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My daughter is in year 1 in the UK. She was asked by her teacher to help a boy of her class go to the boys' toilet and get back. What should I be aware of in such cases? I am not sure what were the circumstances under which she asked this from my daughter but I think this is inappropriate for whatever reasons. How can I handle this so that I don't appear unduly aggressive towards the school and this teacher in particular?

Edit: I think I will clarify some facts about the situation. Factually, as I heard it from my daughter, the teacher asked her to "take the boy to toilet". I do not know what were the teacher's intentions (out of, as comments said, “showing him the way and the door, possibly waiting outside for him to guide him back” or “bring him inside, assist him in any way”) at this stage - I will have to find that out when I talk to her. In terms of what really happened, she told me she actually went into the toilet and stayed with the boy for a minute and came out along with him. I am also not sure if my daughter did so because she clearly heard her teacher asking her to do so, or because she just inferred this to be case from her words.

Also, it is quite possible (because I kind of know the boy whom she is talking about) that this boy is a special needs child, as in he needs some help for his simple activities at school. I think this fact adds further complications to the situation.

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    FWIW, I suspect the teacher picked your daughter because they considered her to be the most responsible student available. – Strawberry Nov 13 at 11:30
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    Could you please clarify: “take to toilet” as in “showing him the way and the door, possibly waiting outside for him to guide him back” or as in “bring him inside, assist him in any way”? – Stephie Nov 13 at 11:45
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    @LioElbammalf Cultures that seriously consider the differences between boys and girls as a primary focus. Most white British parents wouldn't really spend much time worrying about two 5 or 6 year olds walking to the toilet together - though I doubt the teacher intended for her to go inside – Dan Nov 13 at 13:40
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    What is your issue with this? Is it that your daughter was asked to help? Is it that your daughter was asked to help someone go to the toilet? Is it that your daughter was asked to help a boy go to the toilet? – Aaron F Nov 13 at 18:10
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    @Dan "Most white British parents" - I don't see what skin colour has to do with this. "Most British parents" of all skin colours would not have a problem with the situation. – Aaron F Nov 13 at 18:17
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The best way I've found to approach teachers about things they do in the classroom (which they presumably think are okay) and you disagree with, is to approach them from the point of view that they're not wrong: but instead, that you have a preference that's different, and you're asking them politely to adjust to your preference, but understand it's a significant ask.

My son, for example, who's only a year or so older than your daughter, has had an issue recently where he's dropped his pencil and it rolls under something. Due to COVID, he's not supposed to be up and about too much, but when he asked the teacher to get his pencil, she decided that he had thrown it intentionally, and made him change what he was working on instead.

I don't find that a useful way to approach that issue (both because I believe him when he said he didn't, and because I think it's a poor way to address it in general; if he's working on something happily, discipline shouldn't get in the way of that.) The way I will address this with them is:

  1. Let them know that I appreciate what they're doing with my son in general
  2. Let them know that my son came to me with this problem, and ask if they can give context to what happened
  3. Ask if there's anything we can do together to help solve the problem (the problem being that my son is, apparently, throwing things, or perhaps more likely is being uncareful with his pencil).
  4. Thank them for working with me to help my son be as successful as he can be in their environment.

Your issue could be addressed pretty similarly, I think.

  1. Let her know that you appreciate what she's doing with your daughter
  2. Let her know what your daughter told you, and ask for her perspective on the matter. Let her know that you felt uncomfortable with it, perhaps in those words specifically.
  3. Ask if it is possible to accommodate your feelings here, and be pretty specific about what bothers you about this - but without using accusatory language; perhaps something like "I'm uncomfortable with my daughter being in the toilet with a boy", or "I'm uncomfortable with my daughter getting used to the idea of being in the toilet with a boy", or whatever is your specific concern - but phrased as if it is specifically your issue, not her problem, and you're asking her to make an accommodation for you.
  4. Thank her for working with you to help get your daughter the best education she can.

Here, in 2. it is important to ask them for their perspective, as it may be different than what you got from your daughter. (Perhaps she asked your daughter to show him where the toilet was, but didn't go in, or perhaps she meant for her to do something different from what she actually did do.) It also gives you context as to why she might have done that - did she ask her to do that because she's the most responsible kid in the class? Is it one of her close friends? That's not to say your concern isn't still valid, but it might help you understand her better.

The important thing here is to go into this assuming that she wants the best thing for your daughter just as you do, and she just has a different point of view. If you approach the conversation, at every point, as a collaboration, it will go well.

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    Although I think there is a lot of good information in your answer, I find it disturbing that teachers apparently need so much ass-kissing in the process of simply letting them know you would prefer something be done differently with your child. – RockPaperLz- Mask it or Casket Nov 13 at 10:10
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket it's not ass-kissing. It's just "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar". You will get a better outcome being collaborative and acting as though you are naturally assuming that they will be likewise, than being hostile and acting as though you are assuming they are either being deliberately malicious or incompetent. – Vicky Nov 13 at 11:29
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket I've heard enough of the teacher's side of things to know that a) some teachers are perfectly reasonable and some are the opposite, like every group of people, and you might need to assume the worst, and b) teachers get a lot of unreasonable requests and are generally overworked with contradictory requirements that are impossible to fulfill in the time they are paid. So even the reasonable ones might not be happy to have their life complicated by the parents. – Nobody Nov 13 at 11:32
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket It can also prevent a lot of personal embarrassment, if it turns out that there was actually a misunderstanding about something reasonable that the teacher did. It's easier to go from more nice to less nice than it is to go from less nice to more nice. – user3067860 Nov 13 at 15:57
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    Nice answer. Incidentally, as a teacher, I can understand the pencil logic. I wouldn't see it as discipline but rather would say to myself, "He's tossing things around because he's restless and bored. Why send him back to the same task? He'll only act out again. Let's see if a different activity will hold his attention better." She was wrong about the pencil being tossed, but the response is more constructive than punishment. (Assuming, of course, that this reasoning applies to your situation - who knows if she thought like this or just got frustrated - but in principle it could be logical.) – Luke Sawczak Nov 14 at 13:43
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I think this is inappropriate for whatever reasons

In my opinion, you need to be clear why you think it is inappropriate. I can think of three possible reasons, (1) they are of a different gender, (2) a young child should not be given responsibility over another child. (3) the child helping would miss some of the class.

(1) I presume that the girl was only intended to be a guide for a pupil who did not know the location of the toilets. I don't suppose she was intended to go inside the room or help with buttons or anything similar.

(2) There is an insurance issue. If either child had a serious accident whilst unsupervised by an adult there might be liability on the part of the school. Presumably they have a standard policy for handling this. Obviously the teacher cannot leave the class alone while accompanying the child. No-one can be in two places at once. It's worth asking about the usual procedure.

(3) The helping child would miss some instruction. This is a possible issue.

Clearly, needing to go to the toilet is a common occurrence. I believe the most expeditious way forward, without making accusations or complaints, is simply to ask the head teacher what provisions are made in this establishment. Also ask yourself what you would have done, had you been the teacher. I suggest you would have picked the most responsible child to help.

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    From the perspective of trying to influence the teacher's decision, I don't recommend argument #3. The teacher is in a much stronger position to judge #3 than the parent and knows it. I feel like any serious attempt to dispute the teacher's opinion on point #3 will come across as not trusting the teacher's ability as an instructor. – Brian Nov 13 at 16:19
  • @Brian - I agree. I was merely trying to enumerate all reasons I could think of that might prompt the OP's use of the term "inappropriate" – chasly - supports Monica Nov 13 at 19:13
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I am not sure what were the circumstances under which she asked this from my daughter but I think this is inappropriate for whatever reasons.

If you want to have a productive conversation with the teacher, those are the fundamental aspects of the situation that simply can't be glossed over. If indeed you think it's self-evidently inappropriate to do what the teacher did as a routine task not requiring special attention, it is very likely that you have a significantly different outlook on things, and that requires care and attention to resolve.

You need to ask yourself the following:

  • What are the specifics of the situation? - If you want your concerns to be taken seriously without appearing unduly aggressive, you need to treat the other side seriously and learn what exactly happened and why.
  • What about the situation is inappropriate? - Once you know the specifics of the situation, do you still believe anything inappropriate happened? If so, what was that; what are the important aspects and what is incidental? The clearer you can make it, the easier it will be to understand your concerns and not make assumptions that might or might not be valid. As chasly's answer points out, there's a large number of things you could potentially be objecting to, and any or none of them could be correct. Without knowing what it is, it's very hard to address anything.
  • Why was it inappropriate? - Can you explain why the above is undesirable? Can you do it with reference to facts or values you share with the other party, or does it come down to "that's just how I feel"? Are you alone in your feelings or is it the general consensus? You are of course entitled to your feelings, whatever they might be, but so is the teacher. Since you're the one criticising their decisions in that capacity, you need to be able to explain why you think the criticism is justified.
  • Do you believe you are right to feel that way? - This may sound odd, but especially with "that's just how I feel" matters, feeling a certain way, even strongly, is not necessarily the same as knowing or believing to be right about it, or wanting it to be the case. I certainly have things where my gut feeling does not agree with what I would like to be the case based on my other values and beliefs, and there have been instances where my immediate and obvious beliefs were wrong and/or unjustified, but I have not previously examined them enough to realise that.
  • Is this for your daughter, or for yourself? - Things you feel strongly about aren't necessarily the same as things that are important for the well-being of your daughter. We all have certain feelings and hangups about things based on our own life experiences and upbringing, but it's important not to confuse "this is how I was raised" with "this is how kids should be raised" or "this is very important to my daughter". Your daughter is 5, and doesn't have many of the ideas that feel obvious and natural to you. We know that you feel what happened was wrong, but are you sure you want your daughter to feel it was wrong? Perhaps her life would be easier and happier if she didn't?

Without answering the above, it will be difficult to make a reasoned case with your school that won't be seen as unduly aggressive and which won't just make everyone's life harder. Since your original question did not seem overly concerned with either the specifics of what transpired nor why it was a problem, I feel it's reasonable to think that perhaps simply dropping it might be the best course of action.

Lastly, it needs to be pointed out that there might not, in fact, be a satisfactory resolution here. You seem to stress the fact that it was a boy and a girl, so I'm going to assume that is an important aspect that makes it inappropriate to you. If that is indeed the case, then I personally would very strongly object to that notion. The gender of the children (or any other persons) involved not only should not be a factor, but making it a factor causes demonstrable harms, both to your daughter, to other children, and ultimately to the society at large. If I were a teacher or another parent at your school, I would resist attempts at making it an important factor. If that is the case, then any outcome will likely have either you or other people at your school dissatisfied with it.

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  • “she told me she actually went into the toilet and stayed with the boy for a minute and came out along with him” Is this wrong or not? I don’t know. But it seems significant enough that we shouldn’t just dismiss it as you seem to be doing. – Brian Drake Nov 15 at 11:02
  • Maybe, but 1) that was what OP's daughter did, not what she was asked to do 2) the OP did not in any way indicate that that is the problem. To the contrary, they explicitly stated that they did not care to name the actual root of the issue, nor to find out the specifics of the situation. The OP just wants to be generally offended for no particular reason and make someone else's life difficult on that account, which I don't think should be encouraged, either as a question here nor as a general life strategy. – mathrick Nov 16 at 0:36
  • (1) I know that’s what the daughter did, not what she was asked to do. But she did it as a result of her teacher’s instruction, while under her teacher’s care. That doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher did anything wrong, but the teacher is involved here. (2) Does the OP have a good reason for thinking this is “inappropriate”? Maybe they don’t. Or maybe they do, but think it’s so obvious they didn’t need to write it in the post. Or maybe they have a strong feeling, but can’t explain why. Plenty of responses have already questioned this; let’s stop there until the OP is more specific. – Brian Drake Nov 16 at 6:26
  • Hi; welcome to the site. This isn't an answer to the question, but is a comment or question; please consider using the comment section below the question if you want to get clarification on the question. Answers should also not be used to argue with the post, and should aim to answer the question as asked. See our faq and the help center for more information. Thanks, and welcome! – Joe Nov 16 at 16:36
  • @Joe: given the question "how do I do X?", what is the proper etiquette to communicate "you shouldn't be doing X"? I genuinely believe that this is the right answer in this situation, and answering the question as asked would be glossing over critical flaws that'd result in harm being done if not addressed. Ultimately, what the OP wants to know is the right way to behave in the situation they describe, and it seems to me that anything consistent with the question as asked would be strictly worse than examining why they want to react the way they did. – mathrick Nov 16 at 19:49

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