Teacher Trouble


My 9 year old has always been in the “smarter” classes for his grade, always student of the month good citizenship and frankly the teachers pet. last year 3rd grade he had a young teacher whose communications with us were extremely lacking even though we tried, he made it through the year and we were relieved. This year she moved up to 4th grade and “picked” him since he was such an easy student and a joy to have in class. We have had 4 meetings, 10+ emails, and just as many phone calls. Her teaching style is NOT teaching, she photo copies hand outs and gives the weeks work all on Monday then uses a board to right the numbers of the work sheets for each day, he has 6 tests a week, along with daily homework and projects. He was crushed that he not only brought home a C for the first time but a D. When we (college educated parents who also have a 21 and 19 year old we helped through school) help him with his simple 4th grade homework it is WRONG. We have asked for books and tutoring and she says there is nothing. We can’t figure out her 9.2-11.7 assignments and he is loosing his spark of interest and learning in front of our eyes, I understand last year and this year she is working on her masters, but these are 9 year olds not college kids she does NOT teach even though she appears to be nice, she is doing nothing more than bombarding them with handouts and telling them to be silent if you complete your work read to yourself until the next one. I don’t know what to do. We are at a loss.

 As you’re finding out, educational expectations have changed tenfold since your older children went through school.  I used your comment instead of your question to be able to fit it all into this post.  I’m sure that your son’s teacher was thrilled to have a hard-working student like your son last year.  However, 4th grade is a big testing year in all States and it sounds like she’s adjusting the curriculum to meet your State’s testing requirements and expecting more from her students.  I hear your frustration, but the sad fact of today’s educational system is that teachers are told what and when to teach so that the students pass the required standardized tests.  They usually have a pacing chart and an amount of time budgeted to cover various subjects.  This doesn’t leave as much time as we’d like for creativity and spontaneity in teaching. 

 As to homework, ideally it is assigned to practice what students have learned in school that day.  I looked at the homework requirements you reported and they seemed reasonable to me.   In 4th grade, students should be jotting down notes in their planner as the teacher explains assignments.  If your son isn’t bringing the details home, then he is probably missing the practice he needs to master his studies.  Perhaps he could be paired with a study buddy who checks his planner and makes sure he has accurate descriptions of assignments in them.  It’s also very important that your son complete his homework by himself, with you checking for errors only after he has finished. 

 It also sounds like you believe that your son may be academically gifted.  I did some research and discovered that your district does have a gifted program. If your son’s standardized tests scores are high, you could request that he be tested for gifted placement.

As to some of the other items you mention such as his reading choices, I would think that he should be encouraged to read AR books at his own reading level. As long as he is reading the books independently and passing the AR tests, I can’t imagine there would be a problem with that.  So in order to try to again address all of these issues, you may want to meet with the teacher (again) and arrange for school support staff, such as the principal, a counselor or reading coach, to also attend to help you sort through and find solutions to the issues you mentioned. 

 I think it’s wonderful that you are so supportive of your son and I hope my response is helpful.  If you don’t feel that my suggestions are the way to go, please see my post on “teacher trouble” and how to change your child’s teacher.

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5 Comments + Add Comment

  • As a fellow educator, I agree with this advice 100%. In the intermediate grades, once thriving children tend to flounder a bit until they get into the groove. The teacher provides less support in regards to writing homework in planners, and the children are required to copy it from the board. The students also have less time in centers and with hands-on actvities, and must do a lot more worksheets independently. Not to mention,the curriculum is a lot more advanced these days. I have college educated parents coming to me all the time because they don’t understand how to do certain problems. And the way that some of these math textbooks are written is really confusing at times. Sometimes I have to do a double take when reading their directions. I even find myself simplifying the directions for my students. Unless you’re a teacher who does these problems on a daily basis,I can see why you might be confused.

    And in regards to communication, it sounds like this teacher has communicated with these parents a lot. That’s an awful lot of meetings, phone calls, and emails for it only being December. Although, I do understand their concerns. It’s frustrating to have a child doing poorly in school, especially when they used to have straight A’s. My son brought home a C last week, and I nearly burst a blood vessel in my eye staring at it. My son is brilliant and gifted (He was reading at age 3 for Pete’s sake, and he is actually being tested for gifted.)He shouldn’t be getting C’s. And even though I’m a teacher, I was a little bit mad at the teacher at first. I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction. We women are very protective of our babies. So I get that:)

    My suggestion is to continue to try to work with this teacher in a positive way, and don’t burn any bridges. In my situation, I didn’t accuse the teacher of anything or get negative. I just merely asked if there was some way that I could be informed about upcoming tests. My son is only in Kindergarten, after all. And the good news is that she informed me about an upcoming test this Tuesday. So that was a positive.(And Kindergarten is crazy these days. They no longer have S’s,N’s, & U’s. They have letter grades, just like everyone else. There’s also no such things half days, naps, or socialization anymore. It’s been replaced by full-on Reading programs, Math, and Language. Not to mention, standardized testing. Awwww!)Believe me, I feel your pain.

    I’d also try find out what organization skills your child needs to work on. How do you know what his homework is? Is he supposed to copy it from the board daily or on Mondays? Is there a newsletter or classroom website available to look at?

    And in regards to tutoring, there may not be a tutor at this school, but there are tutors available everywhere. I would google it or look in the yellow pages. There is no reason why you can’t hire your own tutor.

    Good Luck! In the end, I think your child will start to excel again. After all, he has a parent that is willing to go to any lengths to make that a reality. And in my opinion, parent involvement is the number 1 indicator of success in education.

  • @ Mcary- Awesome advice, thanks so much. I don’t want to be a thorn in any teachers side. I just want to be able to support her classroom work here at home in a way that is best for my child to better comprehend these fundamentals. Sorry for my long winded question.
    @ Jessica- In fairness we start school the first week of august so 5 months is quite a long time to be having the issue. He is organized and does write down her instructions every day from the board and she checks them with a stamp every day. But it’s not instructions it’s a dot dash system that neither he nor I can figure out, unfortunately I would probably have to get the syllabus from her masters classes to work it out because she can’t even explain it. We do use the website but it’s the same as what he writes in his planner. Don’t worry the teacher rarely responds to my notes or emails. Unless it’s regarding my sons health like when they forget to give him his inhalers and make them run laps when it’s 102 with 100 % humidty and she asks why he is on the floor and if I should come up there because the nurse is only there for 1 hour a day and he didn’t schedule his collapse within that hour, but that’s usually sent via email from her blackberry and I am usually working so I don’t see that email. So it’s not like I am in a pen pal situation with her or sitting in her class. She usually just circles words in my notes and numbers them so I can put it together to form a sentence that is her answer. Cute right? To give ME puzzle type homework to help stave off Alzheimers. Seriously I guess it’s just that we are old and out of the loop. I have had a child in school every single year for 17 years. On the ” no reason why you can’t hire a private tutor suggestion- I have several reasons why I can’t hire him a tutor since I invest roughly $55 a month in class room supplies, and $1200 a year in uniforms, then $250 a month on lunches not to mention the snacks and treasure chest prizes I provide. That coupled with the pictures, field trips and fundraisers and PTO sales and Scholastic sales and book fairs. I would have to stop all of that in my free public school to be able to hire a tutor to educate my son, and apparently if they are over the age of 21 the basic fundamentals of math and reading and language have changed 10 fold so it would just be a waste of money that I frankly don’t have laying around.

  • How sad to read yet again how education is becoming a means to reaching higher test scores. Watch the light go out of the kids’ eyes. So sad. Because I wrote books about art for teachers/parents/kids, I am especially tuned in to the impact of removing the arts from our schools. Did you know that children who are engaged in the arts actually do better on standardized tests? It’s true. I’m trying to win a Pepsi grant to take art workshops to teachers all over the country to show them how to bring the art of the great masters into their classrooms and let kids try the styles or techniques of the masters, while learning something about each great artist’s life at the same time. If I win the grant, I can have a tremendous impact on schools who have no art or have lost their funding.

    If you would like to vote for me, there are three ways you can vote each day through Dec. 31. (Wish it wasn’t a voting kind of thing, but it is.)

    Three Ways to Vote for MaryAnn’ Kohl’s Pepsi Grant to Bring Art to Teachers and Children

    1.) Direct vote at:
    (You have to sign up first with the program to be a verfied voter.)

    2.) Text your vote – no sign up needed.
    Text these numbers: 104840 To Pepsi’s phone: 73774

    3.) IF you use Facebook, vote through the Pepsi Voting App.

    Thank you for your support of children’s creativity. It’s so important and we can bring it back!

    You can vote all three ways each day, or choose one!
    Vote as many times as you can until Dec. 31. Winners announced Jan. 1.

  • It sounds to me like this child is being allowed to lose his spark. What possible reason does he have for getting up and going to school day after day to be expected to sit quietly for hours on end!? Where is the problem solving? Where is collaboration with peers? Where are chances to create his own media with Web 2.0 tools? What important questions are being asked by him that he longs to answer? Where is his chance to tell his story?
    I can’t believe the exhaustive use of worksheets is being supported in this day and age. Forget the rest scores. Help this child find his voice and a love for learning!

  • As a former fourth grade teacher, I would say that fourth grade is certainly the year that academics changes. Basic literacy is expected and fluency is being achieved through lots of practice, math speeds up (which is often frustrating to parents who are not educated in “new math”), and the looming state tests are a constant worry.

    Something didn’t ring true to me in the initial question. What is going on with this child where he is suddenly struggling? Is he young for his age, where some of his struggles might be developmental? Is there another student that is bothering him, causing anxiety? If there is such a problem, why hasn’t the administration stepped in?
    I think it’s always easy to point at the teacher and say “problem,” but in my experience teachers are often following a protocols that are not their choice (one of the reasons I’m no longer in education).

    I also had a tutoring company… it might be time to bring in an outside consultant to look at this student. Maybe a second opinion on performance is needed.

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