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Autumn is upon us. The days are steadily getting shorter and cooler. Dried leaves dance vigorously in the last of the summer’s breeze, then collapse into a pile between the curb and the street. Children head back into the classrooms, carrying new backpacks, pencils, scissors, and, hopefully, a positive outlook for the new school year. As parents, we hope an enthusiasm for learning remains strong in our kids, but we know there are some things that can derail it. One of these is when your child dislikes his teacher.
Of course, physically or mentally abusive teachers should never be tolerated. Disrespect from a teacher is also unacceptable. But sometimes it’s just a matter of clashing personalities or styles, or a generally negative manner by the teacher which can impact students. Educators can be disinterested with the subjects they are teaching, or not overly familiar with the material. They may have poor communication skills, which makes it difficult for students to follow instructions. They may avoid interacting with their students, or only interact with a select few. In generally rare cases, teachers may even engage in unprofessional behavior such as using salty language when lecturing, ignoring dress codes, or having conversations with students about the teacher’s personal life. Any of these issues can create an environment which makes it hard for a student to feel comfortable or engaged in learning.
All the districts comprising Portland Public Schools follow a specific protocol when it comes to handling grievances about staff from students. The complaining student and his or her parents or legal guardians will meet with the principal and the teacher to see if a compromise can be reached. If no results are produced by this meeting, the student and parents or guardians can appeal to the judgment of the superintendent. After the superintendent meets with all the parties involved, he or he will render a decision. If the student and parents or guardians disagree with that decision, they can appeal to the school board to investigate the matter and make a pronouncement on it.
Children in such classrooms can develop emotional and academic problems. They may have aversions to attending school, for example. They may cry, play sick, or drag their feet when it is time to leave for school. When they do get in the classroom, these kids seldom participate willingly. They can become uninterested in class subjects, or be confused by unclear communications and want to give up. Not engaging in classwork can severely impact a student’s grades. Her self-confidence may also be rattled because she can come to believe the problems are her fault. All of this can cause a once-promising student to lose his love of learning and his desire to succeed in school.
As a parent, it is deeply frustrating to watch your child struggle because of a tough relationship with a teacher. Your first reaction may be to protect your child by transferring her out of the teacher’s class, but this is often easier said than done. Perhaps the rumor mill has given some teachers a negative reputation, and the school’s students (and parents) are already predisposed to dislike these teachers going into the school year. Requests for transfers from these teachers’ classrooms can place a lot of strain on the school, and a flood of transfer requests can’t always be accommodated. Your child may very well end up needing to stay in the class to which he was assigned. All is not lost, however. There are still some ways you can help your child get through the year even with a teacher he dislikes.