Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Teacher Troubles

I hate to talk about school yet when all of you are still trying to enjoy summer, but it is around the corner and I was reminded of that when talking to a friend about her children's teachers.

Last year, she had trouble with one of her daughter's teachers whose only comments were that her daughter didn't try at all. My friend thought this was odd, given that her daughter had been nominated for student of the week by her primary teacher for completing her homework before any of her classmates.

The primary teacher told my friend not to worry, that this other teacher was "always like that."

This reminded me that we need to be strong advocates for our children throughout school. I don't mean that we should undermine or second guess teachers (my husband is a teacher; let me make that clear), but if we sense a problem between our child and teacher we need to address it as soon as possible.

I actually recommend taking steps before the school year even starts. Some schools allow you to request a certain teacher for your child. Talk to friends whose children have gone through the grade or ask for direction from administrators after explaining your child's potential needs.

Another proactive step is to meet with your child's teacher before the school year begins and ask the teacher about teaching methods, routines and how the teacher handles challenging students. If you sense any red flags, bring them up immediately to the teacher and talk about it.

If you sense resistance from the teacher, explain that you want to ensure that your child and the teacher have a good experience and you want to be available and provide as much information as necessary to support them both.

These steps are especially helpful if you have a child with a feisty or fearful temperament. Feisty children have a lot of energy, may come across as bossy to other children and may need more time for transitions. They can get frustrated if routines change and can tend to rush through activities. Fearful children will need time to warm up to group activities as they adjust to new classmates and the teacher. They like to plan ahead and observe things before jumping into activities.

If you can communicate these characteristics to teachers, they will be more prepared to support your child's learning needs and will appreciate that you took the time to make them aware.

Granted, some teachers may ignore you or unconsciously label your child (or you!) as a potential trouble maker. The best you can do in that situation is to stay calm, invite the teacher to focus on potential solutions instead of rehashing problems and, if necessary, request that your child be moved to another classroom. Remember that you can't change another person, but you can choose to maintain your composure and seek the best options for your child regardless of the challenge.

Stay calm. Stay involved. Stay focused on your child's best interests.

One caveat to that: If your child's behavior IS causing disruption or danger to other students, own and acknowledge that. Then try to move everyone forward to solutions. Between you, teachers and administrators, you can find solutions. Work on discipline consistently between school and home. Try to visit the classroom and observe your child (with and without the child's awareness) so you can get an idea of what might be causing the behavior.

In the end, you know your child best and can support the learning process if you focus on positive action steps. If discussion breaks down into venting and complaining, again stay focused and calm and ask about potential solutions...firmly if necessary.

Another mom I know did have to stand up, take up more space in the room by putting her hands on her hips, lean over an administrator's desk, and use her mean mommy voice on him. It had the desired effect; she had the gentleman's attention! Then they could begin the discussion...calmly. Or schedule another appointment!

If you have had a challenge with a teacher or administrator, I'd like to help. Leave a comment or email me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Great Press at BabyZone

Many thanks to Lisa Samalonis who interviewed me for BabyZone.com on how to avoid disciplining with anger.

She covered all of my stress personalities and my three magic elements of patience and included examples of real parents who owned up to their Old Yellers and Houdinis. It's a great article on managing anger and teaching children to be leaders, which is one of my main goals in this work.

Always exciting to get my message of patience out to more parents! Thanks Lisa!

Click on the title of this post or the link to read the full article. And give me your feedback.