Oh, what the heck?

Let's just go whole-hog on this school thing. If you hate me you hate me.

Slim writes:

"I don't want to be That Parent. I amtrying to find the right point between sending the message that the world
revolves around my child and sending the message that his opinion doesn't
count. I don't think my child's personality meshes at all well with his
teacher's, and I was thinking of sending her an e-mail asking how she thinks
things are going and, depending on her response, saying that if there's
another kindergarten parent who's really jonesing for a move, we would
be happy to have our child swap.

But have any of the Moxites ever had
their child change teachers? How and why? Looking for data points, especially
for parents who weren't dealing with an utter disaster, but who had a situation
that was suboptimal."

I *love* a princess-cut Moxite in a white gold setting.

Anyway, yeah. Good question. I was in exactly this place last year. The whole year I'd wished I'd switched.  OTOH, if I'd switched I may have convinced myself we could make it at that school and my son wouldn't be with the teacher he's with now, being a student instead of a teaching assistant.

There's definitely the opinion that kids need to learn to get along with people even when they don't like them, and I think there 's a ton of value in that. However, I really think kindergarten is too young for that, since at that age the teacher is such a huge influence and big part of their week.

The other question is how the teacher's going to feel about it. The teacher might think it's a great idea. Or the teacher might be completely insulted and then you'll be seen as That Parent for sure.

I wish I knew what to tell you. 54 weeks ago I'd have told you to talk to the principal, but I've lost a lot of my trust in the objectivity of the system and the players in it (the legacy of last year). (Which, incidentally, sucks, since my entire family are public school teachers and administrators. Nine of the people who show up for Thanksgiving dinner in my family work(ed) in public schools. It may have been extremely naive of me to think all educators were like them.)

Have you talked to any of the parents of kids in older grades? They might be able to tell you if the administration would even allow a switch, and can give you the low-down on the different teachers to see if one might be a better fit for your child.

I'd also think about whether it's just a matter of not getting along (so he isn't in love with her) or if it means bad things are going to happen to him in class. If it's just not getting along, then it may not be worth it to switch.

Anyone out there who switched? Or considered switching but didn't? How did it come out, and would you make the same decision again?

0 thoughts on “Oh, what the heck?”

  1. I agree with Moxie, in first talking to parents before approaching the administration….just to get a feel for the lay of the land, how to approach or not approach at all. I *do* think what you are asking is reasonable. I am a teacher. Sometimes teachers are not a good fit with some kids. Does not mean it is the end of the world (for the teacher or the kid) but what’s important is how that teacher handles it. Is she willing to be flexible and accommodate your child (within reason)? If she is a thoughtful, caring educator, she/he should be. That’s part of the job as the caring adult in charge of loving and nurturing your child for 6 hours a day. Remember, this isn’t high school where kids need to learn to sink or swim on their own.Your instincts are correct. First approach some parents (if you feel comfortable) to see what the climate is like at the school. Then approach the teacher in a non-threatening/confrontational way. See if you can *collaborate together* to make this year successful and enriching for both the child and the teacher. And at that point the ball is in the teacher’s court. Willing to be flexible and accommodate a child who does not walk the line right in the middle of the road? Great! See how it goes. Not willing to do so one bit for a kid who walks to the right or the left of the line? Go to the administration.
    If you are forced to go above her/his head, then know a couple things first: Principals have their hands tied re: bad teachers. If the teacher is as bad as the one Moxie had last year, then they are probably busy gathering data for that teacher’s file. You can help by first gathering some data specific to your child’s situation. Have specific examples of what has happened, with the teacher’s actions, how you tried first to remediate it, then the teacher’s response. Otherwise it’s “he-said-she-said”. Writing is always an excellent way to get data. Get the teacher to respond to you in writing. Meet with him/her in person and have someone else there – your spouse, or even the principal.
    Principals are unlikely to make a class change so quick in the school year. Mostly b/c there are many alarmists who immediately want a class change because teacher Y does the really cool pioneer unit and teacher Z does not. So they have a blanket policy to not switch classes for a period of time. If that is the case with you, then use that period of time to document document document. If the administrators see you are serious, the problem is not just about “which one you like and don’t like” they will (and should) take you seriously. If they do not, then I say feel free to become THAT PARENT and go to the district level. Eventually (hopefully) you will have your needs met, you will find yourself in a placement that works for you and your child, and then you can prove you are not really THAT PARENT, but really your child’s best advocate. After all, that IS your job. Don’t be afraid or shy to do it.
    good luck!!! You can email me at clarkmamaATgmailDOTcom if you want to talk more about this or bounce some ideas off a teacher before going into the battle.

  2. “OTOH, if I’d switched I may have convinced myself we could make it at that school and my son wouldn’t be with the teacher he’s with now, being a student instead of a teaching assistant.”Wow did that just bring up a whack of emotional baggage for me. I’m so glad your son is in a better class. On to the question at hand…
    I worked in a school where requests to change could easily place you as That Parent. BUT, That Parent changes every month.
    If that is the only/first request you are making, and you’re making it respectfully, even as a worst case scenario you won’t be a topic of discussion in the staff room for very long, I don’t think. Now, if you were the parent complaining that her daughter was not at the front of every line, because “we are teaching her she is number one” (Direct Quote) then ok, you might manage to hold the title longer.
    But seriously. Be respectful, be rational, and it will be ok, is my belief/experience. Obviously this is location-specific – but still.
    Personally while I think one of the strengths of a traditional/public school is exposure to many different adults, nothing in the younger grades really makes up for a basic personality/learning-type clash. If there’s a simple switch solution, hey.

  3. “we are teaching her she is number one” (Direct Quote)OK, that really made me laugh. Out loud. And then I felt guilty for laughing because that poor child is going to be so screwed later on…

  4. Don’t not do something because you don’t want them talking about you in the teacher’s lounge. Shandra is right…..your time in the light will most likely be brief. Plus if the teacher is really sucky, anything she says in the lounge will most likely be ignored anyways. Just like there are Those Parents, there are also plenty of Those Teachers. The good ones usually steer clear of the lounge and do productive things at lunch like plan, collaborate with other teachers, or work with kids.

  5. We had a problem last year when our oldest went off to kindergarten, as well. The first two days of the school year, we dropped him off at the public school to which he’d been assigned, and after two days of ridiculously unacceptable conditions, we didn’t just switch teachers – we switched schools (in the interest of brevity, I’ll leave out the details unless someone asks.) We were only able to do this because here in Indiana, if the assigned public school has the lowest or second-lowest test scores for the district, you get to exercise a “school choice” option. So we did (because “lucky” us, his school was dead last.) And while the new school was definitely better than the first, it was by no means a wonderful year. We started having problems with the teacher by week 2, but because I’d already been labeled “That Parent” by the entire school for switching him in after two days, I didn’t want to rock the boat further.Oh, how I wish I had, is all I can say. By the end of the year, I had an uberfrustrated kid who hated almost everything about school (in his own words: “The learning part is good but most of the time they just want me to sit still and be quiet, and Mommy, I’m not very good at that.” BROKE. MY. HEART.) I’m not putting all the blame on the teacher; it was a crowded classroom and she didn’t have enough help and yes, my son needs to learn to sit still and be quiet. But I don’t think that should have been the sole point of kindergarten, and I wish I’d stepped in. We had conferences. We talked to him almost daily about his behavior. I cried A LOT out of frustration, but I was mostly frustrating myself because I was trying so hard to not be “That Parent” that I stopped advocating for my child when he needed me most. Our son’s biggest problem last year was probably a lack of one-on-one attention. He didn’t need help with any of the work, but many of the children did, and got the teacher’s (or aide’s) attention to do it. So my boy was bored, and “disruptive” (her word, not mine) and he got negative attention. And since that was the surefire way to get attention, he did what most little kids do: continued to get attention that way (this is where I fault myself and the teacher for not finding a way to stop that destructive cycle!)
    I don’t have any answers for anyone, because I never did solve the problem. And this year, he’s a first grader at his THIRD elementary school, because we enrolled him at a private school. Private school seems to be the right answer for us, although I attribute it much more to class size (he had 23 kids, 1 teacher and 1 part-time aide in kindergarten last year; he has 9 kids, 1 teacher and 1 full-time aide for a combined 1st/2nd class this year) than anything else. Maybe the answer is to listen to your gut ALWAYS (who knows your child better than you do, after all?) and try not to worry so much about being “That Parent” that you stop advocating for your child.

  6. Ha! I just wrote about my switching when I was in 2nd grade in the last post, where I encouraged Moxie to file a complaint! So while my kid isn’t old enough to be in school yet, I was a kid who switched classes when I had an AWFUL teacher.It’s all hazy now (I have the opposite of hedra’s remarkable memory), but here is what I remember…
    My teacher was really bad as a teacher and a person. She singled people out as The Best, The Troublemakers, and The Late One (that was me!!!). I felt that she was not fair and did not teach well. I completely disengaged from school and did not thrive in that environment.
    My mom talked to the principal. A few times. Then she gave me the choice of switching classes. The caveat was that I could switch classes only once. So if that was it, I would have to tough it out with any other teacher I didn’t like.
    I made the switch, and I’m so thankful I did. To see my mom stick up for me and help me get out of a situation that I was unhappy in meant so much to me. (This is why I think Moxie should file the complaint–so her son knows that you can do something in a bad situation.) It also taught me that if I’m not happy with a situation, I can do something about it. That’s not always going to be to get out of it, but I could report it or try to talk with the person or do something to make it better. But because I could do it only once, I also learned that you can’t just run away all the time but will have to deal with things and people.
    I have no idea if my mom was considered That Parent. I don’t think so, but she had two other children who had already gone through the school. I wonder if I was That Child. I never felt like I was, so maybe it was just known that I didn’t mesh with the teacher. I’m pretty sure I’m the only child who switched out of her class while I was there.
    Anyway, I don’t think there is one right answer. And I also think it depends on how uncomfortable your child is with the teacher. Maybe it would be no big deal at this place, or maybe there is a one-time only deal, so you should definitely ask around first. Hopefully the principal isn’t as bad as the one at Moxie’s son’s old school.
    Good luck!

  7. My kids are not yet in school but still wanted to comment. I really feel for you – I think K can so set the tone for how the kid will feel about school in general. Get a great K teacher, I’m guessing the child can withstand a not so great teacher the next year. Get a great K teacher, kid is motivated and finds learning fun. I really think it can set such a tone that I’d really advocate for seeing if you can find a better fit.

  8. My daughter was very young (late August brithday, Sept 1 cutoff date) to start a Montessori program at 3. The transition was so hard. She cried. I cried. The teacher was kind, I thought/think/who knows? I wasn’t too worried about being That Parent, because I thought I had That Kid.In retrospect, I wonder if she would have meshed with another teacher (they had 5 multi-age K classes). Three year old year was hard, but with Montessori she stayed with the same teacher for 3 years. The 4 year old year went well enough that I pushed aside my misgivings about the 3 year old year. And then the 5 year old year…it was bad. In many ways. And I learned things that made me uncomfortable with all 3 years. My daughter had such vague complaints, I took the teacher’s side. Meanwhile I tried to talk to the teacher, never to my satisfaction. (I even made my husband do the calling sometimes, because he doesn’t cry when he’s upset) It left a bitter taste in my mouth and my memory.
    I would explore the options (with all the suggestions from Moxie and other posters) about switching. I find it hard to talk about my daughter’s kindergarten experience without have reservations. And bitterness. And the feeling that I didn’t try hard enough, suspect enough, push enough.

  9. You know…I think people worry WAY too much about being THAT PARENT.I think it is wise to be polite, and to be considerate about the teacher’s schedule(don’t expect the teacher to stay late and miss her bus because you show up wanting an impromptu conference…for example).
    But ultimately, it is totally your right and, I’d argue, your job to insist on a positive educational experience for your kid.

  10. My family was public school teachers, they believed in it. My aunt teaches in one, and last year had it out with a teacher at her son’s school and told her that she “made her question everything she has worked and believed in for the past 20 years” her son is now going into the 7th grade. He is very well adjusted and happy… however.In third grade my teacher HATED me. she broke out into hives when my parents came to parent teacher conference. I was MISERABLE. My parents wouldn’t let me change schools or teachers. Years later my mom told someone who was also in my class that I thought the teacher hated me, they replied, she did. I have been struggling with the effects of that and am still hostile and pissed off.
    PROTECT YOUR CHILD. But also listen to them and read what they need. I should have been moved and felt my parents did listen or trust me and it was their lack that probably did more damage.
    So move him or don’t, but HONOR their feelings and help them to learn how to cope.
    LITERALLY help them learn how to process, how to deal, and when to pull yourself from a bad situation.
    Don’t worry about being THAT PARENT, be what your child needs.

  11. We’ve never switched, but we’ve had “rough years” – The Monkey, currently a 9th grader, has had difficult years during each of the major academic transition years – K, 1st, 3rd, 6th. He’s a bright kid, but was somewhat underprepared for kindergarten, and his first instinct when stuff is hard is to wiggle and avoid it. Combine that with starting to get everyone ready for the state standardized tests beginning in 3rd grade (which would hold you back in 3rd grade if you didn’t pass it), there was a lot of academic pressure.I do not know that there was any malice towards him, but those parent teacher conferences were no.fun.at.all. There was a certain disconnect that was frustrating to all of us because he was bright (asked great questions, etc.) but daydreamy, wiggly, and a social butterfly.
    I’m not sure if the other three elementary school years were just not as challenging to him (less new material, had finally made it over a maturity hump), or if there was a better personality mesh with the teachers and their expectations.
    So, I guess, I would want to figure out if it’s something hard to mitigate like class size, or academic goals or if it’s how the teacher handles students. I think you can probably gauge that by your email to the teacher or a p/t conference. And asking also if she has any ideas on how you can make it easier for your child (chances are she’s seen whatever it is before.)

  12. I come from a very small town in Wisconsin that had only one kindergarten teacher so there was no option to switch. From what I remember she didn’t have control over the classroom and yelled at just about everyone. Being from a very quiet and calm family, I was in culture-shock. Due to my birthday being in November my parents just thought I was too young and thankfully sent me to a second year of kindergarten. Wow, what a difference! I had a great teacher and he encouraged us to learn and participate. I don’t remember any yelling and it was like I had a do-over. I prefer to avoid confrontation and wouldn’t want to be known as That Parent either. However, when my son is old enough to start school I’ll be watching very carefully to protect his interests and emotions especially in those first couple years. I wish you much diplomacy in getting your point across!

  13. Big thanks to Moxie for changing course and to everyone who’s responded so far.Bonus data for those of you who will find it helpful:
    This is not a brand-new teacher, but she is relatively new to this particular school (which is considered a plum assignment). As a result, there aren’t a lot of parents I know who’ve had contact with her, and the one I know best is not someone whose opinion would be tremendously valuable. I haven’t been able to mine the bus stop parents for information, not that “Well, *I* heard” is the way to go. But at this point, I’d take it.
    Here’s what happened. The kid in question is very introverted. It’s not a lack of self-confidence; he is fine with himself. But he is not a fan of strangers, or even large numbers of people he knows. Myers-Briggs fans would peg him as a total “I.” We took him to the open house before school started, and the teacher came bounding up to him, causing him to turn into the Amazing VelcroBoy. She asked if would like to shake hands, and he dove behind me. She proceeded to reach behind me and force a handshake upon him. I tried to pat him reassuringly and move him away, because he was (rightly) freaked out.
    A little later, when he was off with his older brother, I reintroduced myself and mentioned that I had thought of mentioning on the form that he was shy, but that I thought it was hard to miss and that I figured he wasn’t the only shy kid she’d seen. She was all exuberant assurance; no mention that she blew it by forcing contact on him.
    Then he met the teacher’s assistant, who asked if he wanted to shake hands, and when he said no, she backed off.
    Once school started, my guy seemed fine. He had stories about what happened at school, but they never involved his teacher. I figured he was ignoring her as a coping mechanism. Today, however, he needed to give her a note about a minor administrative matter, and he said he didn’t want to. I asked why, and he said it was because he didn’t like her. I asked if he could give the note to the assistant instead, and he said yes. He repeated that he didn’t like the teacher but did like the assistant.
    He’s been in daycare since he was an infant, so while this is a new setting for him, being away from his family for the whole day is not a new experience.
    I am worried about how is going to have a good educational experience if he is utterly incompatible with the teacher. I don’t want to make too big a deal of one misstep — and I have yet to hear from anyone who doesn’t think the forced handshake was appropriate — but I’m worried that she doesn’t see that it was a misstep and that we therefore have more of the same to look forward to.

  14. My brain is too tired to be orderly today. Sorry. WIll try to get my main tips in somehow. (Note to self: Remember that no matter what time you leave the playdate, if we go to the IL’s house on the way out, we will stay two or three hours later than we should and we’ll seriously regret getting home at 10PM on a school night…)1) Don’t be afraid to be That Parent. Maybe the label will stick, maybe it won’t. Be an advocate. My mom was SO That Parent that every teacher was quite aware of who my mom was before I started – I’d get the slight ‘startle’ reaction or they’d kind of look at me for a half-second longer than others if they were the nervous type… through about Jr High, I think. It wasn’t all scare tactics, though – but they also knew she would take no prisoners if it came down to it. I do remember feeling very proud of her for threatening to sue the school on my sister’s behalf (‘girls aren’t allowed to take metal shop, they’ll just mess everything up or get hurt and distract the boys and are you SURE you want your DAUGHTER to be messing around with welding equipment?’). Sometimes being That Parent isn’t as bad as you think.
    2) Always figure out at least 2 solutions before you walk in the door. Not just one. Just one leaves them with the obvious first choice of saying Yes or No and being done with it. If you bring in 2, 3, 4 possible solutions, then it becomes a problem-solving session, working towards the best solution all around. Plus, you don’t come off as arrogant – just one solution sounds like you think you Have It All Figured Out. Bring in as many as you can think of, or at the very least admit right off that you’re stumped and are sure there are many other GOOD solutions possible. (and don’t get hooked on your one answer – it’s easy to see the one you came up with as the ideal, but often I’ve found that the solution I thought was great isn’t as good as what the teachers come up with. Not always, but often.)
    3) Assume the teacher is on your team, and try to act that way even if they’re not. Always assume they are *willing* to be on the same team until proven otherwise. Go into the meeting assuming that you’ll work together to find a solution that works for your child, the teacher, the class, and yourself. This attitude is *not* expected from “That Parent” – so break the expectation, and take a teamwork approach. “I’m sure we can work together to find a solution that meets Joey’s needs as well as the needs of the class, and that makes teaching this class go more smoothly, too. So, what’s your observation about Joey in this class? Do you think he’s a good fit? I’d like to hear your perspective, and then maybe we can figure out how to proceed from here.” (Actually, you can end up being ‘THAT parent’ instead, which is the parent the teachers actually like, and who listens when they talk, and is engaged and interested.)
    4) Defer credit to the teacher’s professional experience and credentials. This is a modification of the old rule “Anything can be accomplished if we don’t care who gets the credit” – combined with “Credit where credit is due” – If you work at all as a team, any time anyone mentions the change/problem/solution, give the teacher credit for thinking and making decisions, being accepting, open, active, whatever. No outright lies, but don’t pat yourself on the back too much – make *sure* the teachers/administrators get credit. It will get back to them (and even if it doesn’t, it is good manners). Even if you do an end run around the school’s issues (um, done that), and it ends up successful, they’re more likely to be positive about it themselves if you give them credit for making a good decision, in a team atmosphere, etc..
    5) Watch for the loaded terms. There’s always a better, more detailed way of saying it (okay, mostly always). If you’d be insulted if it was in reference to your cooking or rhymes-with-hecks skills, they’ll be insulted if it is in reference to their teaching. “Boring/Bored” is a particular hot-button… Who would not be insulted by their classroom being called ‘boring’? More effective is “frustrated” or in more detail “frustrated with the pace and depth of the curriculum”. If it is stated in such a way that it illustrates the direction of the solution, that can help guide the discussion. If it is just a judgment, it goes nowhere fast.
    6) Be honest, including about your misgivings. If you think they might have a mental checklist (‘parent has issues’ and ‘parent wants child to be perfect’ and ‘parent doesn’t understand the classroom’ and ‘parent doesn’t have teaching expertise’, etc.), and think any MIGHT apply, mention them in the preamble. Draw the line around your area of ability/expertise and theirs, your issues and expectations and theirs, etc.
    This is generally how I mentally frame the process (some variation of this content, interspersed in actual conversation – I don’t leave this as a single lump, they’d be tapping their feet and checking the clock by the time I was half-way through):
    “I am uncomfortable calling about this because this is the first year in the school, and it’s just Kindergarten, and I’m not even sure if I have a real problem or if it is just imagined… I don’t want to feel like a pushy, annoying, miserable parent, and I hate the idea that I might make more work and cause problems instead of helping solve any. *(By this point they’re probably just hoping you’ll get to the point, LOL!)* But I was afraid that it would be just as bad to not speak up, even if I’m totally off my rocker on this. I’m not an expert on education at all – I just am concerned by how my son is reacting to school, and I wasn’t sure what the options were, how to handle it from my end, or what things we could do on the school side to make this a successful year for him. You guys are the experts, and I haven’t seen how the class functions at all. What I’m seeing is this ________, and I wondered if you were seeing the same thing? How can we solve this together? All I could think of was ___________________ and ______________, but I’m sure you have a lot of other strategies. I’d love to hear them.”
    Granted, if you cannot pull that off without sounding sarcastic, don’t bother trying. But so far, when we’ve had a problem, that’s essentially the truth of how I feel. I know my child, I see what I see, but I’m not in the classroom, I don’t know what solutions they’d come up with, most of the time their solutions are as good as mine, but they’re more open to my ideas if I assume they are the experts on the classroom, and I’m the expert on my child.
    That said, we haven’t had a teacher like Moxie had, but you can do the same thing with the administration level, and keep taking it up the ladder.
    If that doesn’t work, then you take other action. Lawsuit is probably too far, for most things, though…

  15. Especially early in the year, I think switching is noooo big deal, as long as it’s something the school allows. Simply asking for a switch would not categorize someone as That Parent in my book. IME, I would MUCH rather have a student switched out of my class than have to deal with the protracted unhappiness that trying to stick it out would entail. Granted, I taught high school, so there were many, many reasons for switching, but I never took it personally.ITA with Moxie that learning to get along with conflicting personalities is super important, but kindergarten is too early for that lesson.
    And I know I’m repeating myself, but among the horror stories, I think it needs to be repeated … the teacher you or your child hated may have been the one who pulled someone else back from the abyss. I know there can be lasting negative consequences, but please remember that probably wasn’t everybody’s experience. There may be the same number of people utterly singing the praises of the teacher being villified. Just sayin.

  16. Wow, hedra–what a great form letter! EspeciallyWhat I’m seeing is this ________, and I wondered if you were seeing the same thing? How can we solve this together? All I could think of was ___________________ and ______________, but I’m sure you have a lot of other strategies. I’d love to hear them.”
    I wasn’t going to comment today, because I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were in Slim’s shoes… But having read Hedra’s response… that may be a good way to go, to send something like that. Perhaps you and the teacher could make an action plan of some sort, with the idea being that if your son remains uncomfortable a switch of rooms may be needed. It doesn’t sound like the teach is deranged, or abusive, or {shudder} racist… This is tough. I really think it is. Good luck. I hope you can speak with her and reach an understanding.

  17. @Slim, I was THIS close to using the introvert child and extrovert teacher as an example!Okay, specific tactics for that:
    Yes, meet with the teacher. But assume that the teacher is smart enough to learn about introverts and their social value. If another of your family is just like him, use that in the adult frame of reference. “He’s just like his grandpa – it takes a lot out of him to be up close with people and he’s a little overwhelmed by people with a lot of energy.”
    Address the interactions in terms of sensory processing, feeling overwhelmed, or other physical reactions (not personal or social). B has a slightly oversensitive vestibular system, and is really put off by people approaching him directly – he is frightened by people who approach directly (even familiar people like grandparents, friends, etc.). M, separate issue, but is uncomfortable being looked at directly. B takes a while to warm up to people and situations. G is offended by people touching him without his permission, even in a friendly way. M is more comfortable with going to people than with people going to her. Etc.
    Come up with a few strategies for interactions that might work with him, and talk to her about those. My feeling is not so much that the teacher is a BAD THING, but that you have an opportunity to expand her skills and have that benefit your child as well as others. If her response is ‘This is the way I am, kids will just deal’, then talk about switching to a class where he’ll feel more comfortable in the learning environment. (Talk to the assistant, she’s likely to have a clue who would be better!)
    You could put the ‘move classes’ on the table as a possible option, but I’d make sure that it doesn’t come off as a threat. For a brand new teacher to have students moving out of her class, that’s not a good sign for the administration, and she’s likely to want to resist it (okay, in my experience, even if the administration is totally okay, it feels bad to the teacher, and they all know they’re trying to get their impression made to the parents and administration that first year, too…).
    All my kids have had those really challenging personality ‘I don’t understand your child’ moments/days/weeks.
    Also, on the child side, working out strategies on how to address the teacher, how to protect his sense of self (even imagining a powerful forcefield around himself, that kind of thing), etc., can ease things up for him enough that things get smooth quickly. Also, just mentioning to the teacher that you’ve taught him that he doesn’t have to accept gestures of affection from strangers – even approved strangers – might give her a different perspective. (B’s teacher is one of those who learned by rote that she shouldn’t hug the kids, but she took the tack of ‘do you hug, or do you shake hands?’ and if the answer is neither or silence she HUGS them… ACK! Noooooo! Fortunately, she wasn’t willing to dive around behind me to get to B, who was doing velcro-boy and refusing to speak, or look in her direction on the back-to-school night). I just said that he takes some time to warm up, give him a few weeks – by then she’ll also have gotten used to not leaping in his direction! B’s still in awe of her, slightly intimidated but positive general opinion.)
    Good luck. It definitely feels icky, and I know why you aren’t sure you should say anything. I hope that was helpful…

  18. I have nothing on the school issue- my kid is still in day care and although I had a few less than stellar teachers during my school years, none were bad enough that I would have wanted to switch classrooms.I do know the worry about being THAT parent with THAT kid- I already worry about it a bit at day care, because Pumpkin was not the easiest baby and is definitely a spirited toddler. I agree that taking care of your kid comes before that worry- but I also know that it is hard to find the right balance. Good luck figuring it out, Slim. I suspect that the fact that you are even worrying about it means that you won’t be THAT parent. I suspect THOSE parents never give a second thought about their demands.
    And Moxie- I’m sorry that last week was so intense for you. I for one didn’t think you posted anything inconsistent with your site’s philosophy, and if someone doesn’t like that philosophy, they don’t have to keep reading.

  19. This may not count- My eldest daughter just started Kindergarten, we live in a “well to do” area of Miami and get to choose between the three “best” public schools in the city. Choosing was excrutiating…. we made our choice, went to school, blah, blah, blah. My daughter was in one class for a week, and the teacher moved her- we hinted at it, because it seemed the students in the first class were a bit … behind my daughter. But the teachers took the initiative and moved her out of the class, into a class she seems to be doing better in. We are adjusting, and I have started asking “gifted” questions already, especially after Moxies post about her son and gifted. It was definitely a good move for my daughter, sometimes only time and patience will tell- our teachers knew right away. I also wouldn’t hesitate to talk to the principal.

  20. I think my mom switched teachers for us every year in elementary school. as a former teacher and having had kids in the same elementary school with the same teachers for a while, she was able to do her research and went in and made it happen before the school year started. unknown new teachers sometimes threw her, though, and she never switched us mid-year. I intend to do the same, if necessary, but I also have the former teacher card to play.my questions would be – are you confident there is a better teacher for your kid? are you sure that the current teacher couldn’t be better with a little feedback? are you sure your kid is going to suffer by staying in this classroom? either way, you & your school/teachers are partners – they need you as much as you need them, despite the (perceived?) tendency towards antagonism. it doesn’t have to be a throw-down. =)

  21. My daughter is not in school yet, but I used to work in a public school as a speech-language pathologist. In the school I worked in, they did not allow a child to switch teachers. A parent was allowed to write a letter to the princpal requesting a certain teaching style or personality type (the year before), but was not allowed to ask for a specific teacher or to not have a specific teacher. I think it’s lame, but they were very strict about it. A parent that made a stink became THAT parent (even when some of us agreed). Now that I am a parent, I am totally dreading the school years and dealing with all of these issues!

  22. I don’t post often but this a subject near and dear to me. I experienced nothing but positive experiences in school, particularly K. My brother had the same K teacher three years later and she majorly dropped the ball. He hated school from that point on, in first grade my parnts realised just how bad it was because he couldn’t read and didn’t have the foundation to even be taught to read. He hated the teacher. Several years later, my parents learned that this teacher liked and catered to little girls but didn’t like or do anything with the little boys in her class. As a former high school teacher I can say with absolute certainty that there was a particular type of student I worked BEST with. Not to say that I wasn’t really good at teaching everyone else, or that I somehow gave them less of an education, but the disadvantaged, labeled lower functioning regular ed students were the kids I did best with. They got the most out of my class. I do not like physical contact in any way with people I am not closely related to, or very good friends with and some students (and adults, other teachers, parents…) would make me feel all squeemy and uncomfortable with their physical presence too close. I taught or interacted with those people but the connection was far less as I was uncomfortable. On the other hand, my son just started first grade and I am THAT PARENT. I don’t think in a bad sense but I was very specific about who he was not to have in K (just one of the four teachers available) and at Spring parent teacher conference I talked to his teacher (who was absolutely wonderful and my son will remember her forever) about what was best for C. I said “thinking about his personality and what you feel is his learning style, what is your recommendation for first grade teachers” I know that she knows the other teachers and I feel tht she was qualified to select one based on knowing my son in K. She gave her reccomendation to me and I promply followed up with a letter to the principal, copied to the teacher. It said something along the lines of “In the best interest of my son, regarding his personality, learning style and continued enthusiastic interest in school, I would respectfully request he be placed in ___________’s first grade class. Thank you for your consideration of this request, I believe that it is in the best interest of my son and his continued success with his education.” Pushy, but not too much. It indicates that there will probably be a problem with me if it doesn’t happen and that I am willing to go the extra mile for my kid. I also know that if you start off that way, they are likely to listen to your concerns and problems because you have shown an interest in decisions regarding your child. In Moxie’s case, a bad principal is just bad, and there should have been and should be a formal complaint. Just do it, stand up for your kid, and if nothing else, it shows them that when things are bad or wrong, you have to stand up for yourself and the ones you love, regardless of te outcome. As far the introverted kid, with the exuberant teacher, if it is already this bad that the child won’t talk to her, or interact with her have a meeting. Like someone else said, hae a few solutions you are willin to live with to present and be open to suggestions she or the principal have. Perhaps a meeting with the school counselor, teacher, aide, and you (with friend or spouse). Talk about what exactly has happened and how your child has reacted, talk about things you can do, the child can do, and the teacher. If she is unresponsive, get the child switched. Go to the principal, the school board, superintendant, whatever. You will be That Parent but not for too long. Better to be That Parent than have a child who is ultimately disappointed with education and uninterested in learning.

  23. Two points of friendly advice:One, make sure that this “bad fit” you feel about this teacher is really about your child and not about you. My daughter is 12 now and her kindergarten teacher was someone I did NOT have a warm fuzzy about. I contemplated switching her because I wanted that first year of “real” school to be as great as possible. But I didn’t switch because I didn’t want to be “That Parent.” As the year progressed I realized that she was actually an amazing teacher…for the kids. For the parents? Um, not so much. But my daughter came out of that year a changed person – for the better. I’m so glad now that I didn’t move her, so just make sure that this is really about your child and not you.
    Secondly, BUILD RELATIONSHIPS at your child’s school! I cannot stress how important this will be for you as a parent and for your child as a student. I got involved as much as I could without being scary and…I baked. It wasn’t a calculated move on my part but I loved to bake and there was no way that my family (or the neighbors or co-workers) could eat all of the goodies I was making so I kept sending them in to the school. Sometimes to the lower school teachers, sometimes to the administrative staff, sometimes to the front office, sometimes to the janitorial staff, etc. Over the years I became “The Lady Who Bakes” and it broke the ice and set up a positive vibe between us and them.
    Between my involvement in school activities and the baking, it set things up where they knew me. They liked me. A request from me would be paid closer attention to when a problem did arise. Not because of favoritism but because they knew me and knew I was a supportive parent. My daughter has teachers now, in middle school, that remember me from back then and we have a positive relationship and my daughter only benefits from it.
    Anyway, just a thought…

  24. Slim, here is the thing I’m thinking about this teacher……perhaps she is a great teacher for some kids, but has no clue how to approach kids who are not outgoing, social butterfly types. My son is exactly the same as yours……and we’ve watched many adults totally flub things trying to get to know him. I’m rather surprised that a teacher of young children thinks that bounding up to kids and forcing physical contact (“forcing” sounds rough, but I know exactly what you are talking about….there’s a philosophy out there about starting and ending every day with a handshake, high five, or hug and some teachers are rather militant about it) on them is the best way to go. To me, she sounds young, with no kids of her own. Of course I’m making sweeping generalizations. But having taught both before I had kids and now afterward, there is a sensitivity chip that gets embedded in you as a teacher after you have kids of your own. You just look at them slightly differently. Perhaps some of Hedra’s suggestions/sentence frames would help you communicate what your child needs from her to gain her trust. It’s what every teacher wants in their classroom, and it’s not out of bounds in the least to give her some clues as to how to establish that with your child. And it sounds like she has some repair work to do surrounding these handshakes. Hopefully she will be flexible, and perhaps stop demanding them of your son until there is an actual relationship established….which is what the handshakes are supposed to accomplish. Except there are kids out there who are more comfortable deciding when and how to establish relationships, and it takes a bit more than a handshake. Not an unhealthy way to relate to the world at all, in my opinion. Good luck.

  25. I would try to work with the teacher rather than switching, but that’s coming from the perspective of our school district where they do not allow children to switch classrooms at all, ever . I don’t think this is an insurmountable issue if the teacher is a reasonable person. As long as she is not being overtly abusive to him, I would treat this as more of a personality clash than a MUST MOVE NOW situation.I was so worried about my son starting school because of my bad experiences with teachers in elementary school. Luckily for us we got a wonderful teacher and my son really enjoys going to school every day. I feel so happy for him!

  26. If you talk to the principal, teachers, administrators…etc and they won’t let you switch classes, threaten to take your kid out of school and home school. The public school makes money off your kid and they don’t want to lose kids. Don’t do this right away, but as a last resort it will work. I have been working in education long enough to know that some people will work with you and some people will only work when you get money involved. Hopefully the principal at your school is there for the kids and wants to work with the parents to get the best for the kids, but this is a tactic that has to be used for the rest.

  27. I would suggest a face-to-face meeting instead of an e-mail. E-mail is so impersonal. Meeting face-to-face really sends the message that you care and this is a priority for you. I do think an initial “how’s it going” meeting with the teacher is a good idea, again, because it shows you care and you want to help.I also think spending time in the classroom is a great idea. You get to see first-hand what the relationship between the teacher and kids is and you will be better able to determine if there’s a serious, get-my-kid-out-of-here problem. Getting to know the teacher and the other kids is never a bad idea.

  28. I haven’t read all the comments, but I had to say, “YES YES YES!” to what hedra said (what’s new;)) My daughter’s still to young for school, but as a teacher I WANT parents to come to me if their child is unhappy. We teachers have so many balls up in the air we can and do miss things. I want my students to happy and to be learning in my class and if I miss something I’d be glad for a parent to come in and let me know. As long the parent is respectful and not accusatory I wouldn’t label him or her THAT parent.As for the teacher making a misstep in how she interacted with your son — well, we teachers are human, too. All of us make mistakes. I wouldn’t judge her until you see how she reacts to your concerns. If she takes into consideration your observations and adjusts her behavior accordingly, I think you have a great teacher. If she blows you off and refuses to even take another look then it’s time to worry. As I said, we all make mistakes, what really makes the difference is whether we choose to learn from them.

  29. The main thing that occurs to me (after reading the further info that Slim provided) is that the way the teacher acted that day in front of the parents is not necessarily indicative of how she normally is. I used to teach first grade and especially during my first years of teaching would get SO nervous when in front of a bunch of parents. So the forced jolliness may have been because of that. (“Oh no! He won’t shake my hand! I want the parents to see how friendly I am! Crap, what should I do??”)I think if I were you I would try to explore with your son why he doesn’t like the teacher (in a very casual, non-interrogative way so you don’t make it worse by overemphasizing it) and see if you can give him some explanation of the whole extrovert/introvert thing. In my opinion, this is not a severe enough situation to merit the necessity of a classroom change. You are risking making things much worse for your introverted son by plunking him down into a new class of kids who have already gotten to know each other and making him start all over again with getting comfortable. Give him a chance — he may surprise you with his ability to adapt to this!

  30. I’m sorry I haven’t read all the posts, but this is what I did: In a conference, the second grade teacher described a child I didn’t recognize as mine. It was probably the shock more than anything that made me simply ask her if she liked him. Because, I said, it didn’t seem as if she did. She considered this and answered that I might be right and she would try to do better. It really worked, I think, because I gave the teacher room to consider her part in the equation without my glaring or becoming hostile with her. Of course it depends on your personality and the teacher’s, but if you think there’s a chance, it’s better than stewing.

  31. My kids aren’t in school yet, but they do go to daycare and the communication issues can be similar.My approach has been, if I have any kind of special request, to be assertive, but cognizant of the fact that it might not be the teacher’s first choice to accommodate it. So I’ll say, “I hate to be ‘that mom’, but, you know, somebody has to do it!”, laugh, and then follow it up with my request, explaining why it’s important.
    I’m also a big fan of prefacing information with caveats. So I’ll say, “Obviously you know more about your classroom than I do, but I thought it might be helpful for you to know that the Munchkin rarely cooperates if she’s told what to do, but loves to be a helper and is capable of following very complex directions in that context.” Or if I think of an accommodation that I think will help my kid, I am very careful to have my kids politely check with the teacher before we do it. (Example: I got an earplug set for the Munchkin, who has trouble napping in a classroom full of kids.)
    Maybe it’s because at daycare I’m a paying customer and that’s the difference, but I’ve rarely been turned down. If I have, I’ve had the reason explained to me to my satisfaction.
    With the introvert/extrovert situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if “I don’t like her” is kiddie-code for “she scares me”. It wouldn’t hurt to teach the kid some specific coping mechanisms for situations like this (I’ve taught mine to say, “I’m not ready for you to xxx [shake my hand, give me a hug, pick me up] yet.” There are a dozen variations on this — “No, thank you, I’d rather not xxx.”, even “My Mommy says that I don’t have to xxx until I feel ready.” could work.
    Even if it turns out not to be an introvert/extrovert issue with the teacher, it’d probably be a useful tool for him to feel comfortable verbalizing what he’s feeling and/or what he does (or doesn’t) want to do in those situations.

  32. I read this post yesterday and it tipped the balance on my writing a note to the daycare director about something that had happened in my son’s class the day before. Nothing big, but I’ve never before had a curriculum-based issue with them and wasn’t sure I should be That Parent about it, when I am already That Parent because of my issues with their communication style…Anyway, thanks for the extra push in the direction of advocating for my boy.

  33. I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments…just wanted to throw in my 2 cents from my experience (my baby is just 1, so no parental experience, just student experience).I had a TERRIBLE K teacher. Mean, strict, unfriendly…I don’t think she actually liked children. I wasn’t the complaining type I guess, but my parents put my little sister in private K because of her. Anyway, despite my awful K experience, I ended up LOVING school (I had a great 1st grade teacher) and really excelling (in fact I’m working on a PhD right now, guess I couldn’t get enough of it, haha). So one terrible year early on won’t necessarily be fatal for education! I guess that’s encouragement for any of you who are worried about a child who’s had a bad experience already.
    And from my (admittedly inexperienced) point of view, I think a parent shouldn’t make a decision like this based on fears of being known as That Parent. Make the decision based on the situation; what’s really best in the long run for the child (whether it’s sticking it out and learning to make the best of a tough situation or if it’s getting out of an untenable situation).

  34. Oh, goodness. Why is everyone so afraid they are THAT PARENT? Let me tell you who THAT PARENT is. I’ve had 2 in my 11 years of teaching. The first had a child who committed a crime, then the parent kept showing up in my classroom to verbally abuse me about following through about it (intimidation, anyone?) until the principal had to tell her she wasn’t allowed to come see me without an administrator present. The second requested a meeting in which she told me, “My son likes you and likes your class, but I don’t know why, because I can’t stand working with you because you are cold.” She was angry that I…let her know her son had cheated. Two crazy people in 11 years. It’s the crazies who are verbally abusive who become reviled, and personally, I think we are right to warn each other in the school. I wish someone had told me not to meet with certain parents alone, etc. It would have saved me a lot of therapy money.Concerned parents who care about their kids and want to work with a teacher or give the teacher feedback about how to help their children are great! Be respectful, don’t treat us like we’re your servants, and frame it as a team effort and things will usually improve. After all, all teachers have bad days (I had one today, let me tell you), but in general, we are here because we want to help your child grow and enjoy learning. Really. Your perspective is absolutely invaluable and much appreciated. You might be amazed at what you can work out. Reread hedra’s directions and form letter, they are home run hitters.

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