teachers picking on your kids? - Mothering Forums
Parenting the Gifted Child > teachers picking on your kids?
laughingfox's Avatar laughingfox 07:14 PM 09-14-2010
Am I the only one who feels that DD's teacher picks on her?

Maybe it's well-intentioned, maybe she just expects more of DD and pushes harder.. but it really seems like DD's just being picked on sometimes.

ollyoxenfree's Avatar ollyoxenfree 08:30 PM 09-14-2010
Can you describe how your DD thinks her teacher is "picking on her"?

I'm wondering if this is a regular classroom, and the teacher's efforts to differentiate for your DD appear to be unfair loading up on extra work? Or maybe she really is picking on her - it's hard to tell from your brief post.

To answer your question, no my kids haven't been selected for extra unfair attention. They've both had tough teachers and they've had teachers that they didn't connect with very well. Nothing that would be described as "picking on", though.
laughingfox's Avatar laughingfox 11:40 PM 09-14-2010
Mostly this year, it seems like she's being punished for things the other kids get by with, like forgetting a homework assignment, doodling, etc. The kids are supposed to be able to read quietly when they finish her work, but the teacher takes DD's books away when she does.
It's mostly little stuff this year so far, but it's really worrying me that we're already having issues this early in the school year. I was hoping someone might have BTDT and might have some advice.
joensally's Avatar joensally 12:37 AM 09-15-2010
How long since school started? Is this the same teacher as last year?

My son is really sensitive and sometimes really misunderstands what happens in class. If the teacher's not explicit in explaining the why and what, DS can tend to assume ill intent and targeting.

What about requesting a meeting and asking open ended questions about classroom rules and approaches to see if you can tease out what's happening. It's not about disbelieving your child, but about understanding the other person's perspective.
JollyGG's Avatar JollyGG 01:18 AM 09-15-2010
Yes and No.

Last years teacher for my son was a very poor fit. She was already overwhelmed with a large and rambunctious classroom and providing the level of differentiation that my son needed was just one more challenge for her. I felt it was often just one more too many and that she did resent him slightly for it. And she did get more frustrated with him than she did with other students who didn't create as much work for her.

But at the same time she just was really poor at classroom management and she would have been poor at classroom management with my son in the classroom or not. Discussions over the summer with other parents have revealed that other kids/parents did have very similar problems as we were having with the teacher. Other parent volunteers observed a personality type that conflicted with many of the higher energy learning styles in the room.

My son's teacher ultimately decided to leave teaching at the end of the year and I think it was a wonderful decision on her part as at this point in her life she didn't have the skills to maintain a demanding classroom.

So while I do feel my son was singled out to a certain degree and that she focused on his poor behaviors more that was necessary I don't feel it was personal.

I did find that keeping the lines of communication open, no matter how frustrated I was helped the situation. I also found that giving her concrete suggestion for working with my son also helped. There did come a point at the end of the year where I did end up rather bluntly asking her if there was a personal problem with my child that we needed to address. But prior to that my husband and I really did do everything we could to let her know we were all on the same team and trying to both make our son's school year successful and help her manage the classroom in an effective manner.

And yes it was a frustrating year, and yes we are glad she's gone. But we made it through and my son had an overall successful year. Now I feel this year is going to much better with a better teacher, but last year wasn't a total waste. If nothing else my very sensitive child learned to stand up for himself in small ways.
treeoflife3's Avatar treeoflife3 01:27 AM 09-15-2010
I was openly mocked by a teacher in forth grade. I can't remember what on anymore but the students were mocking me and the teacher joined in a bit. That same teacher also never stepped in at any other time.

In third grade, my teacher threatened me. I had been bullied really badly that year and started bullying the weird new kid to get the bullies off MY back and the teacher freaked out on me over it.. even though if she had been paying attention, she would have noticed my wrong was about self preservation. None of the other bullies had anything done to them but I was threatened with her up in my face (I still remember the spit strand between her lips) and telling me what a horrible person I was. She apparently was bullied as a kid too... but yeah... she just bullied ME.

I've always been the weird one, the freak so I've always been bullied. Other than those two instances, teachers didn't do anything to ME... but they usually didn't do anything to STOP it either. Unfortunately that led to a lot of anger and confusion on my part and more bullying besides just in third grade.

I know its not the exact same situation as the OP, but it could really help to see if you can get more info so you have a better idea of how exactly to deal with it. If it really is a matter of the teacher picking on your kid, your daughter might be very thankful to have something done. I wish my mom had done more... she often just didn't believe me or I felt I couldn't tell her in the first place (never told her about the teacher threatening me)
laughingfox's Avatar laughingfox 08:23 AM 09-15-2010
I'm trying to get more info, but the teacher hasn't called me back like she said she would, and isn't really communicating with me via email. All she says is stuff like "I hope tomorrow will be a good day", which doesn't tell me anything. I've tried to catch her after class, but she hasn't been in the classroom.
I emailed her and the principal yesterday, saying that we need to schedule a meeting as soon as possible.

There has been one very clear case in the past of a teacher flat-out bullying DD, but that was over a different issue (it came about at a Catholic school when she decided against first communion), and was something I saw with my own eyes and was backed up by the other parents (and the principal absolutely refused to intervene). We got DD out of that school before the end of that year, but she's never been quite the same.
Due to that experience (and my strong desire to not have her go through that again), I'm worried that I might just be a little oversensitive about this kind of thing- however, I do feel that some definite lines have been crossed already this year.

Last week, for example, this teacher had my daughter call me from within the classroom and tell me she was being bad (for talking in class and doodling on the desk with a pencil, which came right off). She was crying on the phone, and when I found out that she was forced to make that call in front of all of the other students, I was livid. I think that clearly crosses the line from discipline into punishment-by-public-humiliation. (The teacher refused to talk to me when my daughter had me on the phone, and said she would call me later but did not.)
I made it clear both to the teacher and the principal that this was unacceptable and should not happen again.

joensally- This is a new teacher. School's been in session for a little less than a month. I'd really like to get the teacher's end of the story, but I've been unsuccessful so far.

JollyGG- Thanks for the perspective. I don't really know much about this teacher, and it may just be an overload issue or a personality clash or something. Hopefully she'll talk to me so I can figure out how I can help.

treeoflife3- That sounds pretty similar to my school experience, which is another reason I worry I might be oversensitive.
ollyoxenfree's Avatar ollyoxenfree 10:52 AM 09-15-2010
Originally Posted by laughingfox View Post

Last week, for example, this teacher had my daughter call me from within the classroom and tell me she was being bad (for talking in class and doodling on the desk with a pencil, which came right off). She was crying on the phone, and when I found out that she was forced to make that call in front of all of the other students, I was livid. I think that clearly crosses the line from discipline into punishment-by-public-humiliation. (The teacher refused to talk to me when my daughter had me on the phone, and said she would call me later but did not.)
I made it clear both to the teacher and the principal that this was unacceptable and should not happen again.
That's appalling. It speaks to a teacher with poor judgement, poor classroom and people management skills, and a lack of sympathy and understanding for children. It goes beyond a personality disconnect with a student.

I was coming back to write some general advice about working with a teacher when there's a conflict between the teacher and your child. I was going to recommend meeting with the teacher as soon as possible. Let her know that you are aware of what's happening in the classroom, her discipline techniques, and her behaviour with the students. Volunteering in the classroom or the school so you can witness the teacher firsthand is useful. Bullies operate when they have free license to behave however they wish. A teacher who knows that a parent is aware and involved and willing to step in is less likely to pick on that child.

It's still hard to know whether this teacher is picking on your child - as in, selecting her for special negative attention. She may be treating every student in the class to the same behaviour. If that incident is an example of her classroom technique, this teacher needs further training, closer supervision from the administration and possibly - just to get out of the profession.

Good luck with the meeting. If she won't schedule one, I'd definitely schedule one with the principal.
WTHamI?'s Avatar WTHamI? 10:53 AM 09-15-2010
It definitely needs to be addressed. I'd say address it with the teacher first, but if she isn't responding to you then it's appropriate to go over her head. It could be just that she expects more (but what she's doing is still not ok) or she could truly be bullying your DD. Unfortunately teacher-student bullying DOES happen. I had a Jr. High English teacher who picked on me constantly. I couldn't figure out why I was doing so badly in her class. English was my best subject and I wanted to be a writer, but my stories and essays were coming back with half the page marked up in red with odd notes like "unnecessary" or no explanation at all where I couldn't find errors. (Past teachers had always been very encouraging with my writing.) Then one day I overheard her telling another teacher that she did it because she thought I was too smart for my own good and she didn't want me to think too much of myself, so she intentionally gave me poorer grades than I deserved so I wouldn't get a big head. My mother did take this up with the principal but he didn't believe she would say that. I was old enough to know EXACTLY what I heard and she had referred to me by name. All this is to say that it's unfortunate and I don't think it's all that common but it DOES happen that teachers sometimes bully a particular child for whatever reason and I would not just let it go, especially if it's this early in the year and already happening. Maybe she doesn't realize what she's doing and maybe she does, but either way she needs to know that it's noticeable and not OK.
JollyGG's Avatar JollyGG 12:24 PM 09-15-2010
I think you did the right thing in contacting the principle at this point.

The phone call was completely inappropriate. True your daughter shouldn't have written on the desk, however the reaction was in no way appropriate.

The failure to follow up on requested meetings or follow up at all is also unacceptable.

At this point it is clear that administration needs to hear from you and address this issue. I would want to see a clear action plan from the principle for addressing this issue.
St. Margaret 01:52 PM 09-15-2010
Good thing to contact the admin; it sounds like a new teacher who is still figuring out classroom management, and new teachers ARE told to be very proactive and strict at the beginning... but there is also an expectation at most schools to try various steps before resorting to more extreme measures, and it needs to be made clear to this teacher that the phone call thing IS extreme. It might not be picking on your kid, but a teacher who generally needs more help developing her management skills.

I'm a teacher and I have definitely observed some teachers who take a dislike to a student, even an awesome one, not the failing troublemaker, and pick on them. Now, every once in a while I might have appealed to a gifted kid (privately) to set a better example or be a leader, etc, which is sort of putting higher expectations on them, but they are always welcome to take it or leave it-- I'm not going to grade them harder if they decide to just be a regular goofy do-the-minimum 9th grader They'll decide when to push themselves, and they often do it in a different subject, or just when we hit something of more interest to them. But I do think some teachers get frustrated and take it out on the gifted kids, just as they also can take it out on kids with special needs. One reason I was glad to move to a really awesome school with a very special staff, last year!
Super Pickle's Avatar Super Pickle 12:31 AM 09-18-2010
I can remember being picked on by 2 of my teachers, and the picking was related to my being gifted.

My son felt picked on last year; my assessment is that the teacher was just really frustrated with him, thinking that such a smart kid should be able to be more organized and neat.

I talked to my mom about it (she's been a public school teacher for 35 years) and her response was, "Yes, some teachers really can't stand it when a child who is obviously bright does not do just exactly what they want him to" (in DS' case, keeping a neat desk and having neat handwriting).
laughingfox's Avatar laughingfox 04:35 PM 09-20-2010
The meeting with the teacher and principal went pretty well (other than a few awkward moments). They both seemed to take my concerns seriously. It wasn't entirely one-sided, and we did talk about DD's talking, doodling, etc., too.

Some of the problem seems to be similar to what you described, Super Pickle.
It also seems like she's being a little extra hard on DD because she is distracting the other students. The teacher seems to be bothered that a bored kid who already "gets it" is hindering the learning of the kids who don't, which makes sense, I suppose.

We talked about DD being able to bring books in to read when she finishes her work quickly, so she can have something to do. I talked to DD about taking her time and working on her handwriting as a way to keep her from finishing too quickly and having too much spare time (she was only present for part of the meeting). The teacher said she'd try to find other ways to challenge DD.

I made it clear that the calling-from-within-the-classroom was totally not okay. The teacher seemed to think that it wasn't a big deal, but she accepted that I thought it was a big deal and said it wouldn't happen again.

I'm pretty optimistic about it all. Thanks for all of the advice, stories, and tips.
alexsam's Avatar alexsam 04:33 PM 09-24-2010
Glad your meeting went well... But a few (more) things to just keep rolling around in the back of your head (and, just to give some "grounding", I am a teacher myself and I am working on a PhD in education- so that is my perspective).

1.) Teachers are not always clear on the "line" between pushing/picking on kids and challenging them in an approproate way. As we all pretty much know here, giftedness is not often understood and in none of the universities that I have attended or been connected to in teacher training capacities have addressed gifted education as a course to anyone other than special ed teachers. Bottom line, the vast majority of teachers do not know much about the real nature of it and can struggle with the idea of "better, not more". There are often holes in teacher education surrounding psychology, development, and behavior, so teachers do not often begin their careers with a solid footing of what may be expected in terms of children's development or the myriad of ways to manage it. So, if we are trying to find a possible "benefit of the doubt" situation, it may be that the teacher is trying to differentiate but does not have the skills, materials, knowledge, or structure to do so.

2.) There is a cultural/psychological component to this all, and if we're going to put it out there, there is often hostility toward gifted people and teachers are not above that. Sometimes they are personally jealous or remind them of their own struggles. We have a huge cultural value of "No free rides", so when we see people achieve without struggle, we somehow equate that to cheating (though, clearly it is not always that way). Sometimes teachers can feel that they are not "doing their job well" and may be judged harshly if a child is picking it up so quickly and on top of that, becoming a behavior issue with lots of extra time. Sometimes gifted children can make teachers feel "unnecessary" (though they are not!) and so picking on them is the *teacher* looking for the *child's* attention. Teachers also frequently become teachers "to help" or through a desire to uplift. The teachers in our culture who are glorified are ones who work with children who come in with enormous challenges. The sad but true reality is that teachers may see gifted children as "not worth their time" as they focus on the students who "need them most".

3.) Teachers place their own values system on their students (unless they recognize this possiblity and actively account for it). So, many teachers that are in your child's teacher's position are saying in their head "But they could do so much MORE!" and the reality is that this is their own perception of what is "more" and not necessarily your childs. So, they may become hostile or punative thinking that your child is sqandering their time or not living up to expectation. Of course, what is NOT being said is that it is the *teacher's* expectations (or, our larger society's expectations) and not those of the child's own motvations or interests.

So, all this is very honest and unflattering for teachers. And, these may or may not be at play. And, none of this *should* be happening, but does. I guess I would just keep in the back of your mind that "teachers are people too" and social interactions are complex and not always utopian. While teachers are put in a position of being an expert on education, teachers in the field are often under educated themselves on situations that vary from the norm and are not always aware that their own beliefs are at play in the classroom (they think of themselves as acting in neturality when that is not what is actually happening).
Tigerle's Avatar Tigerle 05:39 PM 09-24-2010
Alexsam, that was very instructive and has given me a little more and better perspective on my (traumatizing) elementary school years. Thank you!
TEAK's Mom's Avatar TEAK's Mom 05:54 PM 09-24-2010
alexam, fantastic post!
stlmomof2's Avatar stlmomof2 12:57 PM 09-25-2010
As a teacher who calls parents in the middle of the class, I just wanted to defend that action here. You're assuming that this was the first disciplinary step toward the student--it probably was not because bringing out a cell phone and finding a working number is not the easiest thing to do in the middle of teaching a lesson. Talking off task and/or disruptively can be a HUGE classroom problem, especially coming from an influential child, which many smart kids are. Sometimes discipline problems like fighting are easier to deal with than talking because at least then administration takes the problem seriously and comes immediately to stop it (administrators often being concrete operational thinkers). I don't call parents in the middle of class all the time but occasionally it can have a nice sobering effect upon the class to bring out my cell and folder of parent contact information. And it really depends on how the child responded to corrections regarding whether the phone call was necessary. If the child said something to the effect of, "No, I won't stop talking and clean my desk," well, something has to be done. Yesterday I had a (likely) gifted kid amuse the class by putting post it notes on his face in a pseudo tribal fashion. I took away his post it notes and gave him "preferential seating," but if he kept being silly, I might have called his mom in class. Most of my brighter kids like getting harder work to do and the opportunity to help other students but others will choose to do entirely different things that are entertaining to themselves and others and have nothing to do with the goals of the class.
LittleBattleAxe's Avatar LittleBattleAxe 08:25 PM 09-25-2010
As a teacher I cannot say enough how much I loathe it when educators publicly humiliate students. I think there is zero room for it in a school. I have 10th-11th graders and it is heartbreaking, the number of students I have who have been traumatized and conditioned to dislike school because of interactions with teachers who resort to that. Fear does not equal genuine respect.

As a mom, my son WAS made an example of, and there WERE issues with the teacher just not liking him. She was very open to my concerns when we talked but she didn't do a thing to stop -- in fact after I became adamant that she take some actions to stop certain things, and didn't, it was only when I had a conversation with another teacher (next door to my son's) that I grew alarmed. The other teacher told me that if my son was telling me things about what went on in that class, I should not ignore him.

It was a terrible year; the student learned through the subtext of the class that bullying and boorish behavior was an acceptable motivator. They learned that would be singled out for their differences. They also learned, in my son's case, that having parents as advocates would result in more punitive actions in the classroom - as when, after I insisted that my son be moved from a student who continually tore up his library books and homework, he be moved, she chose to make every child sit by himself/herself, because "A's parents don't think we should sit together anymore." The final straw was when she embarrassed my son in front of the class, told him to stand up there while he was beet-red, and then said, "oh my, I think he's going to cry now. We'll just stop and wait until he grows up some." And he did cry, and she wouldn't let him move.

The next day he was moved out of the class. I complained as far up the chain as I could. Looking back I believe there was some fear on the school's part because my husband is a lawyer well-versed in school law issues; but, to answer the OP, yes, sometimes teachers do pick on students, and you are right to be concerned. Adults who are unable to build a rapport with students don't belong in classrooms imo. My son had long-lasting issues with depression and self-worth, and I have a big fat load of mama-guilt that I deal with still.
alexsam's Avatar alexsam 05:39 PM 09-29-2010
I have to add that not only is the "call in the middle of the class" based in shame, it also sets the parent up to be feared and calling parents a punishment. I taught at risk high schoolers. This is not cutesy post-it notes. This was parole officers and homeless teens. I needed their parents and so did they. Setting up a dynamic where every time I called the result was shame or punishment... well, I would not only have made a bigger rift between the child and parent but I would have lost them as an ally. The idea was that the three of us- me, child, and parent- are a team. Using parents as a threat would have destroyed that.

I called home all. the. time. I called at the beginning of the year to introduce myself and open the door. I called when they made big improvements or rocked a test. I made calls when they seemed to be slipping behind or seemed different. I called when they said something terrific in class. And, I made calls when behavior was an issue. But I always framed it as "This is what happened. What can we do?" and I made those calls after class, and I always talked to the kid first and posed the same question so we could all work as a team. You may get class obedience with tactics like calling a parent in class as a threat or shame, but you will loose their connection and respect.

If you are looking for effect, try this- when they are acting up, stop what you are doing, go over to them, bend down, and whisper to the child "We need to talk after class." Trust me, even if the other kids can't hear it, they know that someting is going down and they know the bit is over. The offending child is now feeling a lot less like doing that stuff. And, you've created a space where you can talk to the child in private. To me, it was never a threat (as our conversations did not include punishment or shame, but problem solving), and it was able to get their attention with a minimal of shame an maintatining the respect of the others as it did not publically humilate them. After the class, my first question was always (gently) "What was goin' on there?" and opening a dialoue. Without the rest of the class as the audience, the dramatics on both sides are not needed. Mr. Stickynotes now has to talk about what is going on and why this is happening and you don't have to feel that you have to put on that kind of show and you now have all kinds of options that are not available to "discipline on the spot" scenarios. Teaching is performance. But I think sometimes we miss the opportunity to be an Oscar Winner with subtle yet powerful performances because we are thinking more feathers, pancake make-up and back-up dancers.