Verbally Abusive Teacher

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Our childrens' teachers are yellers - stay in public school?

June 2013

We have now experienced a private and a public school education. Our older son moved, after two years, from private to public. This year our younger son started kindergarten. We had prepared ourselves for the differences between public and private and were ready to support and work to fill gaps. We really want to be a part of our neighborhood community and really enjoyed this side of it. However, what we didn't plan for was the teaching. Although, our school has plenty of good teachers, both our children ended up with teachers that were yellers. I witnessed belittling, berating, and general unkindness toward the children in their classes. It appeared these teachers may no longer even enjoy children. I have worked with children for many years, so I know trying to get children's attention and respect can be difficult. However, these teachers just appeared to be run down and no longer interested in looking for new ways to improve classroom management. At the end of the school year, my older son said, ''I used to like going to school. Being at school was my favorite time of the day. Now I cannot wait to get out and get home.'' What do I do about this? If a school/teacher has taken the joy of school out of my child, do I risk another year? Due to job changes, we can only afford a little output for school, but not a huge tuition. confused

I would whole-heartedly encourage you to stay in public school! If you are having issues with your child's teachers, I hope that you have discussed it with the principal. So many parents hesitate to report teachers who are behaving badly in the classroom, and so their bad behavior goes unreported. The principal cannot make staffing changes or implement behavior modification plans with teachers if he/she doesn't know the extent of the problem. Parents MUST speak up and advocate for their children and all the children in the class. That said, every year your children will have a different teacher, so you cannot assume that this year's experience will be repeated next year. If you enjoy being a part of your neighborhood school community, then stay, and help make your school even better by working with the principal and other parents to address the teaching issues you witness. Choose Public School! Public school parent

I'm sorry to hear that two teachers in your children's school are ''yellers.'' Bay Area school districts give teachers ample training in best classroom management practices, and yelling at students is not considered acceptable and should be addressed immediately. While it can feel risky to do so, it's really important let the school principal know what's going on ASAP. Awkward as it may be, you should consider putting your concerns in writing and possibly copying someone besides the principal. Creating a safe, conducive learning environment is paramount, not only for your child but for all the children at the school. As you know, teaching is a demanding profession and not for everyone. It can be particularly hard at the end of one's career after so many years of working hard with insufficient resources, dealing with ever-changing district mandated programs, and teaching students with a wide range of skills--and very little assistance. The teachers involved may be in need of additional support/guidance from the administration. Or they may need to have an administrator working closely with them and telling them, ''Yelling is not an option.'' Someone needs to say it. Have you considered teaming up with other parents that you think may have held the same concerns? If several people write to the principal or call and request a meeting before school starts, you may be able to gain some traction. Good have an important job in front of you. Sarah

Your question is a little confusing, because your title suggests you are trying to choose between public and private, but then your closing suggests you cannot afford private regardless. So maybe you don't really have a choice? But then getting to the gist of your story, you seem to think that you are at higher risk of ''bad'' teachers in public school. I think at every school you may run the risk of a ''bad'' teacher, or at least a teacher who is not so effective with your particular child. And I'm sure there are a few yellers around. But our public school experience (in Oakland) has been happy. That's really the best word for it--happy! My kids love their school. My rising 6th grader is so sad about leaving elementary school because he loves his school so much. And my rising 4th grader did not want the school year to end, because she loved her 3rd grade teacher so much. She wasn't even happy about summer vacation! I hope your children can have similar experiences at their public school next year. I'm sorry they both had to suffer through a year of yelling teachers, but I think the odds are in your favor that this won't happen next year. Do you talk with other parents about the teachers at your school? Perhaps they can offer advice or information? I've heard of bad teachers in local private schools too, so I wouldn't necessarily count on avoiding them entirely even if you could afford the tuition. Momx3

If a teacher is not a good match for your student, you have the right to ask that he be placed with another teacher (and one advantage of public school is there are usually more options). Use this carefully, as doing it too often gets you a particular reputation. But do use it in the case where your child is being yelled at and berated to the point that he is unhappy with school.

My son had a teacher in kindergarten who was very difficult for him. This teacher yelled, but only at a few students (mine was one of them), and was very harsh sometimes. I didn't figure out what was happening early enough to ask for a different teacher, but I did write a letter to the principal at the end of the year explaining that my son had had a very difficult year, and explaining what I wanted for him in the future. I didn't make accusations, nor did I ask for any specific teacher, just outlined my son's needs very carefully. Every other teacher he had in that school was ideal for him. All were very kind, none of them yelled (we missed one other known ''yeller.'') We ended up with him loving school, loving his teachers, and very happy. It's OK to ask for what you want

Dear ''Stay in Public School?'' parent,

Your experience of the yelling, belittling, berating, and unkindness of a classroom teacher is familiar to us. On one hand I have seen a Berkeley public elementary school teacher throw a table at his students. Nonetheless, the worst school abuses of children we have seen have been at private schools in the East Bay and Marin. Having watched a child experience this in several school settings, please know that stressing your family out financially to support private school will not necessarily protect your child.

It is worth asking yourself if your child is contributing to this reaction from a teacher. We came to the conclusion that you can rule this out If you see this teacher's behavior directed towards kids in general and not specifically your child, and if your child is consistently well-liked by children and adults in all other settings.

Beyond home schooling,the only good solution to this situation that I have to recommend is ensuring that your child is in a school where there is a great deal of visual and physical oversight of students/ classrooms/ and activities by numerous adults with the hope that teachers will ''supervise'', set limits for, and support one another (not in that order). The physical layout, and philosophical or administrative structure makes this kind of child abuse much more likely (and almost predictable) in some school settings than in others.

What we used to do was pull our kid out of a school, at least by the end of that school year and try another place. We are now of the opinion there are potentially abusive people at most schools and that our child's best protection is to learn how to deal with such people.( Of course our kid is now in their teens and not in elemenary school.) We currently deal with this kind of situation by: 1) NEVER EVER sending our child to a school where they do not allow visitors/ parents to volunteer REGULARLY, 2) Telling our [now-older] child that there will always be people like that in the world, and just because they are out-of-control and mis-treating others, does not mean that our child is powerless or has to take it in (.. ''like water off a duck's back''), 3) having our child take Kid Power / Teen Power to learn both physically and psychologically self-protective skills, 4) asking abuser teachers what we can do to support them to try to provide some protection for our and other children, 5) addressing such incidents consistently and gently if at all possible with an abuser teacher (though we still have never seen this result in any significant change on the teacher's part). I sincerely hope that this situation was a unique one for your child and that all will be well from here on out. Sadly wishing you all the best

Teacher is bullying my 4th grader

March 2013

My 4th grader had a terrible experience with a teacher yelling everyday, using inappropriate language, calling the children stupid and lazy, ripping their incomplete papers off their desks, slamming rulers on their desk and throwing away their backpacks if not perfectly stowed. We were able to change teachers mid year, but this women continues to harass my child on the playground and whenever she can. It's clear to me that this teacher is unable or unwilling to control herself and my child does not feel safe. My child will attend this school for another year and a younger sibling will be there for several more years. Many parents have complained but noting has been done about this teacher after meeting with the principal and other administrators. What should I do? anon

If it is at all possible to catch it on video that would be the best bet to getting this woman away from kids. Someone I know did it and a teacher who NEEDED to go was finally taken out of the classroom. I am so sorry your kids are going through that. I have reported teachers after witnessing verbally abusive behavior and nothing ever happens. Hate that the system works like that. anon

I am so sorry to hear about your child's experience with the bullying teacher. My child has experienced something similar. This kind of thing is just unacceptable. Here are some ideas/ options that come to mind. Take what's useful, leave the rest.

1) Remove your children from the school, whatever it takes.

2) Go yourself, or hire someone to go to the playground during all school breaks to observe/ protect your child (or do a trade with another parent if you work days and cannot be there). Or get together with other parents who are concerned about this person and set up a schedule with families taking turns volunteering to help on the playground to ensure that such abuse there does not occur.

3) Find a way to video tape the teacher in action. Share a copy with the Principal. If that doesn't work, go on up the ladder of responsibility.

4) Call the newspapers and get them to interview parents and to write an article on the situation. Or send a copy of your video to a TV news station

5) Find a way to pick up your child at lunch and bring them home or go somewhere nearby to eat together to give them a safe place away from this person... or find someone else to do this if you can't.

6) Call the police or Children's Protective Services and report the teacher if the school will not take action.

7) Write a calm letter to the principal/ school board/ PTA etc. stating what you have observed, the effect it is having on your child (as well as other children), what you have done to date, and specifically what you are requesting. Get as many parents to sign it as are willing. Sending you much moral support

Wow, I hear your frustration. You want this behavior to stop and are concerned about your relationship with the school. Are other children experiencing the same thing from this teacher? If so, perhaps a group approach would be helpful and/or recording the teacher's behavior on your phone. A formal letter to the principal, administrators, or board president if this is a private school. Debbie

This is awful! I have been in your shoes with a middle school teacher and in fact the entire school culture, including principal, was one of shaming and you could say bullying the children. this teacher just happend to be over the top even compared to the other teachers. We didn't get anywher with the district b/c the school's test scores put them the highest in our district. But here are some ideas I have:

1) talk with your child about it, but at his level and framing it in a way that you are not setting him up to act out or feel entitled to be rude back to her (that will not help). He needs to know her behavior is not ok and is not his fault. He needs to know he can talk to you about it. Some of the stuff that happened with my kids we didn't know about until later b/c the kids were bullied into not telling their parents.

2) give him strategies. sometimes avoidance is the best strategy to the extent he can. Look on the internet for other ideas. there's a great response kids can do to not take in the bullying, yet not get themselves in trouble: make a fist with your thumb on top. the fist is the garbage can and your thumb is the lid. when the teacher - or anybody - says something rude/mean/disrespectful to him he can ''lift the lid'' and ''put it in his garbage can''. Practice this with him at home in a matter of fact way, sometimes you can even be humorous, rolling your eyes (as long as he doesn't do this in class!) - ''can you really believe she said THAT?'' and it goes in the trash can.

3) it sounds like your teacher really has it out for your child, but sometimes kids personalize ''scolding'' as pertaining exactly to them when it is to the larger group (i.e. maybe your kid did his homework but the class is being yelled at because most of them didn't). NOT to say this is ok, but it is important for him to be able to distinguish and not personalize stuff that doesn't apply to him.

4) do you mean you've talked to administrators at the school or have you gone higher up the chain of command? in most districts there is a superintendent of elementary schools, or some such title. as I said, that did not work for us, but it might for you.

5) for a while, parents organized ourselves to sit in on this teacher's class regularly. (You have that right.) It did help tone down the bullying somewhat, and I think probably the principal also talked to the teacher, because it would have been pretty embarrasing for her also.

Not great answers here, but you have my sympathy in dealing with it. anon

Our child was bullied by a teacher in a small private French-language school. The school's administration said ''You would understand if you were French!'' and did nothing to protect our child. Because that teacher was openly bullying our child, other students thought it was ''OK'' to bully our child, too.

We suggest you check to see if you child has been identified as a ''Target'' by other students. The best advice, the most helpful suggestions, were from: Alison Townley Executive Director, Playworks East Bay 155 Filbert Street Suite 234 Oakland, CA 94607 t: 510.768.7345 c: 510.812.1590 email: atownley [at]

Now, our child also has weekly therapy. We send best wishes to you and your family


High school teacher bullying my kid

Dec 2010


My teenager, a terrific very hard working high school student, with great grades and citizenship remarks has been verbally bullied by a teacher that has a reputation of bullying other students. This past week my teenager was in tears from some very nasty comments that were made in front of the entire class. My husband went to the principal at the beginning of the year and the principal e-mailed us stating that he told the teacher in no uncertain terms that she couldn't do xy and z to our kid again. My husband and I want to go to the principal again to report her ongoing harassment. Our teenager is fearful that there will be further repercussions from doing so. I'm writing to see how others have handled similar situations? Thank you very much in advance. Wanting to do the right thing.

I would suggest that the student get permission from the administration to record every minute of every class session, just like college students do. Then, the teacher will either change the approach, or you will have evidence. Either way, things are better. Really, you have no case without hard evidence. Sanon

I love my flip video, small as your hand. I would have your daughter video her abusive teacher and show it to the principal or police. arden

From what little you have said all I can say is that it infuriates me that a teacher would behave this way toward a student. Teachers who are demonstrating such poor behavior should not be allowed to teach. Period. It amazes me that they make their way into a school in the first place, and it's even more amazing that they are not fired for such behavior.

My daughter had a couple of bad teacher's during her public elementary and high school experience. When she was in elementary school we demanded a change because the situation she was in was really effecting her well-being. Luckily the district accommodated our request and she thrived at her new school.

In high school we elected to encourage her to try to work with two teachers that weren't at all a good fit for her, to say the least, but they weren't bullies and were nice enough to try to work with her individually. It was very hard to see her floundering in these two classes but I think it gave her the opportunity to learn some coping skills that are important ones to have. At any school there are always teachers that aren't going to cut it but bullying is a whole different ball of wax and there's no sense in tolerating that at all.

Is moving your child to another class at all possible? Would your child be willing to move if it is an option?

Speak to the principal again and find out if this is an option since your child certainly has a right, at a minimum, to be respected. Best of Luck

Mean kindergarten teacher

Sept 2004

Hi Everyone - My child has just started BUSD kindergarten and I'm concerned - one of the two co-teachers has a bad reputation for hurting the kids in the past - and I'm trying not to give into rumor and innuendo, but my son's coming home with some disturbing stories and I'm not sure how to proceed. A few examples:

A student was crying loudly due to a small cut on his hand - the teacher got aggro from the noise he was generating, so she sat him facing out of the classroom (back to class) and had him project into the hallway. He was still loudly crying, so she gave up and helped him with a band-aid.

The next day a few of the kids were asking this same teacher where the other teacher was and when would she be back. She responded that the other teacher was in Paris eating pizza. The sarcasm was lost on the kids - they were confused to see the other teacher the next day.

The other parents that I have spoken to are also aware of this teacher's short fuse, frustration w/the kids, and overreaction to other minor events. Her anger level is making me anxious. We love the school, and don't want to leave, so we need to figure out how to deal with this potentially and probably volatile situation. Any advice that you can give regarding how the BUSD runs, how to get help for these kids, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

I don't know how the system works and have heard that the principal has supported this teacher when she's gotten into trouble in the past. I don't want to add to the problem, but am concerned about my and the other kids, and think that someone should be aware of what's going on. Thanks for any help I can get. Signed, trying to get my feet

If transferring your child to another class is not an option, I would document the incidents as you've done, writing a letter to the principal and cc the school board and Michelle Lawrence, superintendent. That sort of behavior can not be ignored and the principal will be held accountable by these entities to make sure he/she follows up about it. They may be forced to see if she has had any prior complaints. Hope this helps. By the way, if you get no response to your letter, show up at a school board meeting stating that. The loud mouths are the ones that get fed... Vocal BUSD Parent

The first thing is to help make the situation better, if possible. Do what it takes to get to know the teacher and spend time helping in the classroom. Get to know your principal too, without complaining about anything. Be sure that you know what the situations your child describes to you really entail...most children are honest, but may not have a completely objective view. My son told me his K teacher ''yelled'' at the class, and I found out through long discussion with him and observation of the class that ''yelling'' meant speaking in a voice raised to be heard over the bustle of the class. ''Speaking loudly'' was a concept too subtle for him, at 4 1/2.

Teachers and administrators like those in your school are just people, like you and me and everyone. With enough support you may be able to improve the situation for everyone involved.

If you determine that the teacher is toxic and needs to be removed from her job, you will have a long fight ahead of you, and a moral imperative to do it. It has been done in the past, but only in the most serious cases, and with the concerted effort of all the parents involved. Heather

Call Neil Smith, Curriculum Director of BUSD at once. He is the boss of all the principals in the District. Tell him your child is in this class with this teacher who has a known history. good luck ANON

Dear Anon, Sounds to me like you have your mind made up already. My mother taught elementary school for over 30 years before becoming principal of that very same school and I have heard the other side of your story over the years. There are some ''bad'' teachers out there. However, I have also noticed how quickly and easily those ''bad'' teachers get labelled as such when that earned or unearned reputation precedes them due to unvetted parent and child concerns.

It is interesting to me that you are relying largely on this teacher's ''reputation for badness'' and your child's and other youngsters' reports of circumstances that may or may not be what actually happened. It is absolutely critical to take seriously the things our youngsters tell us, but, remember there is another side to it. Has any child or parent brought these concerns to this teacher at parent:teacher conferences? How about with the principal?

I think it is very easy for these things to snowball out of control and become very emotional. I would urge you to take your concerns to the principal whose job it is to sort this out. If your school is as good as you say, he or she will handle this quickly and professionally. It is perfectly in your right to present what you've described to the teacher, the principal or both and to expect an explanation from their persepectives of the events you describe. If it isn't managed to your satisfaction, and you still have concerns, consider bringing it up with the parent committees for your school if other families have experienced the same issues with this teacher and are willing to work with you on its resolution.

As in the adult world, it is often best to bring these issues and concerns up proactively and as soon as they happen, using, as you have, specific examples. If you wait and bring it up later and forget these potential issues of concern, the teacher and principal will be justified in saying to you, ''can you give us a specific instance?''.

I would also urge you -- and I am not a teacher, but, spent most of my childhood growing up with one in the house -- to remember how in tune your child is to your estimation of his or her teacher. If he or she perceives you as having a negative attitude about his or her teacher, your child will begin to realize triangulation is possible. It is so important for you to have a united front and a good working relationship with your child's educators over the years. This may not be the right fit for you, your child or the teacher. I would urge you not to knee-jerk adopt the label ''bad'' for this teacher and dismiss judgement until the full facts are known. Similarly, I would hope that you would keep an open mind, advocate for your son, and, give everyone the benefit of the doubt until given reason to believe otherwise. If, what your son reports is true and there are not other aspects to this one side of the story, I do hope the principal takes action promptly. Wishing you and your child the best. anon

As someone whose precious child is in that class, my advice is to physicaly be in the class helping. I am amazed by how much there is to do. Crowd control is a very real part of any school. Destroying a person's career and self esteem by sniping behind their back is cruel. Two children have been moved out of the class by their parents, into private schools, because of all of this talk. That has affected all of the other children in the class. All of the parents have heard these rumors. The expanded versions are terrifying and generate a tremendous amount of anxiety. The only real protection is to be there and know first hand that it is fine. Many of us also have babies that we must arrange care for so that we can volunteer. I suggest that we parents organize (PTA?)so that we can all know that one of us is there helping. Not only the teacher in question, but everyday. We could have a schedule.

The kind of scrutiny that we are subjecting this woman to is unreasonable. The feeling I get from all this talk is that one of the kindergarden teachers is a saint, totally on top of her job, one is a ditsey space case, and one is a time bomb waiting to explode and chop up all the kids and so, there is an OK co- teacher in place to step in when that happens. It is just not fair. No one could stand up to this kind of scrutiny.

The school is great and special. Parents need to help. For example, I went looking for paper towels as there were none in the classroom. There were none in the janitors closet, bathrooms, or the other teachers rooms. Solution? Inform the office and bring paper towels from home to tide them over? Or should I talk loudly about it in confidence with the other parents one at a time? In the lunch room, The teachers are constantly circulating; opening milk cartons, bananas, etc. and don't get a break. Parents could be incredibly helpful there and on the playground at recess.

We need to get together and be a community. We all love our kids.

From your description the teacher sounds mean-spirited and cynical. Not great for little kindergarteners - they need a warm fuzzy sort of person, don't they. I have some experience with this in BUSD. First of all let me say that my kids had mostly wonderful teachers all through the BUSD. There were a few so-so teachers but honestly we never had a teacher who seemed really detrimental to their welfare, though there was one close call and there were a couple of other problem situations. In every case either the principal or the district was able to work something out that satisfied the parents. So I do think you can have some confidence that things will work out. But parents have had to do a little work too, by organizing, documenting, and being persistent.

Some things I learned: 1) Don't believe everything you hear from other parents. Make an effort to find out for yourself. 2) If you feel there is a serious problem, you must go to the principal. That is the teacher's boss, and you need to create documentation that the boss can use at employee evaluation time if anything is ever going to be solved. 3) If the principal seems unable or unwilling to solve the problem, go to the district. 4) Complaints are more likely to be taken seriously if they are coming from a group of parents, not just one parent, so you need to network with others.

I learned that when there are complaints about a teacher, his/her boss (the principal) has to take some very well-defined steps before any action can be taken, such as having documentation of the problem, and getting an observer into the classroom. They can't just reassign or fire a teacher, no matter how many parents are complaining, without some documentation to back it up. It's only fair. If someone complained to your boss about your job performance, you'd want some warning, some documentation, and a chance to improve, before you got fired.

On the other hand, in my experience, principals can be extremely reluctant to discuss problems that parents have with teachers, and for whatever reason, they may not be very forthcoming about possible solutions. I don't know if this is because the teachers' contracts are secretive, and the principal is not allowed to discuss it, or if the principals are just trying to take the path of least resistance. I'm not a big complainer but on the rare occassion when I did have a problem (a 1st grade teacher who was nice to my kid but had a bad table for the bad kids), the principal did her best to discourage me from perceiving it as a problem, and instead praised the teacher for her many years of teaching and her excellent service to the school. That time I was new to school, and I didn't know any other parents, so I just dropped it.

Later, a couple of times my kids were in classrooms where there was a new teacher who clearly just wasn't cut out for teaching. When parent complaints started piling up, the principal assigned more experienced teachers to observe and help the teacher. Meanwhile, parents would step up their classroom participation. After some weeks or months of this without improvement, the new teachers were replaced. The principals really did want to be responsive to parents.

Another time, I was in a group of parents who were trying to prevent a well-known mean elementary teacher from transferring to the middle school where our kids were just starting. Trust me, this teacher was mean. We all had a first-hand story about her legendary sarcasm & rudeness. She ran her 4th grade classroom like a prison - no fieldtrips ever, no pictures on the walls. Once on the playground I saw her get so mad at a kid she kicked his backpack as hard as she could all the way across the playground, screaming at him all the while. The poor kid just stood there terrified. So now the elementary school was downsizing, and this teacher was not too surprisingly one of the teachers there wasn't room for. She had the seniority to request a position at any school in the district that had an opening, and she picked our kids' middle school. A bunch of us with incoming middle schoolers got together. First we went to the middle school principal. She told us that she was sympathetic but there was nothing she could do because the teacher's contract guaranteed her the position. Furthermore, the mean teacher had glowing evaluations from her previous principal (who nevertheless seemed really happy to have her transfer to a different school). We learned to our surprise that in 20 years this teacher had been in the BUSD, not a single person had ever made an official complaint about her. As far as the district was concerned, she was an exemplary teacher! We all realized that because we were all active at the school and knew her, and because of the teacher preference system, we had all been able to keep our kids out of her classroom. The poor kids who suffered through a year of her, had parents who were not involved enough in the school to know what she was like, or to ever complain about her.

We made an appointment with the superintendent and aired our concerns. The superintendent basically gave us the bureaucratic brush-off, telling us the same thing the principal had told us, that his hands were tied as there was no record of any problems with this teacher. But ... I don't know how it happened, but somehow or other, the teacher ended up in an administrative position and never came to the middle school as a teacher.

So, what I took away from this experience is that it is really important for parents to go to the trouble of getting something into the record if there is a problem with a teacher. Maybe it won't help you this year, but it might help some more parents next year. Also, help out at the school as much as you can, get to know the teachers and get to know the other parents. It really does pay off in so many ways, not just when there is trouble. Finally, when your kid has a good teacher, write a letter to his or her boss - the principal - at the end of the year. Bad teachers are the exception -- let's not forget about documenting the records of the good teachers! Good luck a BUSD Mom

Hi - After reading the responses to your question, I'd like to add my opinion. I'm a kindergarten teacher in a bay area school district, not the BUSD. The advice given to you ran the spectrum from ''go directly to the school board'' to ''wait and see''. My suggestion is that you take a middle road - because you're likely to accomplish more if this teacher truly isn't cut out for teaching. Start with taking your concerns directly to the teacher, then the principal, then up the ladder until you feel you've changed what needs to be changed.

During the last two years I was at a school site where teachers have been involved situations similar to the one you described. I won't go into the specifics here, as someone may recognize herself, but they've given me insight into what I would do if I were in your situation.

A couple of responders told you that this teacher couldn't be reassigned to another grade level. In both districts I've worked for, the contract states that reassignment can be involuntary. One time honored way that principals make life miserable for tenured teachers they want to remove from their position without going through the difficult process of proving they should be removed is to reassign that teacher. So the principal at your school site could place the kindergarten teacher in 5th grade at the start of next year. Sometimes the principal may believe the grade level switch will benefit the teacher and students. Often he or she may really be hoping that teacher will quit, since most kindergarten teachers wouldn't want to teach 5th grade and visa versa. If the principal really wants to switch this teacher's grade level, he/she probably can. Other readers advised you to go ''straight to the top''. Unless you've witnessed the inappropriate behavior yourself, I'd advise against doing that. Even if you have witnessed it yourself, districts have complaint procedures and flow charts for how to handle these type of complaints and by following them, you're likely to get better results, now and when you have concerns in later years. It's kind of like demanding to speak with the CEO of Macy's about a clerk when the store manager could handle your complaint. Who is going to want to work things out when they think you may attack them later? Just as parents label ''good'' and ''bad'' teachers, parents get can be labeled. While they may seem to have the administrators ears, those ears may have a tube that goes in one side and out the other. In a business enviornment, they're like the high maintenance client. Next years' teacher may feel that you'll take even the slightest concern to the top and be less inclined to work with you. Also remember that the pricipal who appeared to defend the teacher in question may not have been defending her behind closed doors. The principal legally cannot discuss personnel matters with you. It could very well be that your child's teacher is under review, but that is confidential. If you receive a poor review at work, your boss cannot discuss it with your clients. Now if the principal truly does not seem to do anything, then the next step I'd suggest would be to go up a notch on the complaint ladder, but remember that they aren't going to tell you what actions are being taken. Keep going up until you feel you've been heard.

I mentioned the part about witnessing the behavior yourself, because trust me little kids can mix up language and blow it out of porportion. Just last week, I was working with a small group of kids, and I said, ''I'm going to shuffle these cards''. One of my students at another table, called to his friend, ''OOOOH! Mrs. ____ said a bad word!!!'' I had to laugh because we all know what he thought I said. English isn't his first language and those words do sound alike. The good news is he has good phonemic awareness and recognized the sound of ''sh''. I stopped what I was doing and explained to my whole class what ''shuffle'' means. Now imagine that he went home told his mom what he thought I said and she went straight to the school board. But that little boy and innocent misunderstanding is why I choose to teach and not work with adults. They don't have agendas. Finally, I've noticed that frequently when there is one good teacher, one OK teacher, and one bad teacher, that these are often based superficial observations of the classroom. Parents gossip and it gets made into a huge thing. The differences between teachers can be as silly as which class has the cutest art projects up, but the teacher with the cuteness factor wins the ''good'' teacher title. Or one teacher may be a little more disorganized about materials than another, but be great in other areas. The organized teacher gets the parent recognition. There is so much you don't see unless you're in the classroom - so go in help the teacher, and make an opinion based on your observations. And yes keep going until you reach the top if things truly aren't what they should be, because it's your job as a parent. Been teaching a long time

I may have had some first-hand experience several years ago with the teacher you're referring to. If you'd like to contact me, please do so through the moderator. Anon for my kids' sake

Where is the line between "strict" and "mean"?

Dec 2003

How have people helped their child cope with a ''Mean'' teacher. (We've tried changing the class.) I'm nervous about working directly with the teacher because at this point the teacher likes my child, who is generally very well- behaved and wants to be ''good.'' She frequently scolds kids in line for dropping things or bumping into each other. She's scolded my child for not being loud enough. My child has been saying "I'm stupid" when my child makes mistakes at home. My child has also been scolding me when I make mistakes -- not that this never happened before but the intensity is greater. The curriculum is good and the parents who like her say that the kids aren't bothered by the ''strictness.'' (I've also been wondering where the line between strict and mean is???) I'm not looking to change the teacher, I'm looking for ideas on how to help my child get perspective on this and not feel like they are doing everything wrong. worried

If the teacher is truely being mean (ie:abusive?) you might talk to the principal about it, or if the teacher is approachable try talking to her in a non accusing manner. Sounds like she may not be approachable. You didn't say how old your child is but if he/she is old enough to understand that some teachers are nicer and kinder and some are not he/she may be able to get through the year more easily. Is she a good teacher, even though she's mean? Then your child may have to put the meanness aside and get what he/she can out of the class and also understand that when the teacher yells or calls children stupid, it's the teachers unhappiness and not anything about the child. I'm sure most of us mom's and dad's have had similar teachers in life. I certainly did. It can be hell, but eventually the year ends and I don't know that too many of us were permanently damaged. The great teachers I've had by far outweigh the few ''teachers from hell''. Good luck dealing with this. I feel for you. anon

I had 2 kids in a very expensive private school who both had a problem with an immature teacher at different years. Knowing what I know now, I would remove my child as soon as I can from this bad experience that would affect them for the rest of their lives and move to a school that you can work with. A few months after we moved out of the school, I found out that this teacher was being unreasonable even in the classroom. She would pick on 5 or so students in a day and force or limit them to do the same exercise/work everyday until they meet her requirement. They were not allowed to do anything else during the school day but this one particular school work. The children were not allowed to play or have recess and sometimes even extend to lunch time until they complete the work to her expectations. This went on for several weeks. None of my children like this teacher. She is very mean. Under this teacher my children were always at the directors office as a rebellion to what is going on. They learned to defy authority and they also begin to feel that they are bad. Once children feel they are bad, it is very dangerous. We had to go to theraphy and different counselors. One finally advised us that my children need teachers who love them. I am very happy that we moved to another school where both teachers and aides are very nice to children. The administration works with us and really care for our children. I hope you find the right school and environment for your child. anonymous

Well, it's a little difficult to answer you completely because you don't mention how old your child is. (In early elementary school, part of a teacher's job is to teach appropriate social interaction and behavior, so the kids are expected to have trouble with things such as standing in line, while with older children difficulty standing in line usually only means they are horsing around, for example.)

In my opinion, though, the difference between mean and strict is that a strict teacher sets forth rules and adheres to them very closely. The rules are fair and there is nothing wrong with a strict teacher. A mean teacher makes it personal -- criticizes the child rather than the behavior -- which is inappropriate.

Have you observed the teacher ''scolding'' the children first hand? Is the behavior your child is modeling based upon the teacher's behavior in the classroom? Or possibly that of another student? I would suggest a conference with the teacher. No good teacher would be bothered by your concerns, if they are raised without casting blame based upon hearsay (If that's what it is). I think the teacher might welcome the dialogue about their approach to discipline in the classroom. A good teacher would certainly NEVER take this out on your child, or suddenly dislike your child, just because you met with them. a teacher and a parent

My daughter has had several grumpy teachers over the years, and I've tried to explain them to her that way: they're grumpy, or having a bad day, or having trouble managing a difficult class, or maybe don't like kids and shouldn't have been teachers at all! It's important that the child knows she's not bad or doing anything wrong. I figure my daughter will come across all kinds of people in her life, not all of them will be pleasant. I've found it impossible to get anywhere by talking to the teacher or complaining to the principal, basically they don't see a problem. anon