My son Jack is in the 5th grade and is struggling with his school work. When he asks his teacher a question, she tells him he needs to figure it out himself, because that material was already covered. Jack excelled in mathematics last year but now he says math “just isn’t his thing.” The teacher seems to have it out for him. If I complain, I am concerned his teacher will make it more difficult for Jack because his mom stirred up trouble but I don’t want him to fall behind. What should I do?
A: Before you complain to the administration, meet with the teacher on an informal basis. Call or email to set a time to have a brief talk. Let the teacher know that you are just checking in and look forward to meeting. Your attitude could lessen the teacher’s negative reaction. On the other hand, if you have already met the teacher during Back-to-School Night and are informed about the class requirements, request a more formal parent-teacher conference. Before you attend the casual meeting or parent-teacher conference, gather more information from Jack. Is his math class just before lunch or at the end of the day? Is his desk too far back to see the white board? Is he surrounded by distracting classmates? Review the assignments and graded work with him. Simple factors might be negatively impacting his ability to focus, and could be easy remedied.
It is also likely that your son ended up with a mediocre teacher who caters to the children who already understand the material or have advanced skills. You might not be able to move Jack into another class so you’ll need to help him adjust. If this is the case, find a good tutor who will provide Jack with one-to-one instruction to equip him to handle the workload. Spend homework-time with Jack and connect his math assignments to the subjects he likes. For example, if he does well in science or astronomy, help him connect mathematics to solar calculations.
A school district superintendent once told me, when my own daughters were starting school, that parents should consider themselves lucky if their children end up with two to three “good” teachers during their 12 years of school. As unsettling as that is, it doesn’t change the fact that it is up to you to guide Jack through the maze of teachers with greatly varying teaching styles and personalities. In the end, Jack’s adaptability will enhance his life-long successes.