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Our childrens' teachers are yellers - stay in public school?

June 2013

We have now experienced a private and a public school education. Our older son moved, after two years, from private to public. This year our younger son started kindergarten. We had prepared ourselves for the differences between public and private and were ready to support and work to fill gaps. We really want to be a part of our neighborhood community and really enjoyed this side of it. However, what we didn't plan for was the teaching. Although, our school has plenty of good teachers, both our children ended up with teachers that were yellers. I witnessed belittling, berating, and general unkindness toward the children in their classes. It appeared these teachers may no longer even enjoy children. I have worked with children for many years, so I know trying to get children's attention and respect can be difficult. However, these teachers just appeared to be run down and no longer interested in looking for new ways to improve classroom management. At the end of the school year, my older son said, ''I used to like going to school. Being at school was my favorite time of the day. Now I cannot wait to get out and get home.'' What do I do about this? If a school/teacher has taken the joy of school out of my child, do I risk another year? Due to job changes, we can only afford a little output for school, but not a huge tuition. confused

I would whole-heartedly encourage you to stay in public school! If you are having issues with your child's teachers, I hope that you have discussed it with the principal. So many parents hesitate to report teachers who are behaving badly in the classroom, and so their bad behavior goes unreported. The principal cannot make staffing changes or implement behavior modification plans with teachers if he/she doesn't know the extent of the problem. Parents MUST speak up and advocate for their children and all the children in the class. That said, every year your children will have a different teacher, so you cannot assume that this year's experience will be repeated next year. If you enjoy being a part of your neighborhood school community, then stay, and help make your school even better by working with the principal and other parents to address the teaching issues you witness. Choose Public School! Public school parent
I'm sorry to hear that two teachers in your children's school are ''yellers.'' Bay Area school districts give teachers ample training in best classroom management practices, and yelling at students is not considered acceptable and should be addressed immediately. While it can feel risky to do so, it's really important let the school principal know what's going on ASAP. Awkward as it may be, you should consider putting your concerns in writing and possibly copying someone besides the principal. Creating a safe, conducive learning environment is paramount, not only for your child but for all the children at the school. As you know, teaching is a demanding profession and not for everyone. It can be particularly hard at the end of one's career after so many years of working hard with insufficient resources, dealing with ever-changing district mandated programs, and teaching students with a wide range of skills--and very little assistance. The teachers involved may be in need of additional support/guidance from the administration. Or they may need to have an administrator working closely with them and telling them, ''Yelling is not an option.'' Someone needs to say it. Have you considered teaming up with other parents that you think may have held the same concerns? If several people write to the principal or call and request a meeting before school starts, you may be able to gain some traction. Good have an important job in front of you. Sarah
Your question is a little confusing, because your title suggests you are trying to choose between public and private, but then your closing suggests you cannot afford private regardless. So maybe you don't really have a choice? But then getting to the gist of your story, you seem to think that you are at higher risk of ''bad'' teachers in public school. I think at every school you may run the risk of a ''bad'' teacher, or at least a teacher who is not so effective with your particular child. And I'm sure there are a few yellers around. But our public school experience (in Oakland) has been happy. That's really the best word for it--happy! My kids love their school. My rising 6th grader is so sad about leaving elementary school because he loves his school so much. And my rising 4th grader did not want the school year to end, because she loved her 3rd grade teacher so much. She wasn't even happy about summer vacation! I hope your children can have similar experiences at their public school next year. I'm sorry they both had to suffer through a year of yelling teachers, but I think the odds are in your favor that this won't happen next year. Do you talk with other parents about the teachers at your school? Perhaps they can offer advice or information? I've heard of bad teachers in local private schools too, so I wouldn't necessarily count on avoiding them entirely even if you could afford the tuition. Momx3
If a teacher is not a good match for your student, you have the right to ask that he be placed with another teacher (and one advantage of public school is there are usually more options). Use this carefully, as doing it too often gets you a particular reputation. But do use it in the case where your child is being yelled at and berated to the point that he is unhappy with school.

My son had a teacher in kindergarten who was very difficult for him. This teacher yelled, but only at a few students (mine was one of them), and was very harsh sometimes. I didn't figure out what was happening early enough to ask for a different teacher, but I did write a letter to the principal at the end of the year explaining that my son had had a very difficult year, and explaining what I wanted for him in the future. I didn't make accusations, nor did I ask for any specific teacher, just outlined my son's needs very carefully. Every other teacher he had in that school was ideal for him. All were very kind, none of them yelled (we missed one other known ''yeller.'') We ended up with him loving school, loving his teachers, and very happy. It's OK to ask for what you want

Dear ''Stay in Public School?'' parent,

Your experience of the yelling, belittling, berating, and unkindness of a classroom teacher is familiar to us. On one hand I have seen a Berkeley public elementary school teacher throw a table at his students. Nonetheless, the worst school abuses of children we have seen have been at private schools in the East Bay and Marin. Having watched a child experience this in several school settings, please know that stressing your family out financially to support private school will not necessarily protect your child.

It is worth asking yourself if your child is contributing to this reaction from a teacher. We came to the conclusion that you can rule this out If you see this teacher's behavior directed towards kids in general and not specifically your child, and if your child is consistently well-liked by children and adults in all other settings.

Beyond home schooling,the only good solution to this situation that I have to recommend is ensuring that your child is in a school where there is a great deal of visual and physical oversight of students/ classrooms/ and activities by numerous adults with the hope that teachers will ''supervise'', set limits for, and support one another (not in that order). The physical layout, and philosophical or administrative structure makes this kind of child abuse much more likely (and almost predictable) in some school settings than in others.

What we used to do was pull our kid out of a school, at least by the end of that school year and try another place. We are now of the opinion there are potentially abusive people at most schools and that our child's best protection is to learn how to deal with such people.( Of course our kid is now in their teens and not in elemenary school.) We currently deal with this kind of situation by: 1) NEVER EVER sending our child to a school where they do not allow visitors/ parents to volunteer REGULARLY, 2) Telling our [now-older] child that there will always be people like that in the world, and just because they are out-of-control and mis-treating others, does not mean that our child is powerless or has to take it in (.. ''like water off a duck's back''), 3) having our child take Kid Power / Teen Power to learn both physically and psychologically self-protective skills, 4) asking abuser teachers what we can do to support them to try to provide some protection for our and other children, 5) addressing such incidents consistently and gently if at all possible with an abuser teacher (though we still have never seen this result in any significant change on the teacher's part). I sincerely hope that this situation was a unique one for your child and that all will be well from here on out. Sadly wishing you all the best

Disappointed in daughter's teacher this year

Sept 2012

My daughter is in a lovely public school. We have really enjoyed our time at this school--our daughter has made great friends (and so have we), there are terrific enrichment opportunities, the parents are deeply committed and involved in the school, and she has had wonderful teachers thus far.

This is the first year I am not wild about my daughter's teacher, and my daughter isn't very fond of her either. She seems to have a quick temper, yells quite a bit (my daughter has come home in tears over this) and doesn't seem to be all that interested in teaching. She shows a lot of movies, doesn't give very meaningful or challenging assignments, seems most concerned with keeping order among the 30 kids. I sympathize with her challenge--30 kids is a big class and I imagine it must be tough. There are many parent volunteers and a part time aide, so I think she's got some support. Today my daughter said, ''It's too bad we are stuck with Ms. X all year.'' This is a kid who loves school, does well and behaves well--to hear that was pretty disappointing. She's never spoken this way about a teacher and generally tries to see the best in everyone.

I know we both will not like every teacher she has and there's probably some value in making the best of this situation. But, I've got to say, it really stinks. We've considered moving her to private school for other reasons (smaller class size, more hands-on, progressive curriculum, no testing) but we like many things about the school and for financial reasons, it would be ideal to keep her in public until middle school. And I know there are less than ideal teachers in every situation. But I am concerned that this teacher's methods will somehow diminish my child's enthusiasm for school and make this a disappointing year for my daughter. If anyone has advice on getting through a year with a not-so-great teacher, please let me know. hoping for a good year

I wouldn't go as far as going to a private school yet. ALL schools (private included) will have less-than-great teachers; most will have teachers that are bad for your child. You have two choices if you stay where you are. 1) if you feel your child is still doing OK, and you think that the teachers in the next grade are good (ask around), you can teach your child to empathize with the teacher (she haas a really hard job, she's probably just tired), and you can teach her that some years will be good, and some less good. (BTW, this will become completely unavoidable in middle school). 2) If you feel that this is significantly impacting your child's learning, and her feeling for school overall (i.e she starts to ''hate'' school in general), you can request that your child be moved to a different classroom. Be absolutely sure you want to play this card though, as you usually only get to do it once in any given school.

Keep in mind that, even in private schools, there will usually be at least one teacher who just does not mesh at all with your child. In fact, one of the reasons that I decided against several of the private schools that I was considering, was that there was only one teacher per grade. If that teacher didn't work for my child, we were stuck and might have to move schools. At least at most public schools there's a choice. Karen

Dear Disappointed I empathize with you and I'm so sorry you've got a bad teacher this year. You didn't say what grade your daughter is in, though it's clearly elementary school. I'll share with you that in 4th grade my son had a disappointing teacher, and school really started to be a drag for him. It broke my heart, because for him it's critical that he connect with his teacher (as he had every year, and especially in 3rd grade) and having him dread going to school was an emotional drain on both of us. She was not a bad person, or even a bad teacher, but definitely not the right match for him. So I tried to volunteer in the classroom whenever I could, to get a better handle on what was going on there. I talked to the teacher about the issues he was having (that's when the mismatch became even more clear, unfortunately) and I tried to be empathetic but positive with my son. You're right, as you say in your email, that everyone has years like this (and even in private school - my daughter in a different school that was private had a horrible 3rd grade teacher, but now that she's in high school, she doesn't even remember her!) My son was old enough to hear this message. We'd go over all the good teachers he'd had over the years, and the fact that sometimes you don't get the greatest teacher, but you still have to do your best. If you feel like she's missing out on curriculum, maybe you can supplement? It's super hard for a parent, though, to see this happen to your child. If you have a supportive principal (we didn't) you could mention your concerns (in a fair and balanced way of course) and that might have some impact down the line. If it's really a question of a bad match maybe you can switch classrooms - though that is unusual. Sorry I don't have more of a magic bullet, but it's an unfortunate part of the process. We were very happy when the school year ended. Been there.

Student's recording of foul-mouthed substitute teacher

April 2012

Need advice My daughter is at Lamorinda Intermediate School. A substitute teacher was using foul language and threatening the students. One of the students recoded what the teacher was saying. What was said was repeated in every class throughout the day. (I've heard the recording, the language and threats are not appropriate.)

The student forwarded the recording to a dozen other students. News of the recording made its way back to the principal. Next day the principal summoned all of the students who had the recording to his office. He stated it was against school rules to use a phone in class and under California Educational Code 51512 they committed a misdemeanor making a recording. (Not true, it's only a crime if a non-student makes the recording. A student is subject to " appropriate disciplinary action.")

The twelve students were all summoned one by one to the principal's office and told (threatened) if they would show (on their phone) who they forwarded the message to, AND would delete the recoding from the phone while he watched the police would not be called. The principal has banned from the school. But my concern is the message/lesson this taught my daughter about her rights and being told to do something she thinks was wrong or illegal by someone in authority.

Questions. The principal obviously knows the law, he cited it. What he didn't do was cite it accurately misleading the students into believing they had committed a crime. (They had not.) I feel this was poor judgment and now that these students know an authority figured lied to them are less likely to trust authority figures in the future. I believe an apology to the students is in order. (If the student had lied the OIS Student code of conduct would require this of a student.)

I have contacted the district superintendent. His assistance told me he has not heard the recoding and referred me back to the principal. (But wait a minute, that's the person whose actions are in question.) Who to do? Who owns the data on a phone? The person who has the phone or owns the phone? Is it illegal to delete evidence? Warning to BPN Parents -- This teacher is still teaching in Alameda and Contra Costa County. Thanks

I would go to each of the school board members individually, and provide them all the information you have re the teacher, the recording, etc., minus any information on who might have made the recording or passed it to others, and ask that the fundamental issue--a teacher acting inappropriately at the school--be addressed. And noting that if the board doesn't act, your next stop will be with the media. Does Orinda have a Patch site? Our town is well covered by Patch, and has absolutely helped hold the school district's feet to the fire on some issues. But based on the principal's reaction, it sounds like this needs to be raised above that level, and in my experience, taking it to all of the board members will send a message that it's not something that can be ignored. Readily A Parent
Hello Have you tried to speak to the principal directly? Seems like this would be the first step to establishing first hand information. An alternate lesson for your daughter - two wrongs do not make a right. another prespective

High school teacher bullying my kid

Dec 2010

My teenager, a terrific very hard working high school student, with great grades and citizenship remarks has been verbally bullied by a teacher that has a reputation of bullying other students. This past week my teenager was in tears from some very nasty comments that were made in front of the entire class. My husband went to the principal at the beginning of the year and the principal e-mailed us stating that he told the teacher in no uncertain terms that she couldn't do xy and z to our kid again. My husband and I want to go to the principal again to report her ongoing harassment. Our teenager is fearful that there will be further repercussions from doing so. I'm writing to see how others have handled similar situations? Thank you very much in advance. Wanting to do the right thing.

I would suggest that the student get permission from the administration to record every minute of every class session, just like college students do. Then, the teacher will either change the approach, or you will have evidence. Either way, things are better. Really, you have no case without hard evidence. Sanon
I love my flip video, small as your hand. I would have your daughter video her abusive teacher and show it to the principal or police. arden
From what little you have said all I can say is that it infuriates me that a teacher would behave this way toward a student. Teachers who are demonstrating such poor behavior should not be allowed to teach. Period. It amazes me that they make their way into a school in the first place, and it's even more amazing that they are not fired for such behavior.

My daughter had a couple of bad teacher's during her public elementary and high school experience. When she was in elementary school we demanded a change because the situation she was in was really effecting her well-being. Luckily the district accommodated our request and she thrived at her new school.

In high school we elected to encourage her to try to work with two teachers that weren't at all a good fit for her, to say the least, but they weren't bullies and were nice enough to try to work with her individually. It was very hard to see her floundering in these two classes but I think it gave her the opportunity to learn some coping skills that are important ones to have. At any school there are always teachers that aren't going to cut it but bullying is a whole different ball of wax and there's no sense in tolerating that at all.

Is moving your child to another class at all possible? Would your child be willing to move if it is an option?

Speak to the principal again and find out if this is an option since your child certainly has a right, at a minimum, to be respected. Best of Luck

Messy, disorganized kindergarten classroom

Oct 2010

Hi. My oldest kid is now in kindergarten so this (public) elementary school thing is new to me and I'm not sure my expectations are on target. How messy is your child's room? Does your teacher stay after school at all to clean or prep for the next day? Are the kids expected to clean up their work stations each day? Does the carpet get vacuumed? Does paper on the ground get picked up? Is paint cleaned out after use or left to get dry? Is there food around the room, trash on the floor and a general level of chaos? If it is cleaned, who does it? Parent volunteers or staff/teachers? I'm no neat freak (in fact, I have a high tolerance for a mess), but it seems that a classroom should be more organized and clean than what I see. This could be the norm, so I'm just checking in with other public school kindergarten parents out there. Thanks for any input. Just wondering...

My first child's kindergarten classroom (Berkeley public school) was orderly. Teacher was organized & this reflected in her classroom. Second child's kinder classroom was the total opposite. The room overflowed with paper, miscellaneous books, random unorganized supplies, undelivered memos.... ugh. And the classroom very much reflected the teacher's state of mind: teaching way too many concepts at once, fuzzy focus, inconsistent discipline. -Glad that kindergarten is done!
I have seen a huge variation in room cleanliness - not just in K but in other grades, too. So much depends on the teacher and the custodian and the prevalence of ants. It also depends on kind and thoughtful volunteers who can approach a teacher with diplomacy and respect, and see if the teacher will allow them to help out by cleaning up after activities, or cleaning up one section of the room at a time. Different teachers have different reactions, so use persistent tact. Good luck. Anon
Yes, it sounds like your child's teacher either has a very high tolerance for messes, or just doesn't know how to manage the mess very well. In our (Berkeley public) K classroom...yes, the teacher stays after to prep. The kids clean up work stations, with the help of the K Aide and teacher. The carpet is vacuumed (we have a janitor) & the floors are swept daily. Paint is cleaned out from cups. It's not spotless, but it's neat, even at the end of the school day. (This is my youngest of 3 kids and all the K rooms have been managed the same way.) Sounds like a chat with the teacher, or maybe the principal, is in order... mom of 3 in Berkeley

Teacher does not know grade level content

April 2010

My son had the same teacher for third grade and fourth grade. The teacher moved from teaching third grade to fourth grade. She had told students not to ask specific questions about mathematics, science and grammar (sentence structure, Greek and Latin root words, etc.) because she does not know the answers. At Back to School Night the teacher explained to parents that she would not be teaching much in fourth grade as students have so much going on with their bodies that it was too much to grow their minds and their bodies at the same time.

Several parents have gone to the principal and she is working with the teacher. The teacher filed a grievance with the union. Little has improved. However eight parents paid for tutoring for their children (Sylvan, private tutors, Kumon), one family moved last week and two families will move before the year is over but continue the year at the school. Three parents are filing Universal Complaints with the district because their families cannot afford tutoring. Of the 12 parents who have met, all students have seen their benchmark test scores plummet from 35% - 65% on tests as the material has not been taught. Homework concepts are taught in class about 25% - 35% of the time, otherwise parents are teaching the concepts at home.

The teacher uses ''the smart kids'' work (teacher's words) to correct student papers in class and my son had five items marked wrong the week before spring break that were correct when the teacher used student work for correcting.

Here is my problem. She is one of the few minority teachers in the school. I believe she loves the students and loves ''teaching'' but simply does not know fourth grade content. From what I can see in the textbooks she had not covered half of the material in the book. What should I do? Concerned Parent who Wants to do Right by My Son and the Teacher

I'm disheartened to see that you're using race in the equation at all. An incompetent teacher is just that, an incompetent teacher. I would encourage you to continue to stick to your guns and talk to the teacher and principal about appropriate teaching skills and expectations until they are met. It is only by being consistent in this endeavor that this teacher will improve.

By commenting on this woman's race, it comes off that you think it might be ok to have different expectations based on what you look like. How sad. One shouldn't receive special dispensations for doing a bad job because you're a minority. Let's encourage everyone to do a fantastic job, for themselves and for our kids.

Good luck. meritocracy, anyone?

You are really in a bind, and I feel for you. I am a teacher and a mother. You are being extremely patient and kind in your remarks about the teacher. I would be furious. Teachers do get yanked around in so many ways, and teaching a different grade level is really challenging, but your son's teacher's attitude is unacceptable. Her job is to teach the content to her students, and she should be learning the content as she goes along. It sounds as if she is ticked off that she got reassigned to a new grade level and is refusing to do her best. School is almost over, so my best advice at this point is to stick it out, and advocate with the principal for a good teacher next year. I wish I could offer more.
Despite what many parents assume, we teachers do not teach whatever we want whenever we want. Curriculum is strictly mandated by the district and is regulated by a pacing guide that tells teachers the week in which they must teach certain concepts. If your child's teacher is going to be ''reported'' for doing something wrong, and if the principal and the district have the power to discipline the teacher for wrongdoing, it must have something to do with disregarding the mandated curriculum and pacing guide. Get your hands on the pacing guide - it's not hard to do - and check to see if your child's teacher is following it. The only way that a teacher would not know grade level content is if he or she ignores district-mandated curriculums and guides, which is a serious violation indeed. Teaching is a very difficult profession that requires a great deal of energy, but we're really not making it up as we go along. It's pretty heavily ''scripted'', and if your child's teacher doesn't know the curriculum, it's because she is not following the ''script''. anon
ARG! I am tearing my hair out in sympathy for you! I am an elementary teacher, with a masters, and 5 years of experience, but I was laid off due to budget cuts (because I was low on the seniority list because we moved here from out of state and I was newest to the district last year).

I have read SO many stories recently of crap teachers just sitting on their butts in our local schools because they have tenure and the unions protect them. It's next to impossible to get ready of these bad teachers, and CA doesn't offer enough incentives (or funding) to train them better.

This teacher is probably a very good person. Perhaps she was asked to teach a grade she wasn't used to. From grade to grade, there is a lot that is different and it can take a while to get a grasp of it all... BUT it's HER JOB to learn it for peet's sake! No excuse! 'physical development' of the child is the stupidest reason ever! There is ZERO room in a child's education these days for a year slacking off!

I really WANT a job, and every year we've lived here, I've gotten laid off because I'm not tenured... it just doesnt' seem fair that the best and brightest young teachers are the ones getting the shaft for old/tired/incompetent teachers. frustrated teacher!

I'm sorry that you're having this issue with your child's teacher. It must be incredibly frustrating for you and your child. A couple questions: do you feel that her being a minority has to do with her not being fired or removed or do you think that is the reason for her lack of content knowledge. That felt really hurtful for you to mention that since it had nothing to do with the content of the problem. Second question: what is the principal saying? Teachers are protected by the union for DUE process but there is definitely a process that includes evaluation. Have parents made formal complaints against this teacher? Parents are VERY powerful. Third, have these concerns been brought to the teacher. When you have observed the class, what do you notice about her teaching? Lastly, do you feel that your son is not learning anything this year? and has he complained about the class? that sucks

P.E. teacher-unfair!

Sept 2004

Hello- I am really steamed at my eleven-year-old daughter's P.E. teacher. My daughter had a terrible foot/ankle injury (I won't get into it) and is in a cast with cruches. She will not be able to do any running or P.E. excercises for at least a semester and a half. Now that she is in sixth grade she has to run the mile once a week. This is a huge part of her grade. As she is unable to do or make up the work her P.E. teachers say that regardless of her condition they will have to give her a B- because she is unable to do the exercises and the mile. I am very upset about this, as is she. As of now, if they were grading her, she would qualify for an A. Does anyone else think this is unreasonable and unfair or know what to do?

My daugther had a very similar experience in 4th grade. She missed about a month of school when we took a trip out of the country for a family event. All her other teachers gave her work in advance and she worked hard while away to do it, but her PE teacher graded her down and no make up was possible. I talked to the teacher but she wouldn't budge. It was upsetting at first, but in the end we put it down to one of those unfair experiences in life. We told our daughter that it wasn't fair, but it was, after all, only down to a B, not an F, and it's only a P.E. grade. anne
Totally absurd, unjust, and narrow-minded! Make an appointment with the pricipal. Don't accept it.
I would definately go to the principal, if you've already tried to reason with the PE teacher. Giving a bad grade due to a medical condition is unreasonable. seems unfair to me
Totally, totally unfair!!! My guess is that the best thing to do is to speak to the principal (assuming you and your daughter have already tried talking to the teacher directly, outside the chaos of gym class). I would think that your daughter and her teacher should be able to work out an alternate but equitable measure of success for the class, just as a more permanently disabled student would -- surely a disabled child in the class would not be limited to a B-! I would hope, too, that she (not you) is leading the fight for her fair grade. anon
I would write a letter to the Principal and send a copy to the teacher. I would explain that your daughter has a temporary disability, and that the teacher's threat to reduce her grade because she can't run a mile constitutes discrimination. I would request that the teacher prepare a written plan for alternate activities within 10 days, for the approval of her parents and her doctor. em
First of all, I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but a B in P.E. in 6th grade is not a big deal - try to keep some perspective. In one year or even one semester, noone will give a hoot. However, the PE teacher's solution does seem a bit half hearted. It seems like a real waste of your daughters time - what does she do sit passively and watch? I wonder if he or she just can't think what else to do with her. Discuss with him/her to possibility of organizing some other activity that can substitute until she's cleared to run again, like spending the period working in the library. This probably isn't something that the PE teacher has control over but it would be nice to suggest it to him/her. Or you can ask for some ideas and offer to talk with the principle so this can be arranged. That way its doesn't seem like you're just going over her head. Is there anything your daughter is interested in trying? Let this be a opportunity for her not just an aggravation anon

Incompatible 2d grade teacher

March 2004

Our son is in the second grade in a local private school and has struggled to please his teacher since September, but she has a geniune dislike of him and he feels it every single day. He is a friendly, outgoing kid (and did well his first 2 years at this school), but began this year on a difficult note when he strongly objected to another student who would not (could not?) leave him alone. This student spent much of her day following him around the room, wiping snot on his clothes, showing him her underwear, and pinching him. His reaction was to scream ''stop'' in class. His teacher met with us at the beginning of the year and told us how ''sweet'' the girl really was, that she and our son had a ''love-hate'' relationship, and essentially, that he would just have to try to get along with people like that. He has trouble concentrating in class anyway, but now this daily distraction has negatively affected his work and his mood to the point where he rarely finishes his work. He dreads going to school, clings to me in the morning (he hasn't done this since he was 3) and when I tell his teacher, she says he should try to get to school a little earlier each day, to have time to adjust. She does not discipline the girl consistently. In short, I believe that she genuinely dislikes my son, and cannot rise above this reaction and do her job as a teacher/professional. Nor do I have much faith that complaining to the director would help. I already did that about a couple of other issues this year involving this teacher, and had a ''lovely'' meeting with the director, but now the atmosphere in my son's class is even worse for my son. (The only time he has been glad to go to school was during the teacher's vacation, when a sub taught the class). This is a year-round school, and we have five more months there (we are moving to the Berkeley public schools in the fall). Should I try to get him switched to the other 2d grade class? I am so weary and frustrated with this problem but this is a no-win situation. sad mom

Since he'll be switching schools anyway, why don't you see if there's space in the new school now and if so let him make the tranistion to the new school early and get him out of the situation. Anon
I had trouble with a school situation (as a parent) years ago. Have you tried volunteering in the classroom in order to get a direct sense of the situation? If your impressions remain the same then consider working with the Director to change classes. former teacher
I can really sympathize with your frustration about your son and have had similar experiences where teachers have not ''seen'' what's going on socially in the classroom and, in particular, how one child's behavior can seriously impact others. Teachers have their blind spots like anyone else and she really may not understand how destructive this little girl is. But are you sure she really dislikes your son? It may be that she is downplaying the effects this little girl has in order to ''keep the peace.'' Maybe the thing to do is to talk to the girl's parents about what's going on and try to work with them. Also, I believe if you let the school know you are actually considering withdrawing your son, they will take your concerns more seriously. Good luck. I know how stressful these situations can be. been there
Wow, this sounds like a situation that is causing serious distress in your child's life. I think the issues are that he is being harrassed (even if it is ''sweet'' as the teacher says, it sounds like it feels harsh to him) and not having his need for security met by his teacher. In my very biased opinion (as a child care provider and former teacher), a teachers foremost responsibility is to ensure each child's emotional and physical safety. If your kid feels like his teacher doesnt care about him, why would he WANT to go to school? The teacher's role is advocate and protector for the students, and this is not the role the teacher is fulfilling if your son would rather trust a sub than the teacher he knows. Especially when the student is 7!! If it isn't working, i think you should move your son to another school (or classroom if there is another 2nd grade class) where he has a teacher who has the capacity to protect and advocate for EVERY child in his/her classroom. If your son doesn't trust the teacher, and you really believe the teacher doesnt like your child, working it out with the teacher sounds painful for you and your son. There are so many great teachers who treat children with respect and compassion. If you've run into a teacher who can't do that, I think you should think about finding a new teacher who has the capacity to. Good, good luck. Berkeley nanny
I do not have much to offer in terms of HOW to address the situation, but I will offer this. My youngest sister, now about 32, had a very nasty 2nd grade teacher who just did not like her for some reason. To this day, she remembers how horrible that year was. For years, because of things the teacher said to her, she thought she was not as smart as the rest of us, and I think it affected her academic performance for years. For a 7-year old, a year is a LONG time. The damage from a teacher who seems uncaring, or worse, actively hostile, can be profound and long- lasting. Get him into a different class ASAP. Good luck. Anon

Overly strict teacher

Dec 2003

How have people helped their child cope with a ''Mean'' teacher. (We've tried changing the class.) I'm nervous about working directly with the teacher because at this point the teacher likes my child, who is generally very well- behaved and wants to be ''good.'' She frequently scolds kids in line for dropping things or bumping into each other. She's scolded my child for not being loud enough. My child has been saying I'm stupid when my child makes mistakes at home. My child has also been scolding me when I make mistakes -- not that this never happened before but the intensity is greater. The curriculum is good and the parents who like her say that the kids aren't bothered by the ''strictness.'' (I've also been wondering where the line between strict and mean is???) I'm not looking to change the teacher, I'm looking for ideas on how to help my child get perspective on this and not feel like they are doing everything wrong. worried

If the teacher is truely being mean (ie:abusive?) you might talk to the principal about it, or if the teacher is approachable try talking to her in a non accusing manner. Sounds like she may not be approachable. You didn't say how old your child is but if he/she is old enough to understand that some teachers are nicer and kinder and some are not he/she may be able to get through the year more easily. Is she a good teacher, even though she's mean? Then your child may have to put the meanness aside and get what he/she can out of the class and also understand that when the teacher yells or calls children stupid, it's the teachers unhappiness and not anything about the child. I'm sure most of us mom's and dad's have had similar teachers in life. I certainly did. It can be hell, but eventually the year ends and I don't know that too many of us were permanently damaged. The great teachers I've had by far outweigh the few ''teachers from hell''. Good luck dealing with this. I feel for you. anon
I had 2 kids in a very expensive private school who both had a problem with an immature teacher at different years. Knowing what I know now, I would remove my child as soon as I can from this bad experience that would affect them for the rest of their lives and move to a school that you can work with. A few months after we moved out of the school, I found out that this teacher was being unreasonable even in the classroom. She would pick on 5 or so students in a day and force or limit them to do the same exercise/work everyday until they meet her requirement. They were not allowed to do anything else during the school day but this one particular school work. The children were not allowed to play or have recess and sometimes even extend to lunch time until they complete the work to her expectations. This went on for several weeks. None of my children like this teacher. She is very mean. Under this teacher my children were always at the directors office as a rebellion to what is going on. They learned to defy authority and they also begin to feel that they are bad. Once children feel they are bad, it is very dangerous. We had to go to theraphy and different counselors. One finally advised us that my children need teachers who love them. I am very happy that we moved to another school where both teachers and aides are very nice to children. The administration works with us and really care for our children. I hope you find the right school and environment for your child. anonymous
Well, it's a little difficult to answer you completely because you don't mention how old your child is. (In early elementary school, part of a teacher's job is to teach appropriate social interaction and behavior, so the kids are expected to have trouble with things such as standing in line, while with older children difficulty standing in line usually only means they are horsing around, for example.)

In my opinion, though, the difference between mean and strict is that a strict teacher sets forth rules and adheres to them very closely. The rules are fair and there is nothing wrong with a strict teacher. A mean teacher makes it personal -- criticizes the child rather than the behavior -- which is inappropriate.

Have you observed the teacher ''scolding'' the children first hand? Is the behavior your child is modeling based upon the teacher's behavior in the classroom? Or possibly that of another student? I would suggest a conference with the teacher. No good teacher would be bothered by your concerns, if they are raised without casting blame based upon hearsay (If that's what it is). I think the teacher might welcome the dialogue about their approach to discipline in the classroom. A good teacher would certainly NEVER take this out on your child, or suddenly dislike your child, because you met with them. a teacher and a parent

My daughter has had several grumpy teachers over the years, and I've tried to explain them to her that way: they're grumpy, or having a bad day, or having trouble managing a difficult class, or maybe don't like kids and shouldn't have been teachers at all! It's important that the child knows she's not bad or doing anything wrong. I figure my daughter will come across all kinds of people in her life, not all of them will be pleasant. I've found it impossible to get anywhere by talking to the teacher or complaining to the principal, basically they don't see a problem. anon
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