple conversation. Students should handle complaints or issues with them first, unless it’s not an option for the situation.

“I would like for them [students] to just have an in-person conversation. Even if I don’t agree with them, I’d be impressed by their guts to come and talk about it. Most of the time it’s a total misunderstanding,” said Mattiacci.

Students will either choose to share their complaints or ignore them. Whatever course of action one chooses to take, there is an official procedure to follow to ensure it is properly handled.