Teachers Crossing Boundaries: How Much Say Should a Teacher Have in Kids’ Home Lives?

During school hours, teachers are the leaders of our children. Their word is pretty much rule. They decide how each minute of the day will be structured (based on guidelines from the school, of course). They determine when your child gets to go to recess, whether they earn accolades for a job well done and whether your child gets to advance to the next level. There is no denying that a teacher is one of the most powerful influences in a child’s life. But when does that influence cross the line? Should teachers be able to go so far as to determine what kids can do at home?


I live in a bilingual country: Canada! The majority of Canada speaks mostly English  but my province, Quebec,speaks mostly french! As a parent, I truly believe that my kids should speak both languages! We speak both at home! It comes sometimes with challenges but it has always worked. My children are totally bilingual and I am proud of it!

You can certainly find interesting conversations during the dinner table: a mix of french and English but in the end my kids are perfectly fine with both languages! How did we do this? Well, our pediatrician recommended that each parent should speak one language until the child understands that there are two different languages! So my husband speaks English to the kids and I speak French! The funny part of it is that my kids (until the age of 3) thought that my husband did not speak French! So each time I spoke to him in French they would translate in English! Isn’t that cute?


What do you do when teachers cross the line?

When my daughter entered the kindergarten few months ago, she managed to speak both languages. But her kindergarten is a French-speaking one! English speaking is not tolerated. I understand that rule: they want the children to learn the language properly but I was ticked off one day when my daughter refused to speak English at home? When I asked her why,  she said: “my teacher recommends that I speak French even at home.”

I was shocked! How can a teacher tell a child what language to speak at home? Isnt’ that crossing the boundaries? Now those are words of a 6-year-old! Maybe the teacher asked her to watch TV in French to practice, I thought,  but when I questioned my daughter again and again she said: “the teacher said we should speak french even at home!” I let it go for few days yes still my daughter did not want to speak English at home! You know how determined can a 6-year-old be!

What did I do?

Should I confront the teacher? I did not want to cause a turmoil at school because a 6-year-old said something! So I thought instead of confronting the teacher, I worked with my daughter.

How to solve the problem diplomatically

How? Here is what I said: the teacher has the right to ask you to speak only in french at school! But once you leave school, you can speak whatever language you want! You can speak Chinese, Japanese, whatever language you want! You can speak French but it should be YOUR choice not your teacher’s.

Was it helpful? Yes it was because my daughter understood that at home it is the parent’s rule! Not the teachers and this what I wanted to teach! What do you think? Should teachers be able to demand that children speak a certain language at home? Should they be able to dictate other actions at home? What are the boundaries?

Just a note, I chose not to confront the teacher not because I am scared to, but because I didn’t feel it would be helpful. Would you have handled it differently?

12 thoughts on “Teachers Crossing Boundaries: How Much Say Should a Teacher Have in Kids’ Home Lives?”

  1. Actually, there is a great deal of research supporting the cognitive value of being bilingual. It may be that your child’s teacher has the misconception (based on old ideas) that children learn a language best if it is all they speak, but in actuality, your children will be best served by learning both languages correctly. I’d talk to the teacher for sure. If you don’t get anywhere, try bringing language acquisition research with you.

  2. I applaud you for teaching your children both languages. I wish I had done the same when my children were young

    I am an elementary teacher, a mom and a grandma. I think you should talk to the teacher, tell her what your daughter told you and ask her about it. It’s possible that it could be a misunderstanding. Maybe another student shared that she only speaks English at home and the teacher encouraged her to speak French (at least part of the time) as practice. Maybe another student’s French is lagging and the teacher asked him to speak more French at home (as a part of his homework). Very often a teacher will say something to a student, but others, wanting to please, will take the comment to mean they should do this as well… Or that they should ONLY speak French at home, rather than speaking it at home a bit more for practice.

    If the teacher did indeed tell the class they should not speak English at home this would definitely be overstepping her bounds. In this case you need to have a chat with her…Other parents must be concerned about this as well.

    Good teachers want to partner with parents in educating children, not work against them.
    Best wishes.

  3. Totally Agree: sometimes teachers take over when they feel that parents are not involved! Teachers have a great mission: Teaching our kids! But Parents have a mission: educating and molding their kids! As parents we need to take charge and step up when needed! We have a duty: parenting our children!

  4. Awesome topic!!
    Here in the US, the argument is typically English VS Spanish… same scenario however. I don’t think teachers should be able to dictate what goes on outside the classroom for ANY topic, language or otherwise. Unless it’s a safety/health related issue, what goes on at home, is kind of none of their concern…
    This also speaks to a wider question/topic that is plaguing schools and families…. parents NEED to be involved. Period. When you allow someone to teach/care for your child all day but take no interest in what goes on during that time you lose the ability to have control of your child’s upbringing… teachers are more than daycare workers. They shape the adult that child will become. Even at 6, your daughter was being molded. Had you not been an involved parent, her path would have been forever altered.
    Be involved ALL day, even when they are at school. Shape their path as YOU see fit 🙂

  5. Having been a public school teacher, I can still say that I think the teacher crossed the line. Their authority ends at school, and even if it was a “suggestion”, she should have understood what kind of influence teachers have over 6-year-olds. I definitely would have said something, in case she has other “suggestions” she feels it’s appropriate to make.

    1. Thanks Liza for your input! I believe that teachers work stop at school and parents take over after! I admire the teacher’s work but suggesting what to do and not to do is up to parents! I am watching this matter closely and if I feel that other suggestions are made, I will definetely get in touch!

  6. being where I am from (NB) the system here is rather difficult.

    No matter how hard those who are in the english system try, they can not get the qualifications to be classed bilingual. those in the french system on the other hand graduate almost 80% bilingual.

    I see and understand the necessity of learning both languages and learning them well.

    The problem I find is that there is a core group within both language cultures who feel the other language has no place and should be eliminated at all costs.

    Going after the teacher honestly would be a waste of time, largely because most of them sincerely believe that it is their place to make that determination.

    1. It is difficult! I don’t understand why we should eliminate one language and concentrate on the other! I believe that kids can learn both languages at the same time! After all we are a bilingual country! And the more languages we learn the better it is for our kids future! I don’t understand why they don’t see it this way!

  7. Are the children still not allowed to speak English during recess? That was something that bothered me when I was little. Born with both languages, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t speak what I wanted when I wanted.

    I think your daughter’s teacher crossed the line. She can’t and shouldn’t be the one to decide what language your daughter speaks.

    1. Depending on the teacher during recess, children may not be allowed to speak English! I understand the language policy at shchool and I respect that! I do understand that teachers would emphasize on speaking a specific language at home. That’s crossing boundries

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