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Bilingual Trouble

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My fourth-grader hates school. He's constantly in trouble with teachers and bus drivers and has problems with other children. Next year he will be attending his fourth new school in five years. I believe a big part of my son's problem comes from the bilingual program he is in. He started out in a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten class in a bilingual school and was asked to leave in first grade to go to an all English program -- they felt he may have a learning disability and would do better in an English-only program. Then we moved to a different town and our son was mandated by law to attend a bilingual program. He has never enjoyed school but since this move he has learned to despise it, and is now increasingly angry, frustrated, and acting out aggressively.

I have spoken to his teachers and their response is to be much stricter. They mock him in class -- especially the French teacher, who went so far as to have other students write notes home to me about his misbehaviors in class.

Next year he will go to a new school, but the problem gets worse with each change and every school year. What can I do?

A: Go to your son's new school before the school year starts and talk with the principal and the school counselor. Explain the problems your son has had and ask that special care be given to his class assignment for next year and that he be placed with a teacher who will be understanding.

Ask if it is possible that the French requirement could be waived in your son's case. If that is not possible, make sure that the French teacher is aware of the issues your son has had with language class and ask that she work to help your son as he begins French at the new school.

Talk with the counselor about having your son screened in the fall for a learning difference. Frustration with learning problems could account for his difficulties.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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