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Talking Your Child's New Teacher
Q: Last year, I felt my son's second-grade teacher put a large amount of pressure on him to achieve excellence. In return, it caused him to emotionally break down during class, and the teacher would have to send him into the hallway to calm down. He ended up joining a counseling group that focused on behavior and study skills. The counseling was the best thing for him to regain his self-esteem. I'm planning to request a conference with his new teacher before school starts. How do I talk about the situation without saying that I blame his teacher for the problems that occurred?
A: Did other students in your son's class last year also feel the same pressure to achieve excellence and have reactions like your son? If not, it may be inappropriate to put all the blame for last year's problems on the teacher. Your son may also have been putting too much pressure on himself for a variety of reasons. Remember this when you talk to his new teacher.
You definitely need to make your son's third-grade teacher aware of the trauma he went through last year. Knowing about a potential problem can help teachers avoid or overcome them. Rather than criticizing the second-grade teacher, state how your son reacted to the pressure in that classroom to achieve excellence. Be sure to point out how successful the counseling was in restoring his self-esteem.
Now is the time to put into place all the special assistance that your son may need in third grade. This may include more counseling sessions or arranging for tutoring to avoid a repeat of last year's problems. If your son's school has a counselor in the building, it could be helpful to talk to this individual.
Your son is a year older and may have learned a lot about handling school through increased maturity and the counseling sessions. You could be worrying unnecessarily about his facing the same problems this year with a different teacher.
Do plan to talk to him every day so that you get a sense of how things are going at school. Listen carefully to what he is saying -- don't only hear what you think you want to hear. Tell him to always let you know if he is worried about anything that happens during the school day and that you can work on helping him overcome any problems.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.