My son is getting in trouble at school, but I think it's because one of his teachers is targeting him. How do I found out what's actually happening and what do I do?


Amy Roter, Suspicious of teacher

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Hi! It can feel very helpless to send your child off to school everyday when you feel that he is being mistreated. As a parent, our first instincts are often to become mama and papa bears and attack to protect our children. However, following this instinct rarely gets us what we want. It is wonderful that you are being proactive and looking for the best way to go about this before reacting.

When I read your question, my first thoughts were: What makes you think this? Did you son say something? Does he only get in trouble in one class? Have other parents said things about this teacher? Have you first-hand witnessed this targeting behavior? Before meeting with the teacher, I would suggest writing down what information you have that has lead you to this suspicion. However, as hard as it may be, when you meet with his teacher, it is extremely important that you go in first as a fact finder, gathering information before coming to a conclusion. If you go into the meeting with your mind made up, you might miss information that can help your child succeed. For example, maybe you believe your son is being targeted because he is doing really well in every other class. This could be a reason to suspect that this particular teacher isn't being fair, right? But if you keep your ears open in the meeting, you might learn that he is not doing his work , and from this you might learn that he is actually struggling with this subject and needs assistance learning how to ask for help. If you remain calm and receptive during the meeting, you and the teacher might be able to find a way to mend this relationship and help your son have a positive year.

Good luck!

Laura Burgess Martin, Special needs parent; work in non-profit sector

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Hi! I completely agree with the above answer. It is very important to follow the chain of command as deemed by the school system. I also advise that all conversations be done face to face. While email is much easier and convenient, tone and intention can often be misinterpreted in emails. Face to face conversations are authentic and real.

More often than not, the problem can be solved with a simple meeting with the teacher. Go prepared with your questions and allow the conversation to flow. Usually, the circumstance is a complete misunderstanding that can be easily rectified.

Best wishes!

Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, teacher, wife, mom & friend

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Hi there.

First and foremost, I will suggest that the way you handle yourself through this will be significant in both getting to the bottom of your suspicions AND in serving as an example to your son. My advice is to remain calm and be respectful toward the teacher and school officials. This will go a long way in earning their respect, which will in turn lead to more productive conversations.

Without knowing the age of your son, it is hard for me to provide specifics as to next steps. Regardless, I think you need to begin with a conversation with the teacher. I highly suggest that you don't go over the teacher's head at first and that you do not begin with any type of accusation. I believe that respecting the system and behaving appropriately yourself will help you find answers more quickly and effectively. Document the conversation so that you can refer to it later. Despite your suspicions, begin by asking the teacher to explain what behavior your son exhibited that earned punishment, and see if there is a way that the two of you can work together to help your son behave in a way this teacher expects. If you feel that the teacher is not being fully truthful with you, evasive in some way or treats you inappropriately, speak with the principal or the teacher's supervisor.

Difficult conversations are challenging for all of us, and I wish you the best of luck as you move forward.

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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Immediately initiate communication with this teacher. Ask for a sit down to find out what is happening in the classroom. Remember, you are only getting one side of the story. If you can, ask to make a plan for communication: can the teacher email you once a week with a progress report that you request? I would suggest you ask to invite the guidance counselor to the meeting as well so you can all work together.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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I second Carrie's answer that enlisting the help of the guidance counselor is an excellent strategy. Often that person will have more information and historical memory about the teacher and the school.

Never go right to the principal. Start with the teacher and ask for an in person meeting. Often email communication opens up the possibility for misunderstanding of tone. Ask to meet with her/him and bring a list of specific concerns you are hearing at home. Have an open mind at the meeting and seek to hear the teacher's input. Ask if there are specific things you can do at home to reinforce what is happening in the class. The teacher many need support in class that a parent can provide as well.

Now, if you leave the meeting still thinking that there is an issue, contact the guidance counselor if your school has one. Keep going from there. Public education means your voice should be heard, but blindsiding a faculty member is not a good idea. I wish you all the best.

Cindy Terebush, MS Early Childhood Studies, Certified Youth, Parent, Family Coach; Education & Parenting Consultant, Speaker and Author

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Without knowing why you feel this way or your son's grade, I would agree with those who have said to talk to the teacher first. It is important for you to be a role model of respectful problem solving. As a school director, I appreciate when parents are calm, thoughtful, respectful and come to us with their concerns rather than let the fester. Listen to the teacher. If you still feel that he/she is being unfair and your conversation was ineffective, then go to the next level. As a parent and parenting coach, I would also advise you to be prepared for information that may be very different than you expect to hear and could include information about your son that you didn't anticipate. Our children sometimes behave very differently in group situations than at home with us. I hope you go in to the conversations with a open mind ready to both be your child's advocate and get to the truth whatever that might be.

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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You do have a couple of options. First, review the work and check to see if there are any examples of work that is wrong but seems unfair. As you talk with your child each night, try to have them get as specific as possible. Are there other children feeling the same way?

Then once you have conducted your checks request a meeting with the assistant principal. Here you have an open and honest conversation sharing your concerns. Once you have had a better gauge on the matter, bring in your son. Nothing is more powerful than having a student tell their side of the story and it is where you will find out the rest of the story.

If the conversation dissolves quickly, ask your son to leave the room and address the matter with the assistant principal and teacher.

Other options that you can do include: scheduling an observation with your son and the teacher and request that he go to another teacher's class. You DO have the right to do both but I would only make this recommendation if you are still hesitant about the matter.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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This is good advice, but there is another resource to consider who can very much help you in this process: the guidance counselor. Most schools employ at least one at the elementary level. After contacting the teacher to ask about your child's progress/place in the class, I strongly suggest you let the guidance counselor know that this situation frustrates you and your child.

At the secondary level, we teachers are advised (in my district) not to schedule meetings with parents unless a guidance counselor is present. As this is the case, parents are encouraged to go right to the counselor when a meeting is desired. As the others said, however, it is good to let the teacher know first of your concern so he/she doesn't feel blindsided.

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