Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Poor Old Soccer Boy

Remember that dream teacher whose class Soccer Boy was so pleased to be in? Well, alas for Soccer Boy, he does not teach computing and sport all day. There's a lot of work and testing in there too. Apart from spelling (a disaster area for Sokr Boi), I think the testing is going OK. I even think the work is going OK. That is, when he understands the instructions.

A couple of times SB has misunderstood what he's been asked to do. The teacher then blows up and tells him to do it again. Without repeating the instructions. I think you can see the vicious circle developing.

I've already been in the classroom three times (in a week!) trying to sort out various issues (health, use of keyboard, speelin dezastrs). I think the teacher now hates me and I really feel I cannot darken his doorstep again, or there may be classroom consequence for SB. However, Soccer Boy is becoming very stressed and demoralised.

We'd like Soccer Boy to see if he can manage this independently, but we're making suggestions as to how he can help himself. We've come up with listening carefully (but, Mum, I doooooooo!), checking with his friends (tends to lead to trouble for talking) or getting more confident friends to ask the teacher to repeat the instructions (a couple of Adam's friends could not care less about yelling/threats/visits to the headmaster's office - I think he can use that!)

Does anybody out there have any other suggestions? What strategies can Soccer Boy use?

This teacher is a male, 50ish, very sarcastic and used to teaching kids a couple of years older and more confident than poor old vulnerable Soccer Boy.


pjd said...

Sounds like a bad teacher to me. Unfortunate. In fact, sounds a lot like a teacher that got fired from our school a couple years ago.

It is unfortunate that the teacher has all the authority and power in this situation. I'm sure your principal would be terribly averse to having SB switch classes. Typically frowned on by administrators. With, I think, some good reasons.

I wish I had something productive to offer here, but I have yet to see anything that works when the teacher is rotten. Just the fact that you think there may be classroom consequences for your child because of your involvement is awful.

McKoala said...

The weird thing is that this teacher is absolutely beloved by his ex-pupils. They even drop in to visit him. He gets amazing results in exams, too, apparently, so he's doing something right.

I'm just hoping that he's doing a 'drag them up to a higher level of learning and maturity' exercise of some kind, and that Soccer Boy will ultimately benefit - or that he'll click that he's teaching eight-year-olds not ten-year-olds and ease off a little.

I also hope that Soccer Boy will not turn out to be the only child in history not to get along with him! Moving class would not be great (there's only one other option and it's a composite only six kids from his year in it), but I'm watching SB carefully and if I think he needs a move I will talk to the school.

Princess, on the other hand, remains happy...

Robin S. said...

I agree with Pete. He's absolutely on point. A bad teacher.

And God love his heart - Pete said it in a much nicer way than I am even capable of saying it. (We love you, Pete!!!)

Anywaya, watch that "amazing results in his exams" part. If that guy is competitive, that's a problem for Soccer Boy - if SB doesn't fit the mold of the excelling-on-exams students. Are the ex-students 'who love him' some of his former star pupils? If so, big damn deal.

My way may not be the best way, and also I'm not Australian, so take this with a grain of salt,but when my kids have had a bad teacher or counselor, I've been nice for a few weeks, tried to do the (supposed) 'right thing', and then, without anyone around to witness, I reamed them a new one, verbally. Told one something like "you are only allowed to contact me via email from this point forward, as I am forwarding all correspondence to my representative on the school board. You are one of the poorest exceuses for a human being I have yet to meet, much less a crappy teacher. In short, you @#$#^%% suck." Usually, with the rule followers panties-in-a wad types, they're afraid of authority under all that austerity and bluster. They'll fuss after that, but then, they cower. And that asshole deserves to cower.

Robin S. said...

P.S. You can also offer to help in the classroom, and then observe. Be extra helpful and all smiley, but make enough non-smiling eye contact that he (the asshole) knows the deal.

That worked pretty well, too.

Robin S. said...

I'm still mad about this.

OR...I can call him for you. Just let me know.

Sarah Laurenson said...

That really sucks. I think you should fly Robin down there and let her at him.

I hate the teachers who think one size fits all.

Is there someone who can work with SB on this guy's speaking style so that he can understand the teacher better? I'm willing to bet they have very mismatched communication styles.

pjd said...

Whoa! I'm glad I wore my asbestos undershorts today. Holy smokes!

Sarah, you beat me to it! I was just writing that McK should print out Robin's comments and then show them to the teacher with the threat of flying her down. Just the threat would do it, I think.

Robin, if I ever get on your bad side (by accident of course, it would never be on purpose), please be gentle.

fairyhedgehog said...

The teacher is a bully and your son needs adult help. He can't fight an adult bully on his own.

I had a similar problem when I was at school and it took my parents stepping in to reduce the problem.

I would initially approach it as if you assume that the teacher is on your side. This is manipulative and often works. "I know you want the best for your pupils and I'm sure we can work something out. What my son needs is X, how can we make sure he gets this?"

X can be clear instructions, a gentler approach, understanding of his spelling difficulties, extra help, use of a computer - whatever will make his life bearable.

I would stay calm and polite but stubbornly firm at all times. Use the broken record technique if you have to, "I know you get great results and my son needs X from you." (Using "and" instead of "but" appears less confrontational.)

I would make notes and keep a copy. If things don't improve, talk to the head/principal/whatever the top bod is called, letting them know what your son needs and how his needs are not being met. Let him/her know what you said to the teacher and the response you got. I wouldn't accuse the teacher at any point (even though he is a horrible bully) because I don't think it will achieve anything. Focus on getting your son's needs met.

The bottom line is that this teacher has the ability to make your son's life hell for a year and someone is going to have to stop him.

/rant. Free advice. Worth every penny.

McKoala said...

Robin, you're on fire, but I appreciate it. I'm in the trying not to rock the boat phase - it's only been a week. But I am concerned. SB isn't the most resilient of kids and his previous teachers have gone to a lot of trouble to build up his confidence, I'd hate to see it knocked down again.

I do know that there is an adjustment period at the start of each year when a teacher starts a new class and tries to make an early impression on them. I'm hoping that this is what is going on and not that this is an impossible combo of teacher and pupil.

If the worst comes to the worst, I'm not really the reaming a new one type, however Mr Koala has no issues in that area and I'm sure he can deliver Robin's script with a few added Aussie expletives for additional effect.

However, I must admit I'm inclined to try Sarah and FH's approaches first. Thank you for all the suggestions.

Robin S. said...

I agree, McK, now that I'm not steaming - go for a few weeks with a nice, calm approach. But if all you get is glad-handling, send in your husband. My guess is, this asshole who enjoys his classroom power is also a misogynist.

sylvia said...

The thought of Robin phoning him to have a word really made me smile.

In terms of strategies:

A big one for my son was to carry around a small notebook everywhere. Yeah, I know, I obsess about notebooks :)

But for Connor, who sounds like SB in terms of failing to follow instructions, writing things down helped him to understand what was asked for and also, when he asked for clarification, there was a reason why (even if at the start it was "my mum makes me note everything down so I don't forget"). This made him feel better about asking for instructions to be repeated - important, because Connor didn't think he'd misunderstood (in fact, he'd stop listening halfway through because he felt he already knew what was being asked for).

Other things that appeared to help:

* Roleplaying problem solving situations. I'd come up with a scenario and say, quick, now, how do you deal with it. I didn't put down his reactions but I added to them ("that would be good, but even better would...")

* Going through his bag and books and homework every damn day. I don't know if SB suffers from terminal disorganisation but this is still Connor's weakest point. Teachers shouted at him constantly for showing up at class late, without a pencil and with the wrong books, etc etc. There was absolutely an issue with the teachers taking it as passive-aggressive defiance as opposed to just f'ing incompetent.

* Giving him more responsibility. I know that sounds counter-productive and at odds with the other two statements but basically, I ended up overseeing/helping on a general basis and then giving him full responsibility on specific issues (with promises to back him up in terms of conflict) somehow worked. It's a bit hard to explain but once Connor wanted to prove he was "big enough" to keep handling stuff, it helped a lot.

At 14, he's now a good student and although every term I get 27 versions of "not living up to his potential" I am pretty happy that he's no longer failing any subjects at all and he's doing quite well at some of them. I know it's not the same issues but maybe some of the strategies that helped for us will come in handy.

Word count for yesterday: 0
Word count for today: 1,937 (not including these!) so I hope I get extra points for that :)

McKoala said...

Thanks Sylvia! I do like the notebook idea, and I will suggest it to SB, but I'm concerned his writing difficulties may make this tricky for him. He hasn't yet used his keyboard in class, but once that's up and running that may be an option. I like the role play idea, too.

However, a day off with no reason? The Koala thinks not! You're under low threat, my friend.

The Koala and McKoala are not the same person. McKoala is the nice one. The Koala, on the other hand...

Robin S. said...

You know, this has been bothering me all day. I kept coming back to it. My older daughter (who turned 21 yesterday, is in her 3rd year of college in England, and doing very well, socially and academically) was one of those kids that don't fit the mold. She was introverted, extremely bright, and couldn't remember to do anything. And she couldn't bring herself to do things she thought were stupid - like mindless homework, or busy work. It took her years to realize she just had to suck it up and drill through.

A principal in one of the Montessori schools she attended before we moved to Virginia told me that Robin Jr was one of the brightest students he'd ever had, but he was worried about her, as he put it, 'out in the world' as a young girl, because she was such a daydreamer. But she was also a President's Scholar, was chosen at the age of eight for an art show with only ten other children for an advanced art program, etc.

My point is - because a child ISN'T a cookie cutter of a kid doesn't mean they aren't amazing.
And it's hard to be their advocates when you can see what they could do, 'if only', and it would be all right. Now, of course with the spelling issue, etc., SB isn't Robin Jr's clone, any more than he's anyone else's. But what I do know is, adults who call themselves teachers and abuse the privilege of being a part of their raising/education, are, in fact, child abusers, in that they crush children's souls and dreams. And I hate those fuckers.

They deserve no break, no 'oh, gee', no second chance, for being wads.

Whirlochre said...

A teacher's role is to Show You How To Do It, so failing to give instructions (again and again if necessary) is inexcusable.

Plus, they're paid to teach, irrespective of whether they personally like the kids or not. Or their parents.

So if SB puts up his hand to ask for information, he's doing everything right in terms of fulfilling his role as a kid. This is important. It's one thing to be stressed about something that isn't your fault and another to be stressed about something you think might be.

JaneyV said...

I have to tell you about my nephew. He had the exact same problem with one of his teachers when he was about the same age. It seems that at this age they pile expectations on kids and if they don't hop to it they're treated to a verbal butt-kicking. This is frightening, demoralizing and utterly counter-productive. My nephew became nervous, disinclined to speak and instead of upping his game as no doubt his teacher expected him to - he started to fall behind. The teacher interpreted this as laziness and jumped on him even more. My sister took the softly softly approach that you're taking and her concerns were swept aside by the "I've been doing this job for 20 years an I know exactly what I'm dealing with here" attitude of the teacher. Her arrogance knew no bounds. This all changed however when my sister took my nephew to a consultant dermatologist. He'd been having terrible problems with his nails. His GP had been treating them with anti-fungals but they weren't getting better - they were falling off. The dermatologist said it wasn't a nail fungus it was psoriasis and it was brought on by stress. The teacher was stressing my nephew out so much that his nails were falling out. That's the thing with sensitive kids they turn everything inwards.

You CANNOT let this man continue. If his methods don't fit SB then it's he who has to change up - not SB. I work in education and the thinking now is that teaching has to be tailored to the individual child. A good teacher knows that instinctively. A teacher who gets results through intimidation is a bully - not a teacher - he is relying on the kids teaching themselves.

The situation with my nephew got resolved by a face to face meeting. My sister and my brother-in-law went in together. The teacher was all autocratic and listed of a ream of ways that my nephew was failing and said he needs to do this, this and this and even went so far as to say that they, as parents, were failing him by not being harder on him. By brother-in-law listened very carefully and then spoke. "You've given us a very long list of things that our son has to do and we have to do. My wife and I will certainly work with you in insuring that our son does his part and works to his full ability. We all clearly want him to do well. Tell me what are you going to do?"
She was taken aback by this. "What do you mean? I am already teaching him."
"Yes but your teaching methods are clearly not working - so what exactly do you propose to do?"
She stammered a bit but didn't answer so my brother-in-law leaned in and said; "here's what you're going to do - you're going to stop shouting at my son. Your bullying tactics are clearly not working and they are affecting his health. If my son doesn't understand you will patiently explain it till he does. You will not single him out for punishments. If there are any problems - you will speak directly to my wife and I and I promise we will work with you to iron them out. You will modify the way you speak to him because you now know that the way you have been speaking to him is detrimental to his ability to learn. Above all you will understand that I am documenting everything that passes between us and what is said in class and if you continue to treat my son in this manner, I will take this as far as I need to ensure that you don't do this to another child. Am I making myself clear?"

My nephew started to improve after that. He didn't need special treatment to improve he just needed to be able to relax.

The only way to deal with this guy is to stand up to him. Take Mr Koala with you, work out what your going to say in advance and how far you're going to play it. Let him know that you want SB to do well and are willing to work with him in a program to improve SBs work but let him know that in no uncertain terms will you accept intimidation as a method of teaching. Explain to him that undermining SB'a confidence is 90% of the problem and also let him know that you are on his case and if any of this comes back on SB he will feel the wrath of the claw. Keep clam - the guy doesn't have a leg to stand on because the school cannot support his methods. They are illegal. Tell him how you will support him and how you expect him to support you and if he doesn't then kick his ass into touch.

And as for those who love him - ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

Robin S. said...

What Janey said. In spades.

Robin S. said...

What Janey said. In spades.

Chris Eldin said...

This asshole needs a Mckoala smackdown.

I agree about documenting what's going on, and I also think that HE sounds like a macho kind, probably not going to take females very seriously. I'd bring your husband in on this, and have a parent-teacher conference.

Also, I think that he should be writing instructions on the board for the class to see. Many people, especially boys, are visual learners. I am one too. If someone tells me something, I easily drift. But if it's written, it's memorized almost subconciously.

One last thing, it's important for SB to know you're behind him. He won't take advantage of this, trust me. He'll be grateful. It's okay to not like teachers or to other authority figures is a good message to learn early on. They don't need permission for their feelings. THis is probably rambling, but I just wanted to get this down.

Please let us know what happens...

Betsy Dornbusch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sex scenes at starbucks said...

We're going through the same thing with our kid this year. And yes, she's a beloved, favored teacher (who has crumpled up my kids' work without a word and thrown it away).

It sucks.

I talked to the principal and the teacher. The result is basically me picking up the slack for the teacher in so many ways. She won't change. But I think it's always good to let an administrator know that you're concerned, that you don't feel comfortable in there, etc. I think it was pretty powerful when I told my principal that for the first time ever (he's ten) he doesn't want to come to school, that it's caused him insomnia and anxiety, that her influence has caused us undue stress in our family, and that I would leave the school and make formal complaints if my daughter ever got her.

All this about one of the most beloved teachers at school. And yeah, she does get results. She also is just not a very nice person.

I'm chalking it up to: we all have people and bosses we hate; just learn to deal with it and leave it behind when you leave.