3.08.2010

School Blues


Mama Bear alert! Don't say I didn't warn you!

School issues are the one place, as a mother, that I have trouble trusting my instincts. I have strong opinions about the way my kids should be treated and the way the ideal classroom should be run, but don't always feel confident when it comes down to confronting a teacher. I'm not going to lie, I'm scared! I guess it's that ingrained respect for authority left over from 12+ years of school.

I know in my heart that some things happening in my son's 3rd grade classroom aren't right, but feel like my role is that of teacher support since I am room parent this year. I'm supremely uncomfortable with bringing up my issues to this teacher who's response to other classroom parents has been a stiff "Well, that's the way I do it" I turn tail and run without ever voicing my concerns.

Look at this kid...he's dang cute and he's all mine and I'm responsible for sticking up for him. Why can't I do it?



Before I get 25 requests asking what in the world the teacher is doing, let me lay it out. She has told us that she likes to run her classroom on the principle of "peer pressure". She likes the kids to keep each other in line the way an Army Sargent does when he makes everyone do 50 push ups when one soldier's bed isn't made.

If someone is causing trouble, every child in that vicinity is punished and required to write a letter stating that they were disrespectful and wrong. Now, she says she knows who the trouble maker is but she punishes everyone because they didn't reign the bad child in using peer pressure.

She gives a pre-spelling test on Wednesdays. The children who pass the test not only don't have to take it again on Friday, they also get to make a big display of playing with shaving cream on their desks while the other children retake the test on Friday. The test on Friday isn't given by her, but rather another child in the class who passed the pre-test. This routine is extremely distracting for the kids taking the test and they feel "below" the child who is giving the test and embarrassed that they can't play with the other kids.

She has the class divided into, what my son calls, "good kids" and "bad kids". He explains that it's clear to everyone that the "good" kids are the ones in enrichment and the "bad" kids are the average students. He came home from school after scoring an A on a math test simply overjoyed yelling, "Mama! I'm finally a good kid!" (is that the saddest thing you've ever heard?)

At this year's parent/teacher conference, she mentioned to me that she was deeply concerned about my son's lack of self-esteem and insecure body language (I have NEVER seen that side of him and no teacher has ever mentioned that). My investigation into this has uncovered all of these goings on in the classroom. Well, no wonder he's feeling insecure in this environment! What's a mom to do?!?

You folks have been with me through thick and thin, and I'm at my wit's end here. I need some motherly advice, some teacherly advice, some friendly advice! It's not Feedback Friday yet, but I don't think I can wait. Am I blowing things out of proportion? Does this all seem normal to all of you? Should I just go on about my business and let this teacher alone?

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72 comments :

  1. I'd really take issue with that as well. I don't like labeling kids like that. They take that stuff to heart too much!

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  2. Wow, what a situation to be in! That's too crazy.

    I'll preface my opinions by saying I'm not a parent because I'm sure that's going to affect how I come at this problem.

    In my opinion, there's not much you're going to be able to do that will save your child from this teacher's bad influences. I guess I can *kinda* see where the teacher is coming... that she wants them to be able to correct one another and create an atmosphere where she has to do little discipline because they'll say something to each other first. Consequently, I'm in a university classroom right now where the traditional-age students had to get that same lecture about keeping each other in line. So I can almost see the concept she's trying to apply.

    But I'm not sure it's totally appropriate or transferable to 3rd graders. If your son is coming home saying "he's finally one of the good kids" I think that's a red flag. Maybe you could use that to approach her. Tell her that you're worried about what her son said to you, and does she know that the student feels that way? (the good vs. bad idea). How does she suggest that you let your son know he's a good kid, even if he does have to take the spelling test a second time? Maybe if you approach her with questions you'll help her realize what effect she's having on the students, or maybe she'll have a good idea?

    But without yanking him from the classroom, I'm not sure you're going to save him from the behavior all together. I hope you do let him know that he is a good kid ALL the time!

    I hope I helped. :)

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  3. My husband is a high school teacher and he wouldn't let this kind of thing go on with his high school kids much less with young kids. I say march in with respect for the authory of you job as mother, you can be nice but your job is more important than hers in you sons life. Last time I checked teachers are the ones getting paid to be in charge of the classroom not students, so students should not be in charge of other peoples behavior. What a blessing you are involved in the classroom and can see some of the stuff going on, could you imagine if you didn't know. I will pray for you to have the right words to say and the courage.

    Cha Cha

    P.S. Not suggesting this as your option just letting you know that in this family, we homeschool because my husband see all that goes on in classrooms. We live in one of the top school zones in the state but he does not trust what goes on in a classroom, he has seen too much first hand. So be bold you are paying her salary and she does answer to you for the care of your child.

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  4. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!! Yes you have to go talk to her!!!! You just have to!!!! And if you do not feel that the problem is being solved/worked on then your next step has to be her boss!!!! That made me cry....poor little guy!!!! Peer pressure....in my opinion is not the correct way to do things!!! I am not a teacher but I am a parent of 3. Please let us know what you do and what happens!!!! Good luck and hang in there!!!!!

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  5. Wow...I don't even know where to begin! I was one of those moms that was always at the elem school volunteering. They all thought I was so giving when really I wanted to be there to see how they were being treated ( don't mess with this mama lions cubs..) This teacher of yours needs to be told to knock it off. The fact that your son now sees himself as one of the 'good' kids proves that is exactly what she is peddling ...good vs. bad. The word bad should not even be used in a classroom! It is Her job to teach these children and instill discipline ...not the job of the other kids in the class. She gets the paycheck, not them. Get with a few other parents and sit down with this woman and talk to her. Teachers are not gods...they make mistakes and some should be in other careers..this sounds kind of lazy if you ask me. And what's with the punishing the children she knows are innocent...what is that about!!!! How does this woman sleep at night...I'm getting too upset..I need to take a break and come back later ;-(

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  6. I can completely relate to your astonishment and disgust that this is going on in your son's classroom. Frankly, as a mother of three, and three boys at that, I'm shocked that the teacher has gotten away with this type of behavior this far into the school year. I have never dealt with a situation such as this, but I have over the years felt an overwhelming need to step up to the plate and confront my child's teacher on a number of matters. This doesn't make me popular at school, but first and foremost I am my child's advocate and if I don't address a problem, it's highly unlikely that change will occur.

    That said, sometimes I'm met with success, with a teacher who genuinely cares about my child and is willing for us to work together to address my concerns. Other times, I've been met with a brick wall. A very unfriendly, unkind and defensive brick wall. And so I've gone to the administration and if necessary even the superintendent. You need to do what it takes to make sure your son's learning environment is a positive welcoming place where he feels secure and confident. It makes me so sad to hear his reactions, I can see my children feeling the exact same way if they were in that circumstance.

    Phew, sorry for that long thesis. I hope I don't come across as a "B." I think as a mother your gut instinct is spot-on and you know where you need to go with this. Good luck. I think you're one smart lady and you have every right to be concerned about what goes on in your child's classroom. After all, if not you, then who?

    best-nelya

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  7. I'm a sahm now, but up until last May, I was an elementary school teacher. I have so much I could say, but I'll try to keep it short: Yes, you DEFINITELY need to talk to the teacher about this, b/c how she's treating her students is not in their best interest, and it could have a lasting effect on them. I've had several students who had previously had a positive outlook on school & liked coming to school, etc. . . only to have that feeling taken away by a teacher who treated them poorly or ran their class in a way similar to the way your son's teacher runs her class. So you definitely need to address the situation.
    As hard and as awkward as it is, I would say to go to her before going "above her head". From experience, when parents go above the teachers head without talking to the teacher first, it has the potential to start a whole new fire. You don't want the teacher to have any reason to be upset with you, so if you go to her & play the role of "concerned parent" it will go over a lot better. Try to give her the benefit of the doubt (or at least act like you are!). You could question her reasoning in doing things this way & ask how she feels it benefits the students in the class. That way you can give her a chance to explain herself (even though I think she's gonna have a hard time explaining how this method of classroom management is good for all of her students). You might still end up having to go above her head, but at least if you confront her first, you've given her a chance to change some things without getting administration involved. A piece of advice I learned from being a teacher that I will always remember now that I'm a parent: If a parent rubs the teacher the wrong way, it can come across in the way the teacher treats/views the child. I hate to admit it, but we're all human, & when I had to deal with a really difficult parent, it makes it really hard to separate them from their kid & harder to like their kid (sometimes, not in all cases). If you come across in a non-threatening way, just a "I'm really concerned about my son" tone (you can use the example about how he was happy to finally be a "good kid"), she'll have less reasons to be upset with you than a parent who has the defenses up & launches an "attack". Your son is the one who has to spend all day with her & you'd never want to do something that would cause her to single him out, so just go at her easy & try to remain calm! Regardless, you need to advocate for your son, & the way she's running her classroom is not beneficial for 3rd graders. I doubt it will teach them anything other than to doubt their self worth & their abilities. Hope this helps & good luck :-)

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  9. That seriously sucks! (And exactly why we homeschool ;)). Why on earth would you let kids play at their desks while giving others a spelling test?!? You're in a tight spot...is your son doing ok grade-wise? Chances are you're not going to change her ideals, you could go hire up...but then you could move your kid's status from "bad" to a "bad kid with a p.i.t.a. mom" and that will stick with him for more than 3rd grade!!!

    Peer pressure doesn't work on 8 year olds! At least with my boys, they can't seem to weigh consequences before they act so they all just do it together ;) what a crappy teacher! (But we all had at least one, right). Good luck!!! I'd be having him ready for the real tests on Wed...maybe its more of a motivational tool to get the parents in line? What mom isn't going to jump in and help her kid study when all of that is going on?!?

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  10. OMG you need to do something and now! There is no way I could sit back and let this happen to my child. I would talk with a few of the parents and see if they feel the same way. How heartbreaking to have your son finally feel like a good kid. There is too much peer pressure with our kids these days that to have the teacher just let this go on and show the kids there are good and bad kids, seriously horrendous. Who hurt this teacher when she was a kid. Maybe she was bullied or one of the "Bad" kids and now she wants others to pay. Do not let another day go by or this could seriously ruin what school should be about for these kids.

    Sorry my blood is boiling right now, good luck I sure wish I could go talk to her for you!

    When my son was in 1st grade he had a teacher that wasn't very nice or very enthusiastic. My son hated school and it just crushed his spirit. I observed one day and later that night had conference. I asked her if she enjoyed teaching and she said, "Oh yes it has always been my dream to teach children". I said, "really because I couldn't tell. Not once did you smile in that class or treat these kids nicely. You did not praise them or let them know they were doing a good job!" She was taken aback that I said that and frankly so was my husband. But it all had to be said. Has she changed, well yes a little bit. I make her nervous when she sees me and I don't ever hide my feelings about her. I think she needs to teach older kids who don't need as much affirmation. My daughter will be in 1st grade next year and come hell or high water she will not be in her class. Sorry for my ramblings but I wish you good luck and courage. You can do this! Please let us know!

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  11. It sounds like you've talked to the teacher and basically get shut out of her hearing any thing other than, "That's how I do it."

    Can you go to HER BOSS? The Principle? Maybe get a few other parents to unite and confront the principle on these practices?

    I couldn't imagine. I was raised by a teacher and spent many years in classrooms growing up. This is DEFINITELY not normal and should not be tolerated. Your son is a adorable!!

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  12. I'm the mom of a 23 year old and a 20 year old. Unfortunately, I've seen this and worse in my kids classrooms. In the district my kids went to school, there was really no path to take with this. If you talk to the teacher, you risk putting your child in a position where he'll receive the brunt of this teachers anger. If she's been teaching awhile, she likely won't be changing on the basis of your comments. And, if you do research, you will likely find others have walked before you with no result. I've tried taking issues like this to the principal as well, to no avail. The principles often have little control over a classroom especially if the teachers are union and tenured. I learned that the only recourse I had was to insist any future child of mine did not end up in this persons class. I also learned I needed to pre-screen the teachers at the grade level my kids were moving into and make my requests early. Our kids are too precious not to. Unfortunately, at least in our school district, all students best interest aren't the first priority, but rather the teachers/tenure/contracts are. Let your son know everyday that he is the best! Maybe you create something special in your family where you point out each day at dinner something very special about each child. Something to offset the negativity in his classroom. In the end, you'll have a memory that will last a lot longer for your son than his third grade experience. All the best to you and those wonderful kids of yours ~ Amy

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  13. The problem with him passing the pre-test is that the spelling words are hidden within a large paragraph and misspelled to the point that he has trouble recognizing what word they are supposed to be.

    He is timed and has to find all 20 words and write them correctly on another sheet of paper. Time always runs out before he is finished. So frustrating!

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  14. I can understand her "idea" but she has taken it a bit too far. What about the kids who aren't able to, despite their every effort, to ever get to enjoy the satisfaction of the shaving cream? Does she have days when everyone is a good kid? It does seem extreme and I could see how it would crush my 3rd graders spirit who is very sensitive to her teachers' opinions. What a tough situation. Just remember to be firm but show respect when talking with her.

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  15. Well, I'm still a newbie at this school thing...my oldest is in first grade this year. So far, so good. However, if something like you are describing was going on in his classroom, I would mad and taking action. You are well within your rights. Now, I'm not sure about going straight to the teacher instead of the principal. I see the point of talking to her about it first. However, after working in a hospital setting for years, I see how going through the "proper channels" is important. That will have to be your call. Also, you being the room mom, makes it even more awkward I assume.

    That spelling test deal is the worst. Besides the kids running it, the mixture of word search and word scramble baffles me.

    The most important thing is to bring it up to someone. Unfortunately, the year is almost over, but at least you can possibly change things for the rest of the year and for sure next year.
    Best of luck!

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  16. As a former teacher, I know it is impossible to please every parent. I also believe that each teacher has his or her own style that isn't going to meet with approval from every parent. I also believe in respecting the teacher's authority in the classroom.

    Those things said, I also think that some teachers do not have the personality to be teachers, or make poor classroom management decisions based on some book or seminar or class they read/took. We shouldn't be afraid to confront a method that is negative and potentially damaging, first in a respectful "let's work together" way, and, only if that doesn't work, going in and raising all heck to advocate for your child.

    Personally, I think this boarders on bullying. My personality would be such that I would be so stressed in this environment; it would not be a good place for me to learn. Just from what you wrote--and maybe because I'm trying (hard)to see the good here--perhaps this teacher really feels this method is encouraging and empowering to students, in which case she is really trying to do well. But, IMO, the method stinks.

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  17. What a horrible situation! It is so hard to be the mama bear. After reading the other comments, I think pretty much all has been said about confronting the teacher, etc ... the only other thing that comes to my mind is the wrongness of encouraging peer pressure! It is amazing to me that someone thinks this is a good idea and encourages it. I do believe that there is a certain amount of what I call "peer policing" that happens in public schools - kids help each other figure out the right/wrong things to do, but this should be kept to the social arena. If we encourage peer pressure as a learning technique, where do we draw the line? When they are 14 and someone tries to get them to drink or smoke, do we say, sure, peer pressure was great in 3rd grade, but now you need to learn to think for yourself and make the right choice!? I think it's a really slippery and dangerous slope!!

    Good luck! I think the best we can do is follow our heart and keep our kids at the top of our lists!

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  18. Hi, as a mother to a current 3rd grader. This is a very impressionable age. Go to the principal and request a one on one meeting. I would then request a meeting with the school guidance counselor and have your son voice his concerns to him/her. Get it on the record how her teaching style is effecting his self esteem and how he only feels credible when he achieves an A.

    This is terrible style of teaching.

    As as parent It is scary questioning authority and knowing where to place your boundaries. You are your only child's advocate until he's an adult.

    The teacher needs to get out of "this is how I do it" She needs to rethink her method of how she can reach out to the students on an individual basis, since they are learn and grow at different rates.

    Good luck.

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  19. Hi Jennifer,
    That's crazy! I would immediately talk to her, and if she wasn't receptive, I would go to the principal. There is no way this can be deemed appropriate. My youngest daughter is in the gifted program and her teachers strive hard to make sure they don't treat her or her classmates differently. I would be.... well... pissed off if someone treated my child that way!

    If the principal won't do anything, keep going up that ladder. Just remember, in the end, that this is YOUR child - and you have to fight for what is right for him and every child in that class. And, the teacher needs to remember that these are KIDS - not soldiers.

    Best of luck to you, my friend!

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  20. Where on earth did that teacher learn to teach? That may be some of the craziest classroom antics I've ever heard of and I had some REALLY bad teachers growing up. If I were you I'd go over her head and talk to the principal or superintendent about your concerns. Generally these individuals will not tell the teacher who complained but they may also have no idea about her teaching style so it might be a good idea to let them know what she's up to.

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  21. Ok...I want to fly to wherever you live and have a chat with this teacher...my sister is a 6th grade teacher and she would come UNGLUED reading what this teacher is doing. I WAS a social worker and I KNOW that none of these "teaching techniques" is helpful or beneficial to any child's learning and social growth....I won't even start 'cause I don't want to make this too long...BUT...you MUST go talk to this teacher AND I really think the principle needs to know what is going on because if he/she is aware and isn't doing anything you have even more to worry about, since your son has may more years in Elementary school.

    I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this...one of my biggest fears to (having to confront a teacher)...good luck, you can do it!

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  22. I would say, "and just where did you learn this teaching style, because I am sure they do not teach this in COLLEGES across the country"!! Rediculous! Email the teacher with a copy sent to the principal and the elementary specialist/guidance counselor. If it doesn't change, I would get parents to sign a letter to take to the school board.

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  23. I agree that as a parent I would be upset and feel like this is not appropriate for this age group. I would probably confront the teacher about my "concerns" on how this practice is affecting my child. I am not sure if I would take it so far as to go to the principle. I say this only because it is so close to the end of the year and I wouldn't want to make the situation worse for my child if the teacher was to get called on her "policies". She does not seem to open to the concerns of other parents so her voluntarily changing is unlikely. I think instead I would try and focus on damage control with my child. Knowing what is going on at school gives you the tools to help your child deal with and overcome the struggles in his classroom. This may seem super passive but sometimes I feel like you have to choose your battles. If this was the beginning of the school year my tune might be different but at this point I would focus my energy on helping my kid overcome this crappy situation.

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  24. I haven't read every one else's comments but this is my intake:

    I'll begin by saying that my mom is a teacher, I've helped her in her classes from 6yr olds to 16 yr olds.
    This is not appropriate for a class to be run like that. I'm absolutely certain that your boy isn't the only one with a low self-esteem problem going on in this teacher's class. There's absolutely no pedagogic way in her methods, and kids aren't machine that needs to perform more and more. He's there to learn, not to be part of the "bests". You are totally right to be concerned.
    As for hope, she'll probably tells you that she knows best than you. She'll have all kind of reasons and argument if you finally confront her on the matter. Do be impressed and stand your grounds! See other parents and ask them how they feel about the way their children are treated. I don't think you alone can make a change happens, but if many of you complaint, there might be.

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  25. First of all, Jen let me say that I completely understand that weird fear that occurs when it comes to confronting the kids' teachers.

    I guess all that I can say from my bad teacher experiences is that this probably is NOT going to change. It's March and there are only a 2 or 3 months left of school. Not to mention the fact that this teacher has probably been doing it for years.

    With that said, I'm sure that the principal is at least mildly aware of the situation. Unfortunately the lack of good teacher availability and often times a teachers tenure mean the teacher will be there for a long time.

    I guess the only advice that I can give is to mention it in the least confrontational manner to the teacher. Then go to the principal and guidance counselor. Do not wait for her to have a grace period to address the issues. Go to the administration right away. Make it clear that you are concerned for the welfare and well-being of not only your son, but the other children in the classroom.

    Be prepared, however for them to do a lot of nothing about it. It's unfortunate, but in my experience, even run-ins with the superintendant have not changed the outcome.

    I don't know what your school policy is on changing teachers, but in all honesty, although it may be tough to change teachers so late in the year, it may be the only option.

    I have gone through many of these issues with my oldest. Finally I pulled her out and homeschooled her for a year before we moved to a new district. Now she is back in school (2nd year) and excelling. She still has a few learning issues, but she made honor roll this semester and is tremendously happy. I largely credit that to last years' teacher and this years' team teachers that are amazing!

    Just stick by your guy. He needs you. You are there for him 150% and he knows that.

    I would also keep my eye on requesting a speccific teacher for next year. In my experience, a wonderfully supportive teacher the following year makes all the difference.

    XO*T

    (P.S. holy cow i wrote a novel! sorry about that.)Can you tell that I'm a bit passionate about this subject?! ;)

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  26. OMG! What is this broad's issue?! Wish I could offer some help, but I'm not a mama yet and have no idea what I would do in this situation either. I'll pray that you find the right thing to do :)

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  27. OMG. I AM IRATE JUST READING THIS!

    She is causing damage to each and one of those children's self-esteem. I would address this with the principal. I don't think you stated how long this woman has been teaching, but I am taking that she has been at it for a while. If the teacher is not willing to bend, you have every right to demand they move your child from her classroom. If you don't find support through the school, go to your school board/superintendent.

    Remember, YOU ARE YOUR CHILDS ADVOCATE, you and ONLY YOU! :) I have a hard time with confrontation too, but I have had to step up and do it - its hard, but its your child involved. It is so sad that he came home excited to be a "good kid"... from what I see, he is a GREAT KID! And to label the children this way is wrong. First off, no child is good or bad, they make good/bad choices, but they are not innately good/bad and to label them as such is extrememly foolish on this womans part!

    Get out those fists mama and start swinging! :)

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  28. I think kids have enough peer pressure to deal with that they don't need it forced on them by an authority figure. It sounds like bullying to me and our schools have a pretty strict policy against it.

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  29. wow, that teacher needs a real talking to from the principal. I don't think her discipline methods are ideal - i think for little kids it is too harsh because the ones who did nothing wrong would not understand why they are being punished, but i think at a certain age it could be effective.

    The spelling test really bothers me. I wish she presented it to friday's test takers as a second chance rather than punishment. Maybe the other kids could have quiet reading time or a chance to do some homework early.

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  30. I really think this is terrible. Forty years ago, when there was a huge supply of factory jobs, teaching kids to 'fit in' was probably a really good method for training all of us to toe the line and go along to get along. We need teachers that embrace different learning styles. You have to talk to her, expressing that your son comes home saying that he feels that the class is separated into 'good kids' and 'bad kids' and that kids are frustrated and distracted by the other kids in the class having fun while they are being tested.

    If she doesn't respond you have to go to the principal and be strong in your convictions.

    When my son was in second grade, he had a teacher that could not teach without shaming and condemning students in front of the class. One friend's daughter (older than my son) used to come home in tears daily. My son had this teacher, and she spoke to us with noticeable disdain of our child. Our son had developed a habit of constantly clearing his throat. We tried working with the teacher and the principal, and there was much pretense of changes being made, but nothing changed. We moved our son to a gifted magnet the following year because our faith in the school was destroyed. Less than a week after the school year ended, our son's 'tic' of constantly clearing his throat stopped.

    The next year, our neighbor's daughter started in this woman's class and started coming home crying with stomach-aches. They moved after the school year because of their experience with the teacher and the fact that nothing was done about her. This year, another boy in our neighborhood followed my son into the gifted magnet because of the threat that this woman was going to be his teacher. How many kids with less involved parents had their psyches permanently damaged by her? Lots of times, kids don't tell their parents what is happening to them at school, often because we tell them to listen to their teacher. 99% of the time, this is good advice, but there is such a thing as an unstable or misguided teacher.

    If I had to do it again, I wouldn't be so nice (because I was - thinking that the teacher is right, and the school would take care of us). If nothing was done to remedy the teacher demeaning her students, I wish I would have pulled my son out in the middle of the year, or explained clearly that Mrs. J was a demeaning teacher who needed re-training or to be away from children, and point out that many children were leaving the school solely because of her actions.

    I'm feeling for you in your situation, but I firmly believe that no child should be treated the way you describe. The kids who are treated 'well' will have lasting survivor guilt for not being able to help their friends. Ask my son.

    I love your son for speaking up and letting you know that something's not right. That takes a lot of strength and insight for a kid to be able to communicate when something doesn't seem right.

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  31. Sounds like homeschooling is in the cards for ya'all :) ask if you need some tips :)
    HUGS!

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  32. I have 5 kiddos ranging from 9th to kinder. I had a similar issue when my oldest was in 3rd grade. I realize that I should have gone to the teacher first but she was not an approachable person and something needed to be done immediately. As I had a good relationship with the principal, I went to her first. In hindsight, I'd agree with the others that said go to the teacher first but if you can't, it's ok to go over her.

    My advice would be if you can do nothing else, have a phone, face to face or email discussion with his teacher. Ask her for clarification on what is happening so that you don't get caught with part of the story (ie the shaving cream thing was one time and part of another activity running over or another student gave the test one time because the teacher had an issue she had to attend to right that moment). If you can, explain to her why this isn't a good learning style for your child. At that point you're free and clear to go to the principal.

    Since my kids started school (knowing I'd be in that school system for a long time), I made a point to get in the school, volunteer and get to know the teachers and principal. It's trickier now that I have kids in 3 different schools but I've created a reputation for myself. The principals know that I'm not the parent that isn't ever happy, they know that I will contribute my time and energy to the school in a positive way and the teachers know me on a personal level. I've also come to know them and see what's going on in the school so when I need to I can request my child not have a particular teacher.

    Good luck!! I feel you, it's hard but our kids need us to be their advocates :)

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  33. I think that teacher is AWESOME! Kids need more disicipline and peer pressure!

    Yeah, right!!!

    I agree with many of the comments left. It is your son. You have every right to confront her. I have always been the "nice one" and overlooked some of my kid's teacher's bad habits/teaching.

    This year something changed and I am talking to the teachers, straight up when I see something not right. I don't get all "roll the neck" and "snap the fingers" on them, but I try to explain in a calm way the effect their action had on my child.

    I am suprised (and so happy) to tell you that 99% of the time, the teachers respond very well.

    We have to stick up for our kids. We don't have to be rude (intially anyway), but it is so important for our kids to see the right way to solve conflict AND to stick up for themselves, not just take it.

    Go get 'em mama bear! We don't have these instincts for nothing! :)

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  34. I am going to guess this teacher is young, just out of school and has no kids?
    Girlfriend you go to that school and let it out! Politely of course ;-) It sounds as if the principle needs to be made aware of the many issues in this classroom. Stand your ground, maybe make a list of your biggest concerns, and adress those from an educated standpoint instead of an emotional one. Which is hard for us momma bears! let the pribciple know you respect teaches and the important role in our childrens lives, however, this one is doing much more harm then good! Hugs and prayers to you and your little guy!

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  35. A degree to teach does not a good teacher make! I have addressed situations such as this where the whole class was punished for the misbehavior of one. I didn't like it and I did go to the teacher AND the principal about it. Came to find out that I was not the only one complaining and it and the situation was changed. I STRONGLY disagree with the antics of the teacher your son has and she is doing more harm than good!

    I say have a conference, stay tough, and if you don't get anywhere with her, go over her head. Teachers have GOT to be made accountable! Our children are accountable, so why not her?

    Good luck!

    Lou Cinda :)

    And your son is such a cutie pie!

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  36. I have no parental experience (yet) for school aged children. My story comes from my own forth and fifth grade years. I had two terrible teachers in a row. None of my friends were in my fifth grade class because their parents all requested the other teacher. This teacher was that bad. My mom was in the room one morning when the 4th grade teacher unleashed her fury. She was in disbelief, but didn't say anything. I survived both teachers and still learned all the basic skills needed to survive in the world. Sometimes it is best not to fight with her. You son knows that you'd stop her if you could. Unfortunately, we have these experiences to prepare us for the jagoffs we'll encounter even as adults.

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  37. I agree with you, I think that's a horrible way to teach children. I understand why she does it that way. My husband drives a school bus for a high school in between college classes and sometimes, although he hates it, he has to punish all the kids by not driving them home 'till the ones misbehaving are being good. He says it completely goes against his principals and ideal, but he knows no other way to keep them in line.

    Still, a teacher situation is different. I think that she is afraid that without this 'child peer pressure' she can't keep them in line and will loose face. BUT Elementary school and Jr. High are times when children really come to gain or loose confidence in themselves...and that could effect their attitude towards life for the rest of their lives!
    I think it's an inappropriate way for her to teach and that you should probably talk to the principal about your worries, since you already know what her answer will be.
    I hope that helps. What a sad situation for your son. :(

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  38. I have to say that I had a horrible teacher in first grade and it affected how I felt about school until I graduated high school and was also a huge deciding factor in my not attending college. It definitely had negative effects on my self esteem for a long time. How your son is treated in class will affect him for the rest of his schooling. How he interacts with peers and teachers, how he does his work and even which extra curricular activities he becomes involved with.

    I think it is important for you to talk to the teacher. I would keep as calm as possible but not back down. She needs to understand that what she's doing is NOT acceptable.

    I would also talk to your son and let him know that you are proud of him for telling you about how things are in class. You want him to know he can trust you and that he can talk to you about anything. I would also tell him that adults make mistakes too. I would tell him that it's important for him to continue to mind his teacher because she's the authority in class but let him know that it's not correct and that you're doing everything in your power to take care of the situation for him.

    You could also have him brainstorm with you to come up with possible solutions to problems and help him come up with coping strategies. Also, finding something to get him involved in that he's REALLY good at would help his self esteem too.

    Good luck!

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  39. Sorry for the double comment, but I've thought a little more about the situation. It reminded me of a lecture I heard once. The guy was talking about a family that had a Grandmother that hated the girl her son married and therefore was very cruel to their children. He talked about how since her (the grandmother) attitude was outside their control the mother made a game of it. Every time the grandmother picked on one of the kids or pointed out their flaws they would tally it. Whichever kid was picked on the most got a double scoop ice cream on the way home and everyone else got one scoop. Of couse the parents told them that they were not be encouraged by bad behavior, but still she made a game out of the bad situation.
    Maybe there's a way for you to explain to your son, that even though it's a bad or hard situation that he can look at it from the outside and see how much confidence your family puts in him. Or something like that.
    Okay, I'm rambling. It was just a thought I had. I still think you should talk to the principal, but maybe explain the situation too.
    Good luck Mama Bear! Let us know what happens :)

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  40. I homeschool my kids and I love it, they love it. We have a blast. Homeschooling has come a long way. I had a really hard time in school, I was smart enough, but socially it was very painful for me. I am happy to say that both my kids are confident, they participate in lots of activities and they both enjoy public speaking and performing.

    I just wanted to put it out there as an option, homeschooling is so fun and so wonderful. I wish my mom had homeschooled me, even if it wasn't socially unacceptable at the time.

    I really hope you find whatever solution is best for your cute little man, I would not want my kids in that environment at all. Teachers can have way too much influence on a child's self esteem.

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  41. Ugh. I would like to give his teacher a swift kick in the pants and then make her take a test while everyone else plays.

    Break out the claws, Mama Bear, this teacher needs to hear from you and if she has a problem listening to your concerns and is unwilling to acknowledge the possible damage she is doing to her students, well, I would then take the next step and speak to her boss. I know it is scary and intimidating to voice concerns to the teacher but I have a feeling you are up for the challenge.

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  42. Wow. Just WOW. I haven't read through the comments, but I will now. Your story just made me so sad that there are teachers like that.

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  43. Put your concerns in writing and submit it to the principal. If it is in writing, the school is required by law to respond to you. If you just meet and talk, they don't have to do any follow up. I think she is a "bad teacher" and she has no business labeling the kids like that. Unfortuntately, some teachers don't belong in a classroom. My husband and I have run in circles with bad teachers before, we have 4 grown kids, but once they realized I was willing to stand up for my child and take it to a higher authority, things changed. I have never had success talking to the teacher one on one because their attitude (not all teachers but those conducting their classroom in such a way as this) is that this is the way I've always done it and this is the way I will always do it. If you don't stand up and advocate for y our kiddo, no one will. And, you know he's not the only one suffering, all those kids are having a tough time of it.

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  44. I would definitely say to talk to her...That is crazy! Some of these children will be effected from this environment in tons of different ways...not all good. I agree with Blueviolet...They take that stuff to heart too much!

    amy[www.theprikazskys.com]

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  45. No, does not sound normal and you are not overreacting. I haven't read through all the comments but if alarm bells are going off then you need to get involved. It is uncomfortable. I don't like confrontation either but if you approach it as something has been bothering your son then as a teacher, I'd hope she would be just as concerned. Transparency is key. I have always been upfront with my kids' teachers (we've been dealing with school board issues and administration) so I wanted the teachers to know what we were doing. They seem to appreciate what we are doing. Good luck Jen. My heart is with you...I have a 3rd grader too and I feel like this is such a pivotal year.

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  46. Oh, that's horrible! I don't have any explicit advice, but I know I'd be having a little convo with the teacher. That's just not right!

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  47. Since I'm not a mother all I can say is that if it was me, as a child in the class, I would probably come home crying everyday and it just wouldn't have been good for me. I had my share of bad teachers as a kid and as a 30 year old now I still remember them and it probably has lead to the self esteem issues I have and my fear of doing things on my own and doing something wrong and being made an example of.

    Wouldn't enforcing peer pressure be likely to turn around on the kids at some point. You know like they learn that they are suppose to go along with the other kids and perhaps they get themselves in trouble because the kids that they are hanging out with have a bad idea but they have been taught to listen to their peers. Hope that made sense.

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  48. I feel a little differently that the bulk of the others- I totally disagree with the way that teacher is leading her class. But a 3rd grader shouldn't be underestimated. I would talk to your son about life- sometimes we are under the authority of people who do things differently than we think they should. Explain why you don't agree with her approach but that it doesn't mean you don't have respect for her position. Help him to think through the things that bother him and brainstorm ideas to make things better within the rules of her classroom.

    I feel like a teacher like this is likely to take it out on your child if she feels defensive against you. I would either use this as a chance to educate and support your son through a bad situation or see if he can just be quietly placed in another class.

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  49. I've seen similar peer pressure discipline used before and I think used properly, it can work for some children. If they think their peers are annoyed, some do better. However, this does not seem like the case. I would talk with the teacher and just point out that this type of labeling and discipline is breaking your sons spirit. Be careful not to put down her method, just point out that it's not working for your son and why. I would also state that you are uncomfortable with labeling any child and are trying to teach your child to treat people equally, not by rank. My son's 2nd gr teacher did this and I finally just told my son she was wrong and said it was just one of those situations we would deal with and be rid of soon. I would also speak with the principal. You are the customer afterall.
    Good luck.

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  50. My son ran into this in 4th grade. He just couldn't get his head around why he should be punished when he didn't do anything wrong. After many discussions with the teacher and powers that be in the school, we finally decided to homeschool. It was a good decisions for us and I'm not suggesting you do that, but I just wanted to say I feel your pain.

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  51. Ugh, I hate this kind of stuff! My belief, start with the teacher and move up from there. Last year my daughter (then in 2nd grade) had a teacher who was a YELLER. One child did something wrong, all were yelled at loudly! There were days when my daugher ~ the pleaser ~ would come home from school looking beat down. She tries so hard to be good, and do good that to get yelled at almost daily (as a whole class) was extremely hard for her. I can see why your son's teacher expressed he had a lack of esteem. Hard to be upbeat and not frustrated in when you feel powerless like that, even as an adult. The principal was approached and this teacher is no longer at our school,(she is still with the district but travels to a few different schools as an EBD teacher). We recently had a bunch of budget cuts and school reorganization so who actually knows if it was due to parent involvment, but at least our feelings were voiced. Good luck ~ would be interested to hear what you decide to do or what comes out of it.

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  52. My daughter's nearly 4, so I haven't got any real-life experience on this myself - yet.

    However, I have heard my mother talk about her school-experiences from the 60s, and I'm telling you she still has scars from a teacher she had in 2nd grade. The woman was harsh and uncaring, and 50 years later my mom still vividly remembers wetting her pants when the teacher refused to let her go to the bathroom. She was labelled "bad" and I'm sure my mom believed. it.

    Also, my husband must have been in classrooms like this, he thinks he's an idiot - not smart, not capable of learning - which is totally not the truth. He's listened to people or teachers, or *SOMEONE* who told him he wasn't good enough.

    The whole concept of bad/good kids is so ridiculous. Especially since you said your son's just running out of time to complete his test. That's punishment for not being first/best. How dumb!

    I was homeschooled K-12, and while it may not suit your family, it was a great choice for me. I loved it, I thrived, and I'm happy to say that I am a homeschool graduate. :)

    I would speak with her first, but if she gives you the same answer as the other parents, go with a letter. I'd actually write the letter, and ask other parents in his class to sign with me. If a large portion of the class takes issue with the teacher, I'm sure the school board will take more notice of it.

    I really hope you're able to find a good solution for him and for your family. *Hugs*

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  53. NO! NO! NO!!! Ok, so I have never commented on a blog before, but after my friend text me and told me to read this I was OUTRAGED!!! I am a mother of 4 as well as a k-6 certified teacher with my BS in psychology. My children are 10, 8, 5 and 6mo. and I can say with out a doubt I would be taking these issues to the principal, to the district, to anyone I needed to in order to get this to change!!!!! I don't know how people are saying they can see the teacher's point???? That's crazy talk!! As parents and teachers we are SUPPOSED to be preparing our children to be our future and in doing so we are supposed to be teaching them about life and how to navigate in this crazy world. I take such exception when children are put in charge of other children's behavior. Not only is it impossible to control another person's behavior, it is not how the real world works!!! When a person goes to work as an adult if Joe Shmoe does not get his work done correctly, YOU don't get fired. Seriously! You know your son best, and it's obvious to you that this is adversely affecting him, how could it not???? Each child has a different learning style as well as different abilities. Each child develops at a different rate and her practices as a teacher are not taking any of this into account! Any one single action can affect a child for a lifetime, an entire year of this kind of teaching will have lasting results!!!! I can not say enough how much I think you need to act on this! I think it is first important to gather information. Go to legitimate websites, studies, books and such to back up your feelings with facts about how this kind of teaching is bound to have a negative impact upon the children. Bring these highlighted points with you to a meeting. Go to the meeting with the mind set of not anger, (although if it were me it would be hard to stuff my anger) but a mind set of concern for your child as well as his classmates. Ok, well, I'm sorry if I ranted too much! Your post just struck a chord with me! If you want to take this approach of coming in with facts and research and have trouble finding it, contact me if you want and I'll help you. Good luck to you and please feel confident in knowing that you have every right to be your child's advocate!!!

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  54. If I were you I'd talk to her about maybe enforcing equality and unity rather than making the students feel as though they are divided and above one another.

    What a poor way to try and teach these kids.

    I'm sure she feels as though it is her classroom to do with what she pleases, but after talking with her and maybe seeing no results, I'd surely go over her head.

    Kids are too fragile to be belittled by each other in attempt to enforce a peer pressure that they will undoubtedly face anyway at older ages.

    I hope you feel resolved, no matter what!
    What a tough situation!!

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  55. Heck no, you are not blowing things out of proportion. You should speak up for your child and all the other kids in his class. Wow! I can't even imagine what this teacher must be thinking...Good luck!

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  56. I concur with everyone that you do need to confront this teacher, respectfully and ask questions about what was would be more helpful for your child. My husband has taught 5th and 6th graders and has MANY of the parents requesting him for their kids that are coming up. He treats each child with respect even if they are little pills, because he knows the importance of self esteem in a child. I would also go to the principle with your concerns and if that doesn't help change things, KEEP going higher up or request another teacher. Also be on the look out now for next years teachers and who other parents like. I have gone to bat for my children and I don't stop till it is handled for the best for my child. Teachers do appreciate the parent who cares about their child's well being, too many parents don't care. Stepping off my soap box now! Kelli Hansen

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  57. From a teacher...It's one thing to punish the whole class for the wrong doing of one kid. I think most teachers have been in that position and have done it after repeated warnings. Does it make it right? No. BUT, the rest is not acceptable. Playing with shaving cream while others are trying to take a test? Wrong. Having a kid give the test? Wrong. Labeling the kids SO obviously that the kids REALIZE it? Wrong. I would email the teacher...or take your concerns to the principal. Good luck!

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  58. Jennifer,
    First of all, I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this mess. I totally get your heart of wanting to be respectful and non-confrontational. However, as all the gals have said before, your kiddo should come first and foremost. My heart goes out to the other kids in that class who are still suffering as a "bad kid." Does she take into consideration that some kids don't test well? Learning disabilities? Etc? How is a loud and distracting test time going to improve those who didn't do well on the pre-test? And do you really want your son to learn that it's his reward to be arrogant and lord it over others who may not be as advanced?

    I'd talk with her one-on-one and if she doesn't respond well I would get some of the other parents involved. Otherwise, you really are the ONE and ONLY advocate for ALL of those kids. That's a big responsibility you don't necessarily need to have. If you as a group can't sort things out with her, I'd say it's time to take it to the admin.
    Hope all goes well! Please let us know what happens! We're all cheering you on!

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  59. Oh Man, what a situation!!! Third grade is the year that I pulled my oldest son out of public school and moved him to K-8 Montessori school. Like others have mentioned this is a critical year for kids--especially for boys (in my opinion). My son's issues were not with his teacher but self-esteem was a huge factor!! And boy am I glad we did. Now as a middle schooler his self-esteem is through the roof; paving the way for him to move confidently through his studies even when it comes more slowly than his peers. It is important for me to mention that I'm not against public school--I have two other children both in public.

    Also, as mentioned by others, I'm not sure there is much to accomplish by speaking with the teacher. She has already stated that she is not interested in parents opinions about it. I would talk with the principal first and go from there. I really liked the idea of getting the guidance counselor involved too! That might signal to the teacher that her method is not appropriate for 3rd graders!!

    Good luck. You can do it!!

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  60. Oh MY Gosh! I'm the mom of two college age kids. I have to tell you I would be livid that my kid was int this situation. The problem is it is very unlikely the teacher will change anything IMO. Do you think it's to late in the year for him to transfer out of that class?

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  61. There is so much FAIL going on in that classroom, it's not even funny. And none of it is by the kids.

    I would go talk to the teacher first, but I'm not sure you will have a lot of success with it. You might suggest that she use positive peer pressure instead it only being used for negative consequence. Catch them being good.

    Talk to other parents in your class. Do they feel the same way you do? Some times, it really is a matter of a teacher and a child not being a good fit for each other. If other parents and kids are having problems then you need to band together for the sake of all the kids.

    Then, go to your principal and a counselor. Layout what has happened and the steps you have taken to correct them. They need to be aware of what is going on in their classrooms. In our county, so many teachers have gotten laid off in the past several years that there is no excuse for keeping one on who isn't effective.

    Good luck.

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  62. I am not a mom... so I can't speak from experience... but that just does not sound right. "Mama! I'm finally a good kid!"... that breaks my heart. Kids don't need extra pressure like that. But you should stand up for your child no matter what. You are his advocate! :) Good luck... I hope this situation works out!

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  63. Here is what I would do, if it were my child. And I have done...

    1. Go to her. You know it won't do any good. But do so just as a courtesy.

    2. Go to the Principal and ask for your son to be MOVED from her class. Just state simply that you feel your son's having adverse effects from her style of 'discipline'. This accomplishes two things...you have complained without degrading her. You have alerted the Principal to her tactics without telling on her. Your concern is with your child. Kill them with kindness if you like, 'Oh she is a great teacher but little Johnny is not responding to her particular style of discipline.' Or better yet, 'He is accustomed to a more traditional form of discipline. Even Mrs.What's Her Face has seen a change in his esteem. She alerted me to it. He does not exhibit this at home. So,we are BOTH concerned.'

    3. I have 4 children, one foster child. I am the daughter and daughter in law of teachers who have taught for 30 plus years. I only have one child who has made it through public school. The rest I home school. Because I am the only one who knows my child from head to toe, by the back of my hand. It makes sense I know how to get the best from them. If there was ever a case for home schooling (even temporary), this would be why.

    4. Keep going up the ladder until you are satisfied. My mother use to tell me to push on, because the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Sure, they may single your son out. Then you keep pushing. Not taking up for your son out of fear is parenting in fear. We can't do that. I pushed and pushed. I never backed down. My son was not singled out. Why? Because if they even dared try....I pushed. There is nothing wrong with protecting a child. Don't let fear of the unknown stop you from your gut instincts.

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  64. I also have a third grade son....I would go to the teacher immediately. I would also speak with the principal &/or guidance counselor. If nothing works in a very short time frame, my son would be out of that class...NO MATTER WHAT.

    OK, then, and this is nasty...I would buy her a few cases of shaving cream & tell her exactly where to put them.

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  65. I too am a teacher and this 'teacher' does not represent us well. Not only is she a lazy, ineffective teacher but a horrible person. Who would intentionally set up children to fail? Sick and disgusting behaviour!

    You and the other parents should be using 'peer pressure' to ensure she treats your children with the love and respect they deserve.

    A united approach will work best, they will find it harder to ignore many voices.

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  66. Borders on child abuse if you ask me. How it is that some people are teachers and stay teachers is nuts. You are a great mom and your son is adorable. I hope he does well - only a few months to go until summer vacation!

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  67. Oh, Jennifer! I can't believe she made him feel like that and I am so sorry! Danelle and OneBlessedMama took the words right out of my mouth! The only thing I would add, that I don't think has been mentioned, is that her pre-test is NOT a spelling pre-test. She is giving a reading test. While reading and writing are reciprocal, they are different processes with different demands. A spelling pre-test would have to be identical to the post-test and would have to measure the child's ability to generate the word correctly, and could only be done as a pre-test by calling the list out. Having the students read a passage and look at print closely enough to discriminate which words, out of all the words in the passage, don't look right is a completely different process than spelling.

    Ooh, I'm a little hot under the collar on that one! WHEN you talk with her, and IF you want a more articulate explanation, let me know and I'll send you a more accurate explanation of why her spelling pre-test is completely unfair and unnecessary.

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  68. OH wow... my blood pressure just skyrocketed. Momma Bear.... you better come out swingin' on some of this stuff!!!!! My gut tells me things aren't right in that classroom. Go over her head if you need to. Go all the way to the school board if you need to!!!! If not for your son... for the others whose "labels" may haunt them forever. I don't see that you have a choice.

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  69. I think you already know that there is no way around it. you have to do something.
    but you have to find a way of doing it that makes it possible for you to get your point being understood.
    I understand you problem with confronting her head on. it`s something you should work on but not now.
    at this point I think you should just get help.
    what do the other parents think and feel?
    do they know that there kids are the "bad" ones?
    talk to them confront her together, talk with the principal.
    you are not alone there may be others that are to afraid to do something alone.
    show your son that if something is wrong you have to act.
    again he is not the only kid in the class so I think get them together she is just one teacher.
    and to let my evelmom out: Let her get some pressure.

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  70. Oh my! I know you have heaps of comments on this one, but i just have to toss my two-bit in.
    My hubby is a 3rd grade teacher and he was appalled (as was I) when i read it to him. I have worked with child development etc.
    Peer pressure is NEVER suitable, or healthy way to teach or control. it may be effective, but it is very poor and ha long-term damaging consequences.
    developmentally 3rd graders are too young to even understand what is going on, but they sure feel the effects of it. it may be used in the army, but the goal of the army is to creat people who will follow order, not question and throw themselves into dangerous situations. those same practices do not make well-adjusted children.
    peer-pressure of that kind is sanctioning bullying in order to control other kids.
    ahhhhhrrrrrr!
    I coould go on and on about how damaging it is, your gut already knows that.
    you do need to speak with the teacher. if you can mange to do it is a positive, non-confrontational way youmay get a better response. if possible don't accuse her; no "you did" type phrases.
    if you tell her how you feel, how your son feels and what it means to you/him as well as what you would like to see change, you may have more success.
    a bit of research into the effects of her approach may further arm you, especially if she just won't listen and make changes.
    don't give up, if she gives you the brush off, you are realy onto something here.

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  71. Whether the teacher gets your points or thinks she is still in the right, she should see that it is all about perception. If your child is perceiving that the classroom has become a camp of good kids and bad kids, then surely she will see that she needs to change her tactics.

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  72. Holy crap. 71 comments. That's incredible, Jen. Great post. And I enjoyed reading everyone's opinions on this. Admittedly, I'm not the master of patience, but I handle myself pretty well. But when kids are involved, I too would have have been furious at this teacher.

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