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Lonely or Just a Loner?

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My eight-year-old is doing very well in school -- straight As on his last report card -- and he loves going to school. His teacher, however, feels that he has a communication problem because he is so shy. Whenever he doesn't understand something quickly he gets very frustrated and sits at his desk and refuses to ask for help. When she approaches him to try and help him, instead of responding to her he "glares" at her and says nothing.

She also says that he doesn't approach the other kids to play with them, but sticks to himself a lot. It's seems that no matter what the situation is, it is my son who is at fault because he doesn't verbally express himself. I'm concerned that her obsession with this "communication problem" is going to negatively affect my son to the point that he doesn't want to go to school and his grades will suffer.

A: As you have seen, different teachers have different expectations for communication with children. Since this school year is ending soon, you and your son will not have to meet his current teacher's expectations much longer. Be sure to write a letter to the principal describing the kind of teacher with whom your son communicates well; request a teacher like that for next year.

Talk with the school counselor. She may be able to give your son some individual time or include him in a small group on assertiveness. This will be important as your son moves to third grade, as both the curriculum and teacher expectations make a big jump from second to third.

More on: Expert Advice

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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