I met with a client today whose son was failing a class. She told me all the things she didn't like about his teacher and how she thought the teacher's behavior was the problem. The son, who had always done very well in this subject before, felt like the teacher hated him, and he had decided he was going to give up -- there was no way he could pass this class.
"Why don't you ask for a different teacher?" I said.
She told me that she was a teacher too and that she couldn't just go into the counselor's office and blame the teacher. It felt wrong.
"That thought right there is your problem," I replied. "Why does asking for a different teacher have to include blame?"
The fact is, this child and this teacher are not a good fit. In some ways, both teacher and child are to blame, and in other ways, no one is to blame. They just don't work together. So let's not include blame at all.
I suggested she say something like this to the counselor: "My son is feeling hopeless about his grade in this class. He feels like the teacher doesn't like him, and he has decided to give up trying. This teacher is probably a great teacher, and my son is a great kid, but they are not a match. I think that a different teacher with a fresh start would give my son what he needs to try again and keep going."
That's the truth. You don't need to be upset or angry or assign blame to anyone. You're coming at it from a place of simply solving the problem and making the best choice for everyone involved.
Could you possibly work with the child and the teacher and help them repair the relationship and restore your son's confidence in his ability to succeed in that class? Maybe, and in some situations that might be the best route to take.
But in this particular case, there was very little upside to doing that. When you can quickly switch a circumstance to spur a change in thinking without significant negative consequences, why wouldn't you? Just make the change from a place of love for everyone in the story. No blame required.