Hudson Valley Parent

HVP November 2014

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12 Hudson Valley Parent ■ November 2014 By MALIA JACOBSON W hen a child dislikes a teacher — or feels disliked by one — school becomes a daily struggle. Just ask Constance Zimmer. Her stepson Harrison, now a happy fourth grader, got off on the wrong foot with his first grade teacher. "He felt picked on and singled out," she recalls. "He began to act out in class and refused to partici- pate in projects and assignments." Fortunately, teacher-student trau- mas are often highly fixable. Read on for ways to smooth the bumps for a better school year. THE PRESCHOOL YEARS: Slow and steady When a preschooler appears to dislike a teacher, longtime early childhood educator Evelyn Addis warns parents against jumping the gun and hastily switching classes or schools. When a child first begins preschool, he may be responding negatively to the overwhelming experience of school rather than a specific teacher. "Allow a period of adjustment for your child in any new classroom set- ting," says Addis, who co-authored "Monday Morning Leadership." "It takes time for classes to come to- gether as a group." Most schools welcome parents to observe a child's classroom in action, particularly when a concern arises. But beware: a short classroom obser- vation doesn't present a true picture of an entire instructional day, and a parent's presence can alter a child's behavior. If complaints about a teacher persist, document your con- cerns and set up a conference with the teacher. Brainstorm a plan for addressing the problem areas, along with a plan for daily or weekly com- munication to monitor the situation, advises Addis. THE GRADE SCHOOL YEARS: Detective duty When a grade-schooler complains about a super-strict teacher, don't impulsively jump to calling the principal or filing a complaint, says child and adolescent psychologist Kristen Wynns, Ph.D., founder of Wynns Family Psychology in Cary, N.C. Instead, go into detective mode: gather information about the conflict with a log. After a few weeks of documenting the problem, request a meeting with the teacher to talk about solutions before you consider alternative options like changing teachers. Sometimes, there's more to the "mean teacher" situation than meets the eye. Zimmer's stepson Harrison felt targeted by his teacher, but it turned out that he had undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. "Once the problem was treat- ed, he made progress in leaps and bounds, and realized that it wasn't a matter of the teacher not liking him, "My teacher hates me!" How you can help when there's strife at school While the experiences aren't always fun, they can teach kids valuable lessons about dealing with di cult people. (Continued on Page 14)

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