12

Let me start by offering to explain my situation. It is a lot more challenging to handle than the title presents, so I should definitely elaborate, then I'll ask my question.

My child is in 1st grade, has always been a well-behaved student and works hard with me on his work. However, he has a speech issue that gives him trouble with articulation and it has slightly slowed his progress with learning to read, but with my help, I am keeping him at a satisfactory level.

His teacher shows clear signs of not liking me, and I would not care if it were not for the fact that she for some reason takes it out on my child. She does not allow him to play with other kids, misleads him in ways which cause him to come home to me crying and in distress. Rather than bringing up questions with me, she asks him, stating it in such a way that makes him think she does not like him or that he has done something wrong (ie. usually pertaining to an absence, tardy, or permission form of some sort). She forces my child to participate in activities that require a permission form that I did not approve.

His teacher also neglects to teach him properly. She does not work independently with him on things that she'll work with other students on or answer his questions. She will skip over him instead. I can correct him and teach him a concept at home properly, he will go to school, and have unlearned the entire thing, or be confused. In addition, his handwriting on in-school assignments is messy and rushed, he often tells me the teacher tells him he has to hurry or that other students are bothering him while his handwriting at home is very very neat and legible.

He (my child) has lost interest and confidence even though he loves school, and has told me he would would rather not go to school and learn at home.

At the beginning of the year, things were fine and his work and grades were good but the teacher has been excessively cruel and degrading towards him. She is taking extreme amounts of points off on simple classwork assignments, way more than necessary, just to fail him. I have a child in AP classes in high school whose teachers do not take 13 points off per question no matter how hard the assignment.

If you wonder where this sudden change in behavior from his teacher might stem from, I believe it is all related to his speech issues. In this district, in order to get a speech class for your child, your child must be registered within the Special Education program. I have had him in the Special Education program before, but they did not actually take him to speech and he did not receive assistance at all, so I took him out. But I believe her harsh grading, and lack of help for my child in class, as well as the cruel behavior might be to push me into putting him into Special Education because the district receives additional funding PER CHILD in Special Education. I sincerely hope this is not the situation, but I do believe it is possible.

I apologize in advance for all this writing but I am at a loss for what to do. Conferences with the teacher are difficult, she will not allow me for a "walk-in conference," becomes irate over the phone, and attempts to talk over me and become irate. Going to the principal has not proved successful, and I'm not sure about approaching the district just yet.

My questions are:

  1. Is there ANY alternative for schooling for my child for the remaining 2-3 months of school?
  2. How should I deal with this situation, in general? Should I try again with the principal, go to the district or should I seek higher (I am in the United States)?
  3. How can I help my child? He has no friends in school, and is very upset because of the conditions he must deal with in school.

Thank you for reading and any advice you can provide.

  • 2
    You said you are in the US, but which state? The answer to #1 on your list could be highly dependent on state laws regarding school. Some states, for instance, allow homeschooling with no action being done other than telling the school you're doing so. Others need special forms filled out and monitoring of progress. Homeschooling for the rest of the year isn't the only option (or an easy one), but it's one off the top of my head (which also prevents the district from getting the special funding). Also, look into the school district's complaint policy. It's time to go over the teacher's head. – user11394 Mar 17 '15 at 3:18
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    I want to clarify why I said to go over the teacher's head. It's mainly because she "becomes irate" and the other communication difficulties. Even without objectively knowing if that's accurate, it's evident that there is communication difficulty. Someone above the teacher's head will, hopefully, have a different perspective and personality. I say check the complain policy, because in some cases your "next person" might be a Vice Principal, a Principal, or somebody else. You want to talk to escalate in the right order for the best results. – user11394 Mar 17 '15 at 17:02
  • 1
    Consider removing your child from the school. You're concerned about one teacher, but what if a similar thing happens again? You have a lot more options with private school or home school. – user808 Mar 20 '15 at 1:44
11

Aliel, this is obviously very painful for you and for your son, but I think you might be over-reacting to the situation.

From what you've written above, these are some of the assumptions you seem to be making, which I think may not be justified:

  • That your 5-year-old son's perception that his teacher is victimising him means that the teacher actually is victimising him, that she really is "excessively cruel and degrading towards him".

  • That the teacher is a nasty, vindictive person who hates you and enjoys upsetting your son.

  • That the school's only reason for wanting your son to be on the Special Education program is to get the additional funding that comes with that, i.e. that the school administration's sole concern is its budget, and that they're not interested in your son's wellbeing or his educational needs.

Sure, there are some bad teachers out there, but they're really in a minority. Most teachers are not "faulty, cruel" people.

One thing that happens with 5-year-olds just starting off at school is that they find the structures and strictures of school life quite difficult. This is totally normal.

So when he tells you what's been going on at school, it's worth remembering that he's not really capable of giving you a fair summary of how his day went - as an adult might see it - because he's too young. He's telling you how things felt to him, and his feelings are very important and very valid, but just because he feels that his teacher is a cruel person who victimises him doesn't mean that she actually is.

Possible examples:

  • Does she really "not allow him to play with other kids"? At any time? If one of my kids told me this then I'd suspect they'd had a brief incident where they'd been told to do something else rather than playing - e.g. to sit quietly and listen to a story, to do some tidying-up, to go to a different room or to get ready for an activity - rather than thinking that the child was literally not allowed to play with any other children at any time.

  • She "misleads him in ways which cause him to come home to me crying and in distress". It's not unusual for something that an adult says to make a child upset, but that does not necessarily mean that the adult is singling out the child - treating them differently from other children - or that the adult is doing it on purpose. It sounds as though she could certainly be more sensitive to his feelings, but that's not at all the same thing as acting vindictively to intentionally upset him because she hates you or him. She may not have noticed that he is upset: sharing the teacher's attention with the other children in the class is one of the most difficult things for 5-year-olds to learn. Her attention isn't solely focussed on your child - try not to take it personally. Equally, if a child misunderstands an adult then that doesn't usually mean that the adult has intentionally misled the child out of pure vindictiveness. Sometimes children (and adults) simply misunderstand.

  • His academic work isn't neat because "the teacher tells him he has to hurry or ... other students are bothering him" - I'm afraid that's part of learning to be in a classroom environment. He's not always going to have all the time he needs to complete his work. Hopefully he can come back to it later, or get some more time in some other way, but it's not reasonable to expect the teacher to put the other 29 children in the class 'on pause' and delay the next activity until your son is ready. Similarly, a classroom is often a noisy, distracting environment. This is something that I had trouble with when I was a kid, and now my daughter finds it a bit difficult too. But it's not (necessarily) a sign of your son being treated any worse than any other child in the classroom.

  • "She forces my child to participate in activities that require a permission form that I did not approve." This one is less subjective than the others, and should be pretty easy to check on. I'd suggest asking the teacher - or the head teacher (the principal) about this.

So, clearly you need to have a talk with your son's teacher, and/or with the school principal, in person.

It's clear that you're very angry about the way that you think your son has been treated, but if you approach the meeting with the attitude that the teacher is a cruel, nasty person, then I'm afraid you're not going to get very far.

I know it's easy to empathise so strongly with our children that we see the world from their point-of-view, but this is a time when you need to respond as an adult - assertively, rather than aggressively, and starting with the presumption that the teachers are caring educational professionals rather than nasty sadists.

I'd suggest that you do the following:

1) Go into the school office and ask to book an appointment with the principal, of at least half an hour. Explain that you have a concern about your son which is so serious that you are considering withdrawing him from this school and perhaps from the school system entirely.

2) For the appointment, if you have a partner then try to find someone else to do childcare so that you can take your partner into school for the appointment with you. If you don't have a partner then I'd suggest bringing your mum or a close friend with you. It can really help to feel that you've got someone you trust there next to you for moral support. It can also help you to discuss the problem with them before and after the meeting and get their perspective on what the principal says.

3) In advance of the meeting, make a list of the things you're concerned about - excessive criticism of your son making him upset, too many points deducted on his work, him not being given enough time to finish his work, him being generally very upset and unhappy with the classroom environment, him seeing his teacher as a cruel monster, the teacher not giving him a fair share of her attention, him not being allowed to play with the other children, him not having any friends. Photocopy this list so that you can give copies of it to the principal and anyone else in the meeting. This will help you to make sure you cover everything clearly and don't miss anything out.

4) Try to be clear about what you want. For example, it seems like you (rightly, in my opinion) want your son to get speech therapy through the Special Ed programme. If this is the case, then it makes no sense at all for you to withdraw him from the Special Ed programme! That isn't a way to get the thing that you want - although it sounds as though you want to punish the school by reducing their funding, it's actually counter-productive in getting the speech therapy your son needs.

I suggest making another written list of what you want or of what you think good solutions might be, before the meeting. Some of the things you could choose to ask for:

  • your son to be reinstated on the Special Ed programme and speech therapy sessions to begin within a maximum of x weeks.

  • your son to be transferred to a different class with a different teacher (if there is another class at the same grade level).

  • your son to be allowed extra time to finish his work.

  • your son to be provided with a less noisy/distracting/bothersome environment for doing his work, at least some of the time.

  • teaching staff to ensure that they don't skip over him in class in spite of his speech difficulty, and allow him the time he needs to respond to questions.

  • a dedicated support worker to be with him in the classroom, at least some of the time.

  • for him to get support in learning social skills and making friends. If it's true that he's not allowed to play with the other children (which frankly sounds unlikely) then obviously that restriction needs to end.

You won't necessarily get all the things you ask for, but it's helpful to go into the meeting with an attitude of "my son's educational experience really needs improving and here are some things that I think might help, what do you think?" rather than "you teachers are nasty sadists who hate me and my son, I hate you right back and I want to tell you what terrible people and awful teachers you are" - that latter attitude is how your post above reads.

It's important you make a proper appointment to say all this - don't try to fit it in when you pick your son up and drop him off at school. That's a time when teachers are usually very busy dealing with the whole class, and they're not going to be able to give you the time you need.

The article below seems quite relevant to me, and might be helpful, I recommend you read all of it:

Sometimes kids will make generic claims, like "The teacher's mean to me." You want to find out what that means. Etheredge calls this "unpacking" what your child is saying. Try to get as much detail as possible. Ask, "What exactly did she say? What was happening in the class when she said it?" (You might want to inquire casually, so your child doesn't clam up or exaggerate.) "Mean" might mean "She makes me do my work," in which case you could explain that the teacher is trying to show the kind of behavior you need to have at school; after all, some things are very reasonable under the circumstances, but they may not seem that way to a 6-year-old. The idea is not so much to uncover "the truth" of what went down but to get a more concrete sense of what your child is seeing.

...

If you decide you need to speak with the teacher, set up a time (not at dropoff or pickup), and go in as someone seeking help in solving a problem. Using inclusive language is important, says Etheredge. Say something like "I'm coming to you with a problem I don't completely understand, but I'm hoping together we can best figure out Mark's concern." Here's where you explain what your child told you and when, using his words as often as possible. "This de-escalates the situation," says Etheredge. You're not saying "Mark says you do this." Instead, you're saying "I need help understanding what's bugging Mark." Whatever you do, assume innocence all around.

...

speak to the principal or whoever is next on the school foodchain. Tell the principal the steps you've already taken, and "keep bringing it back to the child's perceptions," says Etheredge. "Your attitude is still, we all want her to have the best year possible." Explain how you've tried waiting and discussing it with the teacher, but what's going on is interfering with your child's education.

5 Smart Ways to Handle Teacher Troubles, parenting.com

  • 1
    +1 I believe I linked to the same article in a recent post myself. Also, this is a very structured response that I believe really helps in these types of situations. – user11394 Mar 17 '15 at 16:58
  • 1
    +1 for how to make it about the child's experience being bad, which the vast majority of teachers/principals will respond better to – Acire Mar 17 '15 at 17:58
  • You got flagged for a lot of edits on this post. Please try to consolidate changes into fewer edits. – Karl Bielefeldt Mar 18 '15 at 15:54
  • @KarlBielefeldt - It's just the way I usually write (if I'm writing something moderately serious), I usually re-read and copy-edit my writing multiple times, to improve it (or try to). Why is that a bad thing? Perhaps we should discuss this on meta. – A E Mar 18 '15 at 17:54
  • This situation has been occurring for multiple months now, and I'm sure that I'm not overreacting. I asked many of the same questions as you to my child, wanting to make sure that he is communicating correctly, but I will say that he does not have issues describing the situation although his pronounciation is not good. If I've come off as aggressive, I don't intend to present that way, but I have always been very professional and moreso assertive with the school officials. Thank you though, I'm definitely looking into the other things you have said. – Aliel Mar 19 '15 at 20:52
6

You are not going to get an accurate report on the day's activities in the classroom from a five year old. In fact most 13 year olds don't report accurately on what's going on. I arranged to spend two full days in my child's classroom. I sat at the back, and had a laptop, and tried to work, although I actually found the noise and chaos made working impossible.

Afterwards I was able to see much more clearly what was happening. For example, my child said a week or so earlier, "A and B were throwing an eraser back and forth, and were not in trouble, and it went past B and I threw it back to them so they could keep going, and I got in trouble but A and B did not." Well that certainly sounds like a teacher picking on someone doesn't it? My two days in the classroom taught me that this teacher let things go for a while and then said "stop" and anyone who did it after that was in trouble. My child hadn't even noticed that she had said stop, and didn't know that was her rule. There were plenty of other unspoken rules that I was able to explain after monitoring the room. As well I got a better picture of the expectations they had that were unreasonable, and was able to get changes to those in the IEP my child had for a few years.

If you tell the school that understanding what your child is doing wrong and teaching your child how to behave at school is your motivation for being in the classroom I expect they will agree to it. You might even say that the tales you hear at home don't make sense and you want to see what is really happening. You may end up helping your child navigate the school system and make a huge difference in the next decade or so of his life. Or you may unmask a cruel and unskilled teacher who for some reason cares what funding the school board gets. Either way will be a big win. I urge you to arrange this as soon as you can.

  • 1
    +1 "You are not going to get an accurate report on the day's activities in the classroom from a five year old." – A E Mar 21 '15 at 7:48
5

It sounds like you might be leaning toward homeschooling. If that's the case, bear in mind that you don't have wait for the end of the year. For our son, we didn't even wait out the week, let alone the semester. We had been pondering homeschooling for a while, but one Wednesday he had a particularly bad day with a substitute teacher, and that Friday was his first day homeschooling. My son had similar issues to yours in school. He is intelligent, but has some executive functioning and attention issues that make traditional classrooms very difficult for him.

If you're not prepared to homeschool, you might be to the point to involve the school's administrators and possibly hire an attorney who can represent your interests without getting as emotional. However, I don't believe the teacher is acting out of malice, but out of her own sense of how to help your son. Mainstream classroom teachers have neither the specialized training nor the time to give kids like your son the kind of individual attention he needs. She's probably doing the best she can, and is frustrated at being second-guessed all the time.

It's very possible a special education classroom would be a better fit for him, assuming a proper IEP. In the United States, the IEP process is the proper forum for addressing things like receiving speech therapy, and parents are supposed to be given a lot of input into that. You should be able to contact your school and initiate some sort of IEP review at any point, although they are usually regularly scheduled at certain times of the year. You're probably past the point you and the teacher are going to be able to resolve this on your own, though.

3

One thing that struck me when reading your question is whether or not the bad teacher knows that your son has a speech impediment?

My younger brother has some minor physical and perception-related handicaps that are not immediately visible, and people often react with anger because he's clumsy and seems to never notice other people around him, crashing into them and knocking over things etc.

I couldn't help wondering if the teacher's reaction is caused by not knowing that your son isn't just disinterested, disruptive, deliberately slow etc.?

If your son has been labelled as such in the teacher's understanding, it can be hard for him/her to even treat him equally to the other students. Teachers are humans too and can be misled by their perception of the student in question. There is substantial research that supports this, e.g. by letting teachers grade anonymous papers and grade similar papers when they knew the students' names. Sad, but true.

I'd try to figure out if that's the issue first of all. If you must book a formal meeting with the teacher, do it. You may try to get the principal involved in the formal meeting, too. Even a few months of improved schooling can mean a lot to the child.

I hope this suggestion is useful to you. I can imagine what a painful situation it is for a parent to see his/her child mistreated in school!

  • Hi Sikihe and welcome to Parenting. This is a great point to keep in mind. – Joe Mar 18 '15 at 15:15
  • She does know (I told her before school started so she could initially prepare). You can understand some to most of what he says but it should be very obvious he has a speech impediment/issue. However, thank you for your response. – Aliel Mar 19 '15 at 20:43
2

First of, I feel bad for your son going through all this at such a young age.

I agree with CreationEdge regarding your first question.
"look into the school district's complaint policy. It's time to go over the teacher's head"

but you should first make sure(I think you really are) that your teacher actually having mean behaviour towards your son and that you are not misunderstood. Because, wherever is it you complaint (principal or anywhere relevant), you would have to provide details of the events that made you conclude that that teacher is not good with your son.

Let me add some pros and cons for homeschooling which I'm sure you already are familiar with,

For instance,
- Your son could learn according to his interest and with his own speed.
- He won't have any serious burdens when it comes to deadlines, assignments.
- Home provides a better and stress-free environment which boosts a child's learning abilities just like you said- "his handwriting on in-school assignments is messy and rushed, he often tells me the teacher tells him he has to hurry or that other students are bothering him while his handwriting at home is very very neat and legible."

On the other hand,
- You would have to manage your own schedule because your son being too young, you have to be with him most of the time.
- While in school, a kid learns discipline which goes a long way in life.
- In school he would get to play sports(or if you provide sports for him without school, that works too)
- In school, his social skills develop fast.(very important).

Your second question:

  • Yes, you should try meeting up with the principal again and talk to him in detail about what's been happening. Try to explain the situation(That teacher and your son) in a polite and positive way. The principal wouldn't want to feel like his school is going out of order and he is not running it quite well.

  • Try to talk to other teachers there in the school.Just casually say "hello" and introduce your son to these other teachers.Your son if doesn't feel comfortable with his own teacher, knowing that there are other teachers who are nice to him and treat him well, will definitely boost his confidence and interest to go to the school.

Third Question:

  • Kids love playing! and having lots of people around.Ask your son, names of some his classmates that he like, then try to meet or call the parents of those kids and have a small picnic in a park.Tell them it's your birthday or a very special day (make something up)
    invite them, give all the kids gift-wrapped toys and chocolates.If those kids love that picnic 'almost hosted by you', they are going to want to be friends with your son all the time.(yeah,it seems like we are talking about a movie, but it works)

  • Also, if it seems to your son that the school life is not so interesting after all, create an environment at home and in the neighbourhood for him, an environment which he feels worth going school to, just so he can come back to that place where he could meet up people who are so amazing and fun to be with.
    (introduce him more to the people who live around you, take him to walks, ask him to remember some street today and that tommorow he would have to take you there).

  • Just remember if there are events in your kid's life that are unpleasant to him, make him look upto other things that he finds worth all the stress and burdens.

Now go get a walk and have some yummy(whatever dessert you love) and it'll all work out.:)

All the best!

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