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Uncomfortable School Situation

Middle School Expert Advice from Judith Lee Ladd

Q: My daughter's teacher yells at her students. She ridicules them in front of their peers, intimidates them to the point that they will not approach her for help, and rips papers out of their hands. My daughter has gone from being an A/B student to barely passing her courses. She is essentially shutting down at home. She has headaches (our eye doctor says her eyes are fine). She is sick every morning (the pediatrician gave her a clean bill of health).

I have tried conferencing with the teacher to no avail, and after talking to other parents with similar concerns, I approached the principal, who has been of no help. Do you have any suggestions for me regarding getting my daughter out of this situation beyond what I have already tried? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

A: Being unable to remedy a school situation is very frustrating, especially when you feel the situation is harmful for your child. You have paid your thorough attention to the symptoms your child has suffered and followed proper medical actions.

I do not know how you approached the teacher or the principal, but I suggest a very personal appeal. Since your daughter was new to the school, the teacher had little time to learn how best to work with her. Perhaps a good start is to have another meeting where you can describe the environment your daughter works best. Confrontation seems to be the teacher's style, but may not be your child's.

Ask your daughter what kind of support she wants from you. Often, children and adults just need to vent. It is very healthy to even describe a problem to be more intense than it is. That does not mean she is telling a story. It means she is releasing pent up anxiety. Fear that you may take over the problem (and in her eyes make it worse) adds even more anxiety. Discuss together your strategies to deal with her teacher.

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Judith Lee Ladd is a former president of the American School Counselor Association, a national organization of K-12 and post-secondary school counselors.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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