Problems with the Teacher

Parent Q&A

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  • HI - We are looking for an education lawyer near Fremont that can help my high school daughter. She has been traumatized by a completely negligent teacher that is rude, and punitive. This teacher doesn't provide any instruction, uses abusive language, passes racist remarks, and lets the students know how much he hates the school that he teaches. He insultingly declined to meet us when we requested a meeting to discuss our daughter's health issues and get his guidance. My daughter is a 504 who has been suffering from severe anxiety and depression which has been further exacerbated by this teacher's complete apathy toward his students. 

    Please contact DREDF (Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund).  They listened, offered great advice,  and we were (finally) heard.  We eventually used lawyer Natashe Washington ((510) 394-4356) who was great.  I hope this is resolved soon.

    Keep documenting what is happening. Before you go the lawyer route, try moving up the chain in the school. Talk to the counselor/special ed teacher who was present when you wrote the 504 plan -- you can look at the signature page to see who signed off on it. Talk to the principal. Then if you need to you can contact a lawyer. You might also want to talk to the parent advocate at DREDF --

    Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
    3075 Adeline Street, Suite 210
    Berkeley, CA 94703
    510.644.2555 v
    510-841-8645 fax/tty
    info [at]

    This sounds like a personnel issue that reaches beyond your daughter's situation. Perhaps you've already done this, but my first suggestion would be to document the problematic behavior and then share it, written up, with the school principal. Or if they're for some reason unresponsive, going above their head to the superintendent. If you do feel like a lawyer is needed, Gail Hodes is a good special education lawyer who you could run this situation by although since your daughter has a 504 she may not be Gail's specific area of speciality

    So sorry to hear of your experience. 

    Here are a couple organizations which may be able to help:

    please immediately pull your daughter out of the class. she could do summer school at a community college or ask the school for options. dont wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy. if the school doesnt help you there are options such as online school or intra district transfer. there have been times i regret not immediately and fervently advocating properly for my child, dont let this happen to you. 

    Thanks everyone for all your help and guidance. 

    I would start with the school  counselor and ask for your child to be placed in another teachers class. Actually, your child can go to their  academic  counselor and ask for this and usually it is a quick fix. I’m a high school teacher and a few times students have been enrolled into my class because they have had a struggle with another teacher who teaches the same subject. Or often kids have told me they have gone to the counselor  when they have had a negative experience with a teacher and have been able to drop or move out of the class. If the counselor can not enroll your child in a different class because the other classes are full or one is not offered, there may be an online option to finish out the semester. 

  • Principal plays favoritism

    (3 replies)

    Hi, parents. I feel our principle is unfair. In general, he always play favoritism to those active PTA members’ kids and kids from doctors’ / professors’ family. My kids are always left behind. 
    What can I do?

    I'm curious as to how a Principal could possibly play favorites - what can a Principal do, for a child or family, that would exhibit favoritism? Is this a private school? Our (public school) principal makes no decisions which would impact certain children over others. All their decisions and actions are at a school-wide level. Perhaps if you rephrase your question or add more details, the advice of the community might be able to target the issue. 

    Hello, I'm sorry you're experiencing that. In what ways are your kids left behind? If it is subtle, like the principal greets those kids by name with enthusiasm but not yours, it might just be that those parents have taken time to get to know the principal and so he happens to know their kids names. In that case you could just make an effort to get to know the principal or help the school in some way (active PTA might be too much time commitment, but one-time volunteering for special event or attending a PTA meeting, or just introducing yourself and your kid and saying hi). If the favoritism is more pronounced, like your kids aren't getting selected for things, you might meet with the principal and ask why. But you will likely have better luck (and better outcomes for your kiddos) if you ask in a way that you are truly open to the answer, as it may not be what you think. Asking in an open minded way and sharing the way you have been feeling might create a nice conversation with the principal. If there is clear discrimination going on, and the principal is just defensive, then you could always take your concerns to the superintendent. But in that case be sure you have specific examples written down with the facts. 

    I believe you, but I think there is very little you can do.  One single parent has no real power against a principal (unless an actual law or policy is being broken, such as discrimination against a particular religious group for example).  

  • There's been lots of talk about students who are checking out of remote learning, but we have a slightly different issue: a teacher who appears to have checked out. I'm looking for advice on how to handle this without making matters worse (for both the teacher and the students).

    The background is that everything was great in the fall semester. The teacher was teaching, student engagement of course varied. My son was, however, very engaged and worked very hard for this class (which is in a subject that doesn't come easily for him). He went to office hours when he needed help, asked questions in class, and the teacher was responsive, answered questions, explained things, graded homework, and entered grades in a timely manner, etc.

    But now with spring semester, everything has totally changed. Apparently, a number of students were caught cheating on the final exam. The teacher was understandably angry and frustrated. But since that time, she seems to have mentally checked out of the class entirely. She doesn't provide strong instruction, doesn't grade work, has entered no grades into the online grade book. My son has reached out for help during office hours, but was blown off. He doesn't know what to do and is, for the first time this year, starting to fall behind. He also has no idea how he is really doing in the class because she has stopped grading assignments. He doesn't want his final grade to be a surprise. 

    Normally I try to stay out of these situations and prefer to allow my son to learn to advocate for himself, but he has tried that and, as I said, was blown off my the teacher. But what can I do? I certainly don't want to escalate the situation, but I do think my son has a right to be taught and to be given feedback in the form of corrected assignments. 

    Any advice? 

    I'm guessing your son is in high school? If he has tried to communicate with the teacher more than once, my next step would probably be to have him reach out to his guidance counselor for help. At some point he needs to go up the chain, and it sounds like the time has come. 

    I don't know how responsive the administrators at your son's school are, but I would think he, or you, would want to contact whatever dean is responsible for overseeing teachers.  He's already tried directly with the teacher, with no response.  Totally justified to talk to the teacher's "boss"--dean of faculty, vice-principal, principal, whatever is most appropriate.  If it's high school, I think it's also fine for the parent to contact them.

  • Hi, all.  I need some advice about how to navigate the public school infrastructure to help my daughter.  In short, she needs to move to a different class and I'm hoping someone can offer suggestions for how to best approach this issue.

    My daughter is attending a public middle school for the first time after previously attending a private school.  Overall, the experience has been great for her!  However, she's got one teacher who has not worked out so far.  My wife and I have met with the principal on two different occasions about 3-months apart.  The first meeting happened after just about a week into the school year, when we got the sense that there was going to be a problem.  (And by problem, I mean that the teacher is not equipped to handle middle school kids.  She's just moved from teaching young kids in early elementary school.  When she recommended that the middle school class read "chapter books" we got the sense that something might be off.  That was just a very mild example.)  The principal acknowledged that the teacher was on their radar.  At the first meeting, the principal indicated that they were going to monitor this teacher's class, provide guidance, and generally work with the teacher to try to improve things.  Three months later, nothing has changed, and the principal is giving us the exact same answer with no real plan to help my daughter.  They're only focused on making this teacher a better teacher, which will probably take a few years, and this process comes at the expense of my daughter's education.

    This teacher is the only one at this grade level having this issue.  Since my child came into the school somewhat advanced, she's been coasting and really not learning anything.  The teacher is struggling to address the average student, and seems to be trying to help the struggling students, but is leaving the kids who are a little ahead to their own devices.  By the time my daughter starts next year, she'll have basically wasted this year without being challenged unless we do something.  My wife and I were hoping the principal would help us work towards switching my daughter to a teacher with a little more experience who would have the capacity to challenge the more advanced kids.  However, it seems the principal is concerned that moving my daughter might trigger an avalanche.

    Since the principal basically gave us no alternatives, it feels like our hands are tied.  Anyone know the workings of the school system well enough to suggest how we might try to escalate this request to move my daughter?  It seems like aiming for the start of next semester would be an ideal time to make a move.  We have to act now if we're going to make that happen.  I really appreciate any suggestions!

    (I've attempted to write this post so that the teacher and school could not be easily identified.  I'm not trying to shame the teacher...just want the best outcome for my daughter.  That's also why I chose to hide my username...Thanks!)

    One teacher and everything else is good? Then just supplement outside of school. At 6th/7th grade, you will not be sacrificing "at the expense of my daughter's education," all the academics of middle school will be reviewed/repeated later. The social and community aspects are actually more important at this age. If you think of public school being for the greater good of the community (which I truly believe), then work with the teacher to help her become a better teacher rather than making it all about you.

    If she's at a BUSD middle school, your best bet is to work with the grade-level counselor. Our daughter had some issues with teachers and the counselor was very helpful.

    Just one teacher who is not actively bad in a day with multiple teachers? Let it go. You run the risk of communicating to your daughter that she is a special snowflake and mommy and daddy will always fix her "problems". Being slightly advanced is not a problem; challenge her to go above and beyond in the subject independently.

    I suggest dropping the issue.  If I recall correctly, middle school was boring, and the "more advanced" kids spent a lot of time "coasting" while the teachers did the best they could with big classes of diverse skill levels.   That was my experience, at least, and I turned out OK.   I would recommend letting your child "coast" a little bit instead of being a thorn in the side of the principal and this teacher, who sounds like she is doing the best she can with what she's got.  Don't look at it as "wasting" a year - she is surely learning many new things, including valuable social skills, being in a new and more diverse school.

    Just to offer a different perspective— this may be a time for your daughter to learn life skills other than reading.  Such as accepting things we cannot change, challenging oneself by creating extra-curricular activities and studies, patience, compassion for her teacher, the satisfaction of offering to help others (like the kids in the class who are struggling), and/or finding ways to manage frustration. 

    I don't have advice on how to make the school change her teacher, but do have an alternate suggestion. You say your daughter is advanced and not being challenged. So the long-term consequences of a dud teacher in one subject are minimal. It's not that she's going to struggle forever with a weak foundation in that subject, it's just that she'll be bored this year. In public or private school over the next 7-11 years of middle school, high school, and college she's going to have some great teachers and some stinkers. For the rest of her life, she'll have some co-workers and bosses that are awesome and some that are useless. It's not too early for her to learn to deal with a dud. It's a life skill she'll need. And you can model for her that you win some and you lose some, and sometimes you have to make the best of what you've got.

    I only see two possibilities here: while trying to support all kids, focus on the ones needing the most help; or, helping the ones that are doing great and leave the other ones to fail.  Which one do you think should be the one the teacher should go for?  

    If she made the right choice, in my opinion, maybe your other options would be to add extracurricular activities for your daughter; or tutor your daughter yourself a little.  Give her challenging activities, or help add some challenge to her school work.

    Another possibility: move to an area where kids have so much support at home that kids are all 'brilliant'.  Another option: move your daughter to a demanding private school.  And, no matter what, it's great your daughter is so advanced that she does not have the challenges the other kids have.  Congratulations on that.

    In any case, I hope things work out for everyone, mainly those who need the help the most.  

    Please check out a really awesome article on parent-teacher problem solving:

    I wanted to respond to your post with a different perspective.  I am a public high school teacher and a mom of a kid in public school.  I think you are finding that public schools are not based on a consumer model, which is why getting the principal to respond to your preference for a teacher has proven difficult.  The beauty of this model is that it is there to serve the public equitably, although it does not always do this perfectly or seamlessly.

    While it seems unfortunate that your daughter got this teacher while she is still so new to this level, one challenge of middle school and high school is that students will sometimes receive teachers they don't feel challenged by or don't mesh with for other reasons.  Part of developing into a resilient student is learning to deal with those challenges.  As for academics, if you daughter is not struggling academically, it seems like she is at a great age to challenge herself.  If an assignment is too easy for her, maybe you can brainstorm with her how to go above and beyond, or add another level of nuance or thoughtfulness to her work.  Or even work on reading above grade level books for fun that she enjoys and also challenge her - which will certainly facilitate her growth and literacy. Or, instead of finding challenge or interest in this particular class, maybe throw herself into the challenge of another class that she finds interesting, 

    You just came out of six years of private school. Your daughter has six teachers now (presumably) and only one is not good? I think those are really good odds. Maybe this is the better learning experience for your daughter--that she can be successful, happy, resilient, in a less than perfect environment.  And sad to say, but not all middle schoolers, especially 6th graders, are reading chapter books. So maybe the teacher wasn't out of line in suggesting this. I totally get where your principal is coming from. Everyone knows this is not a strong teacher. But there is a teacher shortage right now, and better to have a teacher in the class than no one (and yes, this happens). As far as changing teachers, is there room for everyone to change? No, of course not. So who gets to? Probably no one, unless it's for very compelling reasons.  Your daughter will survive. She might learn she doesn't actually need the best in order to thrive. Most kids don't.

    I remember being in a very similar situation with being bored in class and teacher that was too busy to help a kid that was already advanced. She kept telling me to walk around and help other kids, which I was fine doing for a bit but I did not want to spend the whole period being teacher's helper and learning nothing new.   My parents lost the battle of changing me to another class with a teacher who had a group of advanced kids in class and was helping them with different assignments since they wanted academic diversity and wanted each class to have kids who were advanced and who were struggling.  The compromise my parents reached with the teacher after a lot of back and forth was that my parents would provide enrichment resources (books, workbooks, worksheets) for me to work on in class after I complete class work.  So I would still do the assigned work in class (usually very quickly while the teacher was explaining the worksheets) and then work on my own books/worksheets afterwards.  My parents checked it and bought all the additional resources, so I know it took time/money but I was self motivated to do self study and it worked well.  My parents had the same concern about me wasting a year, and this way I ended up learning more in this class doing self study then I did in many of my other classes.  If your kid is motivated and is willing to do self study and you are willing to arrange it and provide the resources, it was a great solution for all.  So even if you cannot change teachers, maybe there is another solution that would work.  Good luck. 

    I don't have any advice, but I did want to convey empathy. I understand the resource constraints and the difficult choices that underfunded schools need to make. But I also believe that every child matters, every child deserves to be challenged, and that the solution is not for advanced students to have to spend their free time doing additional academics that they missed receiving in school. Nor for parents of advanced students to have to spend their time and resources on supplementation.

    In a similar situation and struggling.

  • Hi parents. I am finding myself in the unexpected and unpleasant situation of arguing with my 11th grader's teacher. It's a situation that snowballed and was fed by my frustration and the high school's system situation-blind approach to parents. It's the Bay Area and there are tons of helicopter parents who want their darling's to get A's. But that doesn't mean that striving for an A and encouraging your child to do so makes you one of "those parents". However, the system at my daughter's high school makes it such.

    She has ADHD and depression, diagnosed by 3 different medical professionals and is on medication. She forgot her meds one day and had an in-class essay in honors English. It was the first essay of the semester, during the 3rd week. She thought she did a good job but didn't get the grade back for 7 weeks. For that entire time, she had 98% in the class and A's in all of her other classes. Then one day, during week 10 the A became a C, as the essay she wrote received a 71% and essays count for 75% of the grade. But at week 10 there was only one essay. Many students scored below 70% and they were allowed to rewrite. Their final essay grades came up to about 80. She asked to rewrite and was told "no". Even she knew it was a crappy essay--the grade was fair, but it was not typical of her at all. My daughter received an A on the second essay, and an A on the other assignment in that category. In the end, there were only 3 assignments in the category, two worth 75 points and one worth 40. The two A's brought the C up to an 86%. The final exam was worth 10% and my daughter received a 98%. She received a B in the class.

    I contacted the teacher again about her weighting, pointing out that my daughter received 90% or better on everything but the first essay and that her first essay counted for 33% of the final grade which seemed ridiculously unfair. I also pointed out that my initial concern at week 10 that there wouldn't be enough assignments in that 75% category to balance out the one bad grade came true, despite her assurance that multiple assignments would be given. I have received no response.

    I am not usually a helicopter parent but this is ridiculous and the combination of the "we hate parents who just want A's" and "the students need to talk to the teachers themselves" is making this a paralyzing situation. My daughter is already on medication for anxiety and is terrified of this teacher. This style of evaluation is not even in the spirit of teaching. A student should not receive the lowest grade they've ever gotten based on a single assignment at the beginning of the school year--the end maybe---but not the beginning. Do I take this to the principal directly? Or just ignore it and take a few colleges off the table for her?

    Went through similar in 10th grade. In fact, it was so bad that eventually parent pressure led the school to force the teacher to resign. My best advice is to get your kid away from that teacher. We are also not helicopter parents, and this was one of only 2 times between K and 12th grade we ever had to do this. We not only helicoptered in on it, we flew in on a fighter jet. Have your child moved to a different section of the same class. Call an emergency IEP meeting if you have to. Go directly to the Principal of the school, as they are usually the only one that can make that change happen mid-year. Do not engage further with that teacher. Make it clear to your kid that you're on this side on this issue and that you've got their back an that this is an adult problem that will be resolved by the adults. We had the added degree of difficulty because our kid didn't want to switch out for fear of stigmatization (the bad teacher was already stigmatizing her verbally in class anyway - announcing parts of her 504 Plan and ridiculing her for it). Once we got her switched, though, that second teacher became a mentor to her. Most importantly, the second teacher understood and was able to adhere to the plan and get our kid through the class with a passing grade that was earned honestly.  Good luck. If you don't have a fighter jet, I find a broom works nicely ;-)

    Let it go. A "B" in one class is not going to materially affect her college choices. You and she should not put so much stress on getting straight "A"s. That will only add to her anxiety and depression.

    It sounds like you are being very fair, and the teacher is not. Why was your daughter not allowed to rewrite? That seems very unfair when other students were allowed to rewrite. I would go straight to the vice principal or principal, and fast, while they can still adjust grades. Grades in High School do matter. But also try not to convey your anxiety to your daughter....  Also, maybe she should have a 504, which is for medical conditions, which she certainly seems to have.  Best wishes!  Sounds like you are on the right path, not a 'helicopter'.

    Definitely contact an administrator. The fact that your daughter's grade showed no change until week ten isn't right.  Your child's chances for the most competitive universities shouldn't be jeopardized because of a teacher's unfair grading system. It's worth bringing it up to an administrator--your daughter (and you) have every right to fight for her grade. (I've taught high school, including an AP course for 20 years.)

    I used the parents grievance procedure to change a grade.It took over a year as I was not getting a written response like I should have within a certain time frame.I finally complained to someone on the school board that my written grievance was not being responded to and that moved things along.My child's situation was different as there were no teacher records showing how the grade was arrived at.We did win,but then when we checked with the guidance counselor the grade had never been entered.I sat there at watched her do it finally.Unfortunately getting a B instead of an A can affect what college you get into as the competition is fierce.I would fight it if I were you and if you do not win at least you know you tried

    Wow, I feel like you are really over-reacting to this situation. You cannot always be there to fight teachers about grades for your child.  As well, she's got to learn to deal with disappointment and learn from her mistakes. I think that this is the real lesson you should be teaching her from this experience.

    My thoughts are that if your daughter wants a different grade she should be initiating the fight for it.  We had something similar happen; my son (now an 11th grader) has an IEP and misses a lot of school due to his condition. In one particular class in his sophomore year he was not getting homework sent to him in a timely manner, causing assignments to be late and to not always have all the information needed for tests.  I asked my son what he wanted to have happen.  He wanted things to change so that he could get a better grade of course, so we asked him to come up with a strategy for dealing with it (with our help) and to take the lead on implementing it.  He did do it successfully, and learned a lot in the process.  It required some nudging and hand holding and there was the possibility that there would be not enough follow through or that it wouldn't make a difference.  We felt, however, whatever the outcome, that a (then) 16 year old should be learning to advocate for himself effectively, ESPECIALLY with a handicap.  We (the adults) were there to provide backup, help with setting up meetings, editing emails, etc.  It turned out that the teacher and other staff were impressed that our student was making the effort ,and I think that that ultimately turned the tide in his favor.  Also note, that if it hadn't turned out well I was ready to step in (unbeknownst to my son), but felt that a good faith effort by my son was a good first step.

  • Experience with removing a bad teacher

    (3 replies)

    Hi all,

    A teacher who my son had for 1st grade has now been moved to 5th grade at his public school. For all sorts of reasons, none of which I'll go into here, we do not want our son (entering 4th grade soon) to experience this teacher a second time around. At least a dozen other families feel the same way and we know that she has been moved from school to school (and from grade to grade) in the past due to parental disapproval. I'm looking for advice as to how to convince the school board to remove her from teaching. I'd say remove her from our school, but then she'll just go wreak havoc elsewhere. I'm not looking for advice to be more empathic, etc., this person is really not good for our kids and there seems to be consensus on this on the part of the parents. We know that there are so many great teachers out there (many at our school!), and some struggling ones who do as well as they can. She is neither. Many of us have already called meetings with the principal and the teacher to discuss our problems (the teacher always brings her union rep and refuses to consider any changes to her teaching - the principal has asked her to do some basic things to mollify parents to increase communication with parents, allow volunteers in her class, etc., but to no seeming avail). But I think it's very hard on the principal to do much more. Should a group of parents comment at school board meetings? Meet with the superintendent? Advice appreciated.

    Hi, sounds SO familiar to our situation in the Berkeley public schools, some years back. SO difficult to deal,with  all of "our" families did everything we could, together, in various combinations, with the teacher herself, the principal, the board...  More time spent fighting that battle than any of us had. Successful?  Nope. (Of course by then all of our kids had suffered the damage and weren't going to be subjected to it again). Absolutely heartbreaking? Yep. Words of advice?  Not so much. We all felt morally compelled to follow through and did. I wish I had something more helpful to share. Without knowing any details, sounds like you are doing the right thing, and I wish you luck. 

    The reason you are having a hard time is because, in general, parents do not have the expertise to judge who is an effective educator, and parents are not in charge. Yes, after the principal, you and the like-minded parents who formed this consensus should ask for an appointment at the district office. It probably won't be with the superintendent, more likely they have a department for student and family services or something similar. I would NOT "out" the teacher at a board meeting, because the union will go wild, and you will come off looking like the bad guys. I don't question your concerns about the teacher, but the issues you mention are all about the parents - communication and volunteering, not about teaching and learning. I would stick to student-centered concerns in your meeting. 

    As a parent, teacher, and former school board member, I'd say start with very firmly making a concrete request, such as having a different teacher assigned to next year's fifth grade class. Then encourage the other interested parents to do the same. Having the same teacher that many years apart would be unusual in any case and not necessarily good for students' growth even if there weren't past problems. Be as specific as you can in order to convey why the teacher is wrong for your kid(s), especially the second time around. But DO NOT take on the mission of overtly trying to get the teacher fired (though of course, with any justice, your documented negative comments should help make that happen). Frankly, if you get too pushy, the administrators and board are very likely to assume you have a personal grudge rather than an objective judgment, and they might become more protective of the teacher than they would have been otherwise. Sadly, I have seen that happen!!! And there's another aspect that's just basic human psychology: giving the administrators evidence that the teacher sucks (and prodding them them to figure out what to do about it) will be much more effective than telling them how to do their jobs. Objectively speaking, you are an expert on your child and have a right to be heard as such, but you are not likely to actually know what is best for the school or the district, given all the constraints they work under and trade-offs they have to make. 

    Important: to present your request/complaint, you MUST go through the steps or chain of command described in your district's "uniform complaint procedure." Be sure to persist and keep taking the steps, and documenting the results via written follow-up memos. Even when a principal or other official tells you it's all going to be okay, if you're not satisfied you still have the right to move on to the next step. Also, though parents should confer and support each other, they should make requests individually - it is more legitimate that way, since each parent is really only a specialist about their own child. But if and when it gets to the point where a complaint goes to the school board, parents can and should all show up in force, even though they won't be allowed into any "closed session" discussion of personnel matters. 

    In the worst case, if you are stuck with the teacher next year, keep trying, tactfully, to minimize damage. This doesn't necessarily mean being nice; it means being vigilant and persistent in the most professional way you can. In my experience, teachers. like the rest of us, often resist criticism very strongly but then go ahead and make some positive changes, discreetly in order to save face. Remember you don't need to win arguments or be publicly vindicated, you just need to help your child as much as possible. And don't tell your child the teacher is Bad, which will make things much more antagonistic; instead help your child learn to cope with very imperfect people, as sometimes is necessary in life, alas. 

    Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Problem with teacher - principal blowing us off

May 2014

My son is in kindergarten at a highly regarded east bay public school. We were very pleased to learn that our house was in the district for this school rather than the others. Unfortunately our experience with the school has not lived up to its ratings and we are looking for advice on how to handle a situation that has come up.

We have very mixed feelings about our son's teacher. She's close to retirement age and doesn't have much energy or enthusiasm. Our son has problems sitting still and staying focused. We have gotten the impression that she was not interested in trying to keep him focused on his work and instead was just trying to get through the year and make him someone else's problem. We finally requested a meeting with the principal and school psychologist to determine the best way to address the behavior issues and some inappropriate conduct by the teacher.

Two days before the meeting, the principal tried to reschedule it for 2 weeks later. We did not agree to delay addressing the problem for that long but did reschedule the meeting for the next day when the principal said that she would be available. Only the psychologist showed up for the meeting. The principal sent an email afterwards saying that she hadn't seen the email with the final decided-upon time. It sounded like an excuse to us but we let it go.

The psychologist scheduled a follow up meeting at a time that worked for her, the teacher and the principal. I had to take a half day off work to attend but was willing to do it because the time worked for everyone else. The psychologist confirmed the meeting time with the principal the day before. We were all surprised when the principal no-showed for a second time.

I don't know what to do. The lack of respect shown for us, our time, and our son's educational development is appalling. If she had taken a half day off work to attend a meeting with someone who didn't show up, I'm sure that she would be furious. But it was okay in her mind to do that to us. What do we do? I'm not willing to take more time off work in the hopes that this woman will actually treat us with respect and show up for a scheduled meeting. She clearly doesn't want to have the meeting and, at this point, I'm not even sure how much good it would do. Do we write a letter of complaint about this? If so, to whom should it be sent? Will anything change or will our son just be punished? He has six more years left to go at this school and I don't want him to suffer, especially if nothing with the principal will change.

I work in the private sector and people who blow off meetings lose their clients and their jobs. It's hard to accept how rude government employees can be and still keep their jobs, their pensions, their benefits. Going to the office at this school is worse then the DMV. If you have gone through anything like this, I would love your insight. What is our next step? We are in the WCCUSD.
-Is there any accountability?

This is a stressful situation. I am so sorry that you've been disrespected. This kind of thing is super irritating. A couple thoughts for you: First, how much have you talked to the teacher? What kind of specific requests have you made? Have you put them in writing? Principals don't welcome conversations with parents who go straight to the principal without working with the teacher in a meaningful way. It puts the principal in a no-win situation. Second, what do you specifically want the principal to do? He/she is not able to fire a teacher who's been on the job this long without extraordinary circumstances. He/she is unlikely to transfer your kid out of that class because they can't provide that option for every kid whose parents would want that. If you want your kid to have more challenging work, ask the teacher for differentiated homework assignments or reading levels. There is not too much more that she can do for you. As for your comment about her being fired if it were the private sector, you're probably right, but there is a vast world of difference between your job which skims off only those customers from which you can profit versus serving at a public school where you have to address every kid with any profound social deficit/learning disability/incompetent parent/lack of home/lack of food/etc. May you have a good summer & may next year go better. Sympathetic Friend

Your disappointment and frustration is clear, and I certainly can't blame you (we're also in the WCCUSD - Fairmont - and our principal is so responsive she met with us twice before our kid even started there!). BUT my advice is to move past those feelings to get what you need for your child. Nobody is going to apologize to you for your time and aggravation with those missed meetings. Nobody else cares that this is supposed to be a good school but you have had a bad experience. Just keep working with the school psychologist (??!) and teacher to get whatever the next step is - if there's some form the principal needs to sign, ask them to handle it. I'm not sure what else the principal needs to be involved in? - maybe that's why she is avoiding you, because you are asking too much of her. Or maybe there's something really wrong with your kid (reality check) and she doesn't want to be the one to give you the bad news. Who knows. Ask other parents with older kids if they've experienced something similar in any aspect, and listen ''between the lines'' to what other parents, the teacher, and the psychologist are telling you. I concur with your hunch that elevating it at the district level will just tick off the principal and cause bad feelings for years to come (there's always a transfer option within the district). Try to make it less about you and more about getting whatever service(s) your child needs. I know all this is blunt, but if I were in a similar situation I'd want the same (I think!).

Of course there's accountability for principals. You commented that in the private sector there are consequences when people don't do their jobs, and the implication seemed to be that you presumed this wasn't the case in the public sector. But, what would you do if someone you worked with in the private sector blew you off? You'd let their boss or supervisor know. That's what you do here too. Complain to members of the school board and to the Superintendent-- that won't magically fix the situation, but it will put them on notice about this problem principal and perhaps something can be done. Principals of public schools are not kings and queens of their schools-- they are part of a large bureaucracy that has rules and procedures and a chain of authority-- use that to your advantage. --confused by confusion

Yes the principal did not show up and it is challenging to force a meeting with her. And it is frustrating, I imagine, to not be able to do so. What I suggest is focusing on what you can do and on those who are responsive. Focus on working with the school psychologist for the remainder of this year and next. Try to get their help in getting a suitable teacher for. Next year. Consider some outside-of- the-school help for your student.

Don't waste your time on trying to fix your son's teacher, or on trying to complain about the principal. Yes she pissed you off but move on. Keep your mind on what is best for your son and don't focus on how you were disrespected. Maintain your persistant respectful attitude, although in this situation it can be hard.

And please don't paint broad brush generalities about government employees in the process. Everyone is an individual... The teacher, your son, the principal, you ... Each of us.

-One Who Takes Deep Breaths

Teacher's joint emails to me and abusive ex

Dec 2012

I realize this is such a small issue, but it bugs me and I don't know how to say something to my daughter's teacher without revealing too much info or coming across as petty.

My daughter's teacher (4th grade) uses email a lot to communicate with parents. My daughter's father (my ex-boyfriend) and I are both on these email lists. I find this totally fine and appropriate. What I have a problem with is that the two or three times I volunteered for something, the teacher would create a new email to write back with details and a thank you to both the ex- and me. As in ''Thank you to your household for taking care of ...'' or ''here are the dates and times you need to be at school...''

When I volunteer, I only email the teacher without cc'ing the ex. And when I respond to the teacher, I remove my ex from the reply. She has not got the hint. She does know I am remarried and has met my husband, my daughter's stepfather.

I wish I could brush this off, but my relationship with my ex was violent and I still feel uneasy with the thought that he knows what I'm doing and where and when. We are cordial now (communication by email only though as per court order) and I rationally don't have any fears, but it is still that automatic tense reaction I get.

I also am bitter that my ex gets thanks for the volunteer work I do -- not to mention the fact that I can't forward these logistical info emails to my husband because he would really get annoyed since my volunteering requires my husband stepping up to take care of two very young boys at home, and of course my ex does not do any volunteering (or contributing to pvt school tuition because I earn too much, but that's the subject of another mail) Any suggestions? Do i just suck it up? or what do I say to teacher? by email? in person? Note, this problem will not go away in May -- She has the same teacher next year too. trying not to be petty

You have every right to explain this to your daughter's teacher, and I don't think she will be offended at all. Id simply start out saying something nice, like you loving coming and spending time in the room, etc. and then explain your history with you ex and that you don't feel comfortable with him knowing details about where you are. Talking in person is probably best, since I'm sure she gets a million emails a day A former educator

I am not understanding the issue here. It seems easy enough to explain that you are not together with you childs father and that you would appreciate it if she did not send emails to him about your work in the classroom or cc him on communications unless it is specific to discussing your child. You could also tell the teacher that there are tensions in the ongoing relationship and it is very important to you that he not have too much information about what you are doing.

Teachers are not mind readers. They have 20+ students and all of their parents and too much on their plates. Please cut her some slack for not getting the ''hint'' or confusing the familial situation. I am sure it is not intentional. best to state your needs up front

The fact that your ex has a history of violence trumps other considerations. I would think you should briefly explain this to the teacher in person.

Teachers have millions of details to keep straight, and my impression is that they try to draw the line at which-parent- signed-up-for-which-task. They don't know the backstory on every set of parents and probably feel that they need to appear impartial. But given the circumstances, the teacher should respect your request to keep the communication compartmentalized when it comes to your comings and goings. anonymous

You should definitely say something. I would let her know that you and the father do not have a close relationship, and that it is important to you that you are treated as two separate people. Explain that there are sensitive issues around this (no need to go into details) and that while it may seem like a small detail, it's imperative that she please make sure to correspond to you only in terms of what you do with your child and with/at the school. If she continues to do this, I'd talk to the school. There's absolutely no reason that you should be made to feel uncomfortable due to her misunderstanding of your situation. Hope this helps

In my opinion it is not petty. It is totally OK to spell it out to the teacher. She (he?) just is not getting it. It is OK to say, ''The father and I are split, he was violent, he does not volunteer or support my volunteering or contribute financially, my new husband does, school affairs are part of my private life and cc-ing him leaks my private details to him, please take him off the emails.'' Politely, no apology. Totally fine. Maybe this is a young person and she will learn from this, because there are all kinds of families out there and all kinds of situations. - anon

I am a teacher in a private school and I would advise sending an email that said something like ''due to our custody arrangements I would prefer that you only email me and my ex-husband in one email about items that concern both of us and not include my ex-husband on items that concern only me.'' The teacher will likely apologize and follow through. Private schools are generally very conscious of communicating with divorced families appropriately. You don't need to explain your arrangements any further than that. The times I could see you getting an email to both of you are if there are classroom issues, good or bad pertaining to your child or you need to schedule parent conferences. However you could also have separate conferences. Really just do it and don't fret. As a teacher I'd feel slightly embarrassed at my mistake but very glad to be told your preference. a teacher

I would just be extremely forthright about your desires that she not cc your ex, without explaining too much or justifying. Something like: ''I'd really prefer it if you did not cc my ex-husband on emails that I send to you individually, unless it is something he needs to know.'' Period. If she presses for clarification or says anything about needing to communicate with both parents about all things related to your daughter, I would just tell her that you are divorced and that everyone does better when interactions/ exchanges are kept to a bare minimum. anon

hello, I understand you frustration, and I think that you don't need to be worried about communicating your wishes politely to this teacher. It's very hard for teachers to sort out all the complicated family situations and she's probably had other co-parent ex pairs who both want to be on every email. it would be nice if she'd noticed your subtle hints, but she hasn't . So just let her know what you want. I'd start with an appreciation for all she does-- ''I very much appreciate all the time you put into setting you parent volunteers and communicating with parents. I wanted to let you now that since Bill and I live separately, I'd rather that you reply only to me when setting up class volunteering time. Thank you so much!''

All the private baggage and worries that you have are very relevant to you, but not to this teacher. This is an emotional thing for you, but not for her. I bet she will respect your request without any trouble. If not, then you DO have an issues. but as of now, I think you just need to communicate with her! Just let her know

I'm not a teacher, but I don't think this has to be a big problem. I would guess that most teachers would want to know this information. I would just remind the teacher that you and your ex live apart and make separate decisions. Tell her that you communicate only by email per court order (that should be pretty illustrative of the situation) and that it's probably not a good idea because ot past violence that he knows this much detail about you, so could she please not cc him on emails to you specifically. I imagine that it is hard for teachers to keep track of the many varieties of co-parenting relationships that go on in a given classroom. For every parent who is bothered by the ex being cc'd, there is probably another parent who is bothered by the ex not being included. Nonetheless, my impression is that mostly teachers want to know as many specifics as are relevant regarding the family situation, and are willing to do their best to accommodate with respect to parent communication. (Especially given that you will have this teacher for a 2nd year.) Just lay it out for her

How about a simple email that says, ''Thanks so much for wanting to include my daughter's father in our communication, however, you don't need to copy him in emails between you and I. He is on the main list and is able to keep up with class news that way, but he doesn't need to be included when we're arranging times for me to be in the room or if you're thanking me for it. Thanks for understanding!!'' That's it! Congrats on moving on from him:) short and sweet

Just tell the teacher. You are just one of many co-parenting families. Tell her you live separately and you'd prefer that her replies go only to you, and she will probably say ''thanks for letting me know.'' also have an ex

Tell the teacher what's going on. She has no idea that your ex was violent and that you don't want him to know the details of your schedule. Telling her is not being petty, it's giving her the information that she needs to do her job properly. You're irritated with her when she has no idea at all that she is doing anything wrong.

I would not say anything about the group thank you. that does make you look petty. And this situation will correct itself when she stops adding your ex to the emails.

I'm pretty surprised that you've allowed this situation to go on for so long instead of just letting her know about the safety concerns. Communication is good

As an elementary school teacher of 11 years, please trust me when I say we've ''heard and seen it all.'' I don't mean to be blunt, but it's true. Every year there are many students who are either going through divorce (or separation), recently went through divorce or come from homes where the guardians at home are not their birth parents. I'm surprised your child's teacher is CCing your ex, but all you need to email is ''Please stop CCing my ex.'' You don't need to even give an explanation. You can put it as a ''PS'' at the end of an email or preface it with ''This is a little awkward for me, but...'' if you want to cushion it. If your child's teacher has any sense at all, she won't take it personally or press the matter. It's really not a big deal. heard it all

Hey (not so) petty, I dont think its all that petty, really. yes, not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things, but I can relate to that tense feeling when the ex is involved. i also don't think you should worry about talking to the teacher at all. Whats the big deal? just go to him/her and explain. ''If you have something to say that involves both my childs parents, please email us both. if you didn't see/hear/talk to my child's father, please assume he wasn't involved and don't email him.'' there is nothing wrong with explaining that you feel uneasy, you don't need to trash talk to do that. Also, if you haven't talked to the teacher at all, dont assume they've put it together what the situation is. They have a lot of students and a lot of living situations to remember, so they may actually think one person is the other. Just speak up, i think you're overthinking it! peace in the Holiday Season!! another fearful coparent

hi there, That is really tough, I'm sorry! Maybe your husband is right. Maybe you have a bit of jealousy too? Either way, she's being rude and hurtful. i think you should stop letting her hurt you and tell her whats up. Simply say ''I know we have different feelings on how to raise kids, and you don't agree with mine, but it hurts my feelings that you don't respect my choices for my family. can you please keep those comments to yourself?'' its hard to have people voice their opinions of your life, especially if you are not 100% thrilled with it yourself. But there is a great quote, that's been made into a bumper sticker. Think about getting one! It says ''In 100 years it won't matter what kind of car you drove or how big your house was, but it will matter how you raised your kids.'' I suggest you empower yourself on your choice to raise your kids, not disempower her on her choices, lift your chin and raise your kids with pride. They're your kids and no one else's, so who cares what they think? Also not making bank, but love my time with my kids!!

So long as you don't try to embroil the teacher in your family's issues/problems, there is nothing wrong with letting her know that you would prefer that she communicate separately with you regarding volunteer hours. You can explain as much or as little as you like. If she doesn't understand what the issue is, you could explain a little more if you're comfortable sharing. Sounds to me that you would not be requesting that ex be dropped from class email list (that would not be appropriate) but rather that email conversations between you and the teacher stay between the two of you. Sounds quite reasonable to me. Erin

Being direct is best. Simply email teacher and ask that she not reply to your ex-husband when it only pertains to you, he is in a different household. Its not petty, its direct, explicit communication. There need be no judgement or emotion... its simply the way things are. teacher

I think this calls for a short, honest, in-person conversation with the teacher, to communicate the following:

- Your child is in two households. The households communicate, but are separate.

- You really appreciate her trying to keep everyone in the loop, but you feel uncomfortable with your ex having information about when and where you'll be. (If it feels appropriate, you could mention that you've had safety concerns about him in the past. This might help her to understand why this is important to you.)

- In the future, you'd like for her to respond only to you when you email her.

Chances are, the teacher is well-meaning and is trying to be inclusive in her responses (and not just fall into the default ''mom is the sole contact'' which is still so common in schools). Filling her in on the situation will probably get the response you are looking for. If you continue to have problems after one or two conversations with her, you can take it to her boss (principal) to express your concern. This is a safety issue for you and it's worth advocating for yourself. Therapist/ mama

It sounds like you should just say something to the teacher it whatever way makes you comfortable. For example, ''I don't want to go into details but it makes me very uncomfortable when you copy my ex on emails. I don't mean to cause offense, but please stop doing that.'' anon

I get your point. I am both a co-parent and a teacher. My problem is slightly different: it drives me nuts that my ex seems to try to pass us off as still married (writes to teachers with the ''we'' pronoun, as though both of us are writing, doesn't correct teachers when they think we live together, doesn't share stuff from school with me when it only arrives at his place, etc.). So I step up and remind the teachers that we are divorced, that we have separate homes, addresses, etc. It is important for us to keep in mind that teachers are very busy, and that they have a big communication load, so you don't want to create extra work. But it sounds as if the teacher has gone to extra trouble in a misguided attempt to always address both parents. In your case, I would be very straight with the teacher and say, ''when I write to you individually about my child, or when I have done something as an individual in your classroom, I would like to ask you to refrain from including my ex-husband in your response. He needs to be given notifications about things he needs to take care of, but he doesn't need to know my personal business.'' Sometimes people have notions about divorce that stem from ideological, cultural, and religious positions that can cause them to disrespect the privacy of divorced parents, and they should be called on it, especially when there is a past of abuse. another co-parent

I don't think there's anything wrong about telling your child's teacher some of what you said here on BPN. Leave it non-specific if you want and just say that you have very limited contact with your child's father and that the notes should really be coming to just you for school help etc. There's no way for her to know it bothers you unless you tell her nicely that you would appreciate the email strings going to you only. The non-specific stuff can still go to you both if you are ok with it. Good Luck! sympathetic single mom

This seems like an administrative ''housekeeping'' kind of issue - you should not be concerned about explaining the situation to the teacher so that emails are directed to the appropriate person. It sounds like you need to clarify who is part of your household and who these emails should go to, and that is really it. Not petty, just housekeeping.

I don't think you're being petty at all. It's an understandably tricky situation. As a former teacher- and the wife of a teacher- I know that I would often do the best I could in terms of communicating openly and respectfully with children's families. But I definitely made mistakes. I found it so helpful when parents would tell me directly about any specific circumstances or needs for their kids and family so that I could adjust my approach accordingly. My guess is that the teacher will be very receptive to you sending a quick note that says ''Thanks for the ongoing communication. In the future, please leave my ex off of any correspondence between the two of us (you could add an ''unless''...if there's a situation where you think it would be appropriate to include both of you).'' My feeling is the more communication and honesty you can have with teachers, the better- they're so busy and trying to do their best, so if they hear specific needs from families, they're likely to really appreciate it. Good luck! former teacher

Hi, As teachers, we are expected to communicate all info with both parents, particularly in a two household family. It keeps all communication even, and each parent knows exactly what is happening. I'm not sure the teacher has much choice. A meeting with the teacher and an administrator may help clarify the situation - the school may have legal requirements for always contacting both parents. Sorry this is difficult for you - set up a meeting, it's the best next step. 5th Grade Teacher

First off the teacher is most likely unsure and nervous she will upset one of you if she made assumptions. Or she is not experienced in diverse family structures.

I am a long time teacher and have encountered many families with complex structures. It can be very confusing for teachers unless you are very direct. This year alone it took me until October early November to know about ''no release to'' and that a mother was gone 6 mos out of the year. It is best to tell the teacher all the reasons you want things clear and then email her and the administrator to keep it above board. Be clear, firm and matter of fact. teacher

Be direct and assertive. Removing someone from a cc could just be seen as a mistake in replying. Reply back and at the end, write, ''Please do not cc my ex-husband on any email correspondence you have with just me.'' No need to explain why. Repeat until she remembers not to do it. frequent emailer

Kindergarten teacher brings his boyfriend to class

Oct 2012

Hello BPN-

My child's kindergarten teacher recently brought his boyfriend to class to introduce him to the students. When I heard about it, the first thing that came to mind was ''What is the educational value of the teacher introducing his boyfriend to 4, 5, and 6 year old students?'' Is there a message/value in this on homosexuality?

None of my teachers- gay or straight did this when I grew up, and none of my older child's teachers- gay or straight ever did this either. No other teacher I or my children have ever had have brought in their spouse/significant other/partner, etc. Am I overreacting to think this is unprofessional or inappropriate?

The teacher has been GREAT for the first few weeks of school, but my expectation is that teachers keep their personal lives out of the classroom. Is this too much to expect?

Am I missing something?

You ask, ''What is the educational value of the teacher introducing his boyfriend to 4, 5, and 6 year old students?'' I am the parent of a five year old, and I would be thrilled if my son's kindergarten teacher did this. Kindergartners tend to look up to their teachers. The fact that your child's teacher has a same sex partner will help normalize same sex relationships for your child, against the life long sea of homophobia in which we all swim. Not everyone has LGBTQ family and friends who can help give this message to their children. The ''educational value'' is one of teaching your child about love, freedom, and equality. There is nothing more important than that. I wish I was so lucky

Yes, the teacher probably introduced his BF to the class to teach them about different families. Personally, I think this is a valuable message for kindergarteners to get. I would let it go. As the year goes on, you'll see if the teacher is a total over-sharer, ie: using a lot of class time to air personal business - that I would say something about. But I think getting upset about a one-time thing that, quite frankly, straight people take for granted is just going to make you come off as homophobic and is a bad way to start the school year.

I guess it would depend on why the boyfriend was there. I'm a teacher and I've certainly had co-workers whose spouses where known to the students because they came to help with projects or events at the school. No one ever objected that introducing the person as ''Mrs. W's husband'' was inappropriate. (Why would you?) I'm gay and my spouse has come to school on many occasions to help with events or the work of setting up the classroom. I always introduced her as my ''friend'' (although I'm sure the parents knew who she was - but it was unspoken). But that was definitely a double standard because I was gay. I never liked that double standard, particularly. But that's how it was.

If the teacher just brought his boyfriend in specifically to introduce him to the students, then that would be odd. But if he was there for a specific purpose and the teacher was introducing the visitor in the room, do you still object? Would you have the same objection if it had been his wife? A gay teacher

My kids aren't too far from kindergarten. One of the elements of kindergarten was getting to know one another, including learning about one another's families. It would seem quite fitting that the teacher would include his boyfriend/partner/husband. (I'm not clear if ''boyfriend'' is the word that the teacher used or you are choosing to use. ) Some of it is also teacher preference: one of my sons had a teacher who brought her husband to school. My other son's kindergarten teacher was silent on any part of her personal life.

You raised the question about kids learning about homosexuality. Which sounds a little like the fear that people express ''I don't want to have to tell my kindergartener about gay sex.'' Having GLBT teachers -- or GLBT parents of kids in your class -- doesn't require you to delve into adult-level conversation about sex. That is often the adult fear that is unmoored from reality. Kindergarteners want to know what someone's family looks like: who goes with who? So this sounds like an opportunity to share with her that there are many ways to be in a family. (Side note: I suggest buying a copy of ''It's So Amazing'' so that you feel prepared to talk to your kids about age-appropriate sexuality; she is going to learn a lot on the playground earlier than you might think and most of it is incorrect.)

There is a good chance that one or more of your daughter's classmates will discover (if they haven't already) that they are wired to have crushes and love someone of their own gender. What's great about your daughter's kindergarten teacher introducing his family to the class is that for those kids, they get to see -- early on -- a family that looks like one they might be a part of of when they're adults. This is good. On our BUSD elementary school yard my kids hear -- I have heard -- as young as 1st graders teasing about kids being ''gay.'' ''Your mothers are gay.'' etc. It matters -- and it's normal -- to have out teachers and families share their families. Rachel A

When I was in first grade back in '70-'71, (going to a catholic school) my 'white' teacher brought in her fiance to class. He came dressed in full American Indian attire. He even had a head dress on. I was facinated because he was the first full American Indian I had ever met in my life and probably still to this day. I can't remember what he talked about but I do remember that she looked at him with love in her eyes and they hugged when he left. This never happened again in my school career and the memory is a positive one.

When I think back on the experience I think maybe the teacher was introducing us to 'Inter-racial' relationships. Maybe your child's teacher was doing the same thing... only this time it's about same-sex relationships. I don't think this is bad way to expose children these types of topics. I also remember this teach fondly because she was the one who taught me how to read. So, hopefully your child's teacher will have a such a positive impact as my teacher had on me. exposed early on

My best friend is a Kindergarden teacher in Oakland. She often brings either me or her mother or another friend to class when we're available. It's helpful for her and the kids love the change for the day. I think you should focus less on the ''boyfriend'' aspect and more on the friend aspect. In my experience it's a pleasure for the teacher and kids to have an extra hand sometimes and an advantage. I would be grateful for the extra help in the classroom and not critical just because it's a boyfriend. It is normal to bring in help when available for kindergarden teachers. Allison

It depends...was the boyfriend just dropping off his forgotten lunch, or something like that, or was it an actual presentation of the boyfriend, as ''the boyfriend''? Or was it part of an activity or lesson? Did the boyfriend have a career or skill relevant to something the kids were learning? Firefighter, doctor, artist, or whatever? If it was a learning experience or casual happenstance and the kids said, ''Who's that?''--no big deal. If it was JUST a social visit, I'd think that was a bit strange, regardless of gender. heidi

I think that it would be inappropriate for any kindergarten teacher, of any sexual orientation, to bring their partner to class for the sole purpose of introduction. I MIGHT think differently if the partner had some area of expertise that would be interesting to the students, and the teacher brought the partner so he/she could tell the class about the area of interest -- but even then would expect that they be introduced by their name, not as the teacher's boyfriend/girlfriend. I am not sure if I would want to talk to the teacher about it, or whether I would go to the principal. But this is definitely not appropriate. Karen

My perspective is that teachers these days share a lot more of their personal lives with their students than they did when I was growing up. Two of my kid's (straight) teachers did this to an extent I thought was bizarre (I actually wondered whether they had friends they could talk to about their personal lives or if their students were their only audience). I didn't like it; it seemed unprofessional as well as time-wasting, but I knew I would get nowhere by complaining about it. I'd save your energy for the undoubtedly worse things you'll experience as your child progresses through school.

And I guess I think it's actually better -- meaning that there is some value in it - that the male teacher was introducing his gay partner. Maybe there are kids in the class with two dads, and it is helpful for them to see another family configured the way theirs is. Not like in my case a a female teacher talking about her boyfriends, which no one needs or wants to hear about it! My two cents.

I don't necessarily think this is unusual. I think you should really question whether you would feel the same way if the teacher's partner were female. I'm not saying that a teacher's family should be around often but if the kids are sharing about who is in their family, I don't think it is inappropriate for the teacher to do the same. teachers are people too

It really sounds like you're bothered by this because it's a gay relationship. Whether or not other teachers have done this before, I don't imagine you'd be upset, or care in the least, or write in for advice, if the teacher brought in his girlfriend. So if you're having a reaction to your child seeing the teacher's gay relationship, then maybe you should confront what is going on with that in yourself. -- If It's Ok To Be Gay, Then It's Ok for Kindergarteners

Last year my daughter's first-grade teacher was getting married and she brought her fiance in to school a bunch of times. My daughter knew the whole story of how they met, how their dogs got along, etc. and loved to tell me how the wedding plans were coming. Then, her teacher invited the whole class to the church for the wedding. My daughter's kindergarten teacher the year before likewise talked about her husband and the kids were thrilled to meet him at their house when she had the class over for breakfast-- it was even more thrilling when he had to leave with sirens blaring when he, as a member of the volunteer fire dept, received an emergency call in the middle of the visit. I think my daughter has been enriched from learning about the home life of her teachers and it seems both common and nice to me. -teachers are people too

It isn't uncommon for teachers to introduce long-term partners or spouses to their students, either in person or in stories. One way that teachers connect to students is by talking about their own families, which often includes A LOT of talking about pets (really, A LOT), and some talking about spouses or partners and children.

Every teacher uses his or her best judgment here (most wait until they are engaged or are in an otherwise committed relationship so they don't have to deal with any awkwardness if the relationship ends), and some teachers don't share any of this. In my experience, these introductions are usually very quick (your husband has to drop something off for you so you have him say a quick hello to the kids), or in the context of sharing news about your weekend when the kids are talking about their own weekends.

Introducing a same-sex partner, though, is inherently also a political act because of the stigma related to it. Is that what you find uncomfortable?

But just to answer the question that you asked: it depends on the context and how it was done, but yes, plenty of normal and professional teachers have introduced significant others (briefly) to their students. Anonymous Teacher

I wouldn't read too much into this, I don't think. I teach high school, and I'm straight, so it's a little different from your situation, but every year at least one of my classes really wants to meet my husband. When a teacher has a good relationship with their students, the students will inevitably want to find out more about his or her life, family, etc. It's a good thing for teachers and students to see each other as real live human beings! That said, whenever my husband and kids have stopped by, it's generally at lunchtime or at the end of the day so as not to cut into class time (and because he is at work). If he had something relevant to share/ present to the class about careers or something, that would be considered perfectly acceptable by most in the profession, though. That's high school, though; I would imagine that kindergarten class time is more flexible and could fit in time for a friendly visitor(checked in at the front office, of course). This doesn't seem like something to worry about. Students are nosy when they love their teacher

I really don't think its anyone's business who someone sees in their private live. But bringing that person to a kindergarten class is absolutely and completely unheard off and so inappropriate there aren't even words for. Unless he's a firefighter or heart surgeon who has been finger printed and cleared off by the school's office and approved to be introduced to the kids by the parents -- but it doesn't sound like that. Its not you, its absolutely infuriating, inappropriate, and a huge breech of the trust that a parent needs to have in the person taking care of their children. And its mind boggling why the teacher thought this would be ok -- especially in the Bay Area where any kind of crime is so much higher than anywhere else. anon

One other thought after reading other responses. I can remember recess conversations from my own childhood about how ''Ms. X'' is gay. I don't remember getting much context on it and I didn't know what to think except that it must be shameful b/c it was secret & not discussed except on the playground. As a teacher, I'd rather put the information out there myself directly rather than have rumors swirling. If I remember back, I would think it would have been helpful if my parents had given me a little bit of context on what it meant. something simple like mommy & daddy love each other and teacher Y & partner love each other... and that's ok. but that part is up to you. anon

Well, I would be surprised if even a straight teacher brought in their boyfriend or girlfriend to the class. As a child, I only remember one partner coming in, and that was on a field trip, and he was our teacher's fiance, and that was in our sixth grade class. So, to me it is a little strange to bring in a boyfriend or girlfriend, before engagement. However, another poster responded that this gay partner could help a child whose own family consists of gay parents feel more included and normalized. This is the only positive, and it's a big one, that I would consider. I think that perhaps the reason you were pushed out of shape is because it looks like the teacher did it to prove a point, and he very well may have. We don't know the context of why the boyfriend was there.

Sometimes I find myself annoyed with all of the new LGBT characters on TV, because it does feel like the issue is being rammed down our throats by the media. I know and love a gay couple, and maybe it's because I live in the Bay Area that to me it's a no brainer, and not something that has to be talked about constantly. It seems like on tv shows, at least a quarter of the characters are gay nowadays, but in real life that percentage is not there, so it is overkill, IMO. I would be annoyed if I saw any group over represented in the media, not just gays, and in fact I am always annoyed that blacks and mexicans are so under represented on shows. I just share my little peeves here so that you can see that there may be something else bothering you about this situation, so be honest with yourself. Maybe you are annoyed that teacher pulled a political move. Well, remember the little kid that that might have helped. fellow annoyed mama

I felt I had to respond. I am very upset by the way this issue is being portrayed. My daughter's K teacher brought her boyfriend/fiance and then husband to class. He was a kind person who occasionally helped out in class and on field trips. We had no problem nor would we have if her partner was female or if her teacher were a gay man. I love that my child is exposed and included in the lives of all kinds of families. It is even part of the curriculum at our elementary. This is what makes whole, inclusive compassionate citizens and communities! It seems that if this teacher had a hetrosexual relationship rather than same sex, there would be no problem here for anyone. . Love All Kinds of Families!

Mediocre Kindergarten teacher

Oct 2012

My daughter is in a K class with a mediocre teacher. The context is challenging, a 70% low income school, with many English language learners, class size of 28, for many families this is the first school experience. The K program has been in flux.

But, we have mostly had a positive experience at this school, my now 3d graders have gotten some of the best teachers in the school. (We also had a great preschool experience, co-op.)

The teacher is older and has a lot of experience. But from my interactions with the teacher, and from volunteering in class one day a week, it seems that only the most basic curriculum is being presented, the information and skills that just cover the district benchmarks. His style is very minimalist. There is no sharing. There have been no art projects, most of the teaching is via worksheets. There is a lot of worksheet homework about 13 pages/wk. He doesn't seem to be aware of the kid to kid social interactions. And the kids yell out answers during circle (too loud for her).

There are 2 things my she loves. The teacher has them sing a couple of songs each day. Also, the kids divide up by English language experience about 20 minutes per day. My daughter gets to be with the other teacher for this. This is my girls' favorite part of K; she loves learning the new challenging vocab words. Unfortunately in January the groups will switch classrooms and my daughter will have language with her regular teacher.

Other positives: teacher isn't a yeller and the class isn't overly wild. The teacher has also been receptive to my concerns about my daughter's small motor skills and is facilitating her getting some assistance.

Any advice? Should I try to switch teachers? There are 2 choices. One is the teacher my girl has for vocabulary. She would still interact w/her old teacher and class on the yard and for language next year. The other class is combined K-1, with a teacher who has been at the school for awhile.

Is it worth a potentially difficult transition? My daughter seems o.k. with school and has made a few friends. She does act out a lot more in the afternoons than before and my guess is that it's in response to her day.

Please don't suggest that we switch schools. For a variety of reasons that is not possible. We do some other activities in addition to school and try to play a lot on the weekends. Thank you. anon

I have to clarify something for all of the BPN readers who write in about teachers they don't like. You cannot just ''switch'' teachers. If there is something MAJOR going on with the teacher.. you can have a meeting with said teacher, admin, etc.. and advocate for you child and possibly find someone else suitable. But really, if you just have a ''mediocre'' teacher and don't like her, you can't just switch.Parents don't really have that kind of input, leave the running of the school to the school personnel. the good thing is, she'll have plenty of opportunities to have many other teachers. She'll be in school for a loooong time! teacher (not a mediocre one)

I think you should relax about this one and let it pass. Not every teacher, every year is going to be great. What do you remember about kindergarten? Read, read, read at home. Have dinner together and listen to your child. Ann

Algebra teacher with heavy accent

Sept 2012

Hello BPNers,

A touchy subject.

My daughter has been placed in a math class with a teacher who is new to her middle school. The trouble is that he is from another country and has a very (very) heavy accent that my daughter cannot understand. He speaks to the board and it is nearly impossible to comprehend what he is saying (I thought she may have been exaggerating until I went to back to school night and observed this myself). Many other parents were left wondering how on earth this guy got the job--and none of us know what to do.

My kid is math-anxious and has reading difficulties to boot. I have asked for a transfer to another math class (as there are some, and during the same time period), but the Vice Principal says that is not possible and says she just needs to ''work harder.'' My daughter is now spending all her time trying to learn the math (and is failing, with 1's on her quizzes), and is no longer spending much-needed time on her reading.

What recourse do I have? I have a meeting with the Principal tomorrow, but failing that, is there anything I can do? I do not have enough money to put her in a private math class or private school. Tutoring is very expensive. My child is so discouraged and sad about this, as we made so much progress last year. We really need help--advice, please? Please do not say that she should just ''get used to it'', as it is a severe problem and is not just going away with time. Not Xenophobic but wants her child to learn math

Have you tried the free online resource Khan Academy? It covers arithmetic through calculus. The tutorials are clear and brilliant and, best part, can we watched over and over again. Bless the guy behind this organization. Wish he had been around (along with the Internet) when I was going to school. Kari

It sounds like the school thinks this is not a problem. Given that, and this will be hard for the kids because no kid likes to speak up and ask the teacher to repeat, the parents should encourage the kids to let the teacher know when they don't understand. ''Excuse me, could you repeat that?'' The teacher needs to know the kids don't understand. When I taught English as a second language, I tried to write a lot of what I was saying on the board to help the students. Maybe the kids could ask him to write what he just said on the board. If all the parents have their children do this in a very polite way, it will let the teacher know how much is not getting through. Also, the principal should sit in on a class and participate in a class discussion to get a feel for what the situation is. Good luck. The teacher might be glad to know when the kids don't understand

I don't have specific words of advice for you - but want to sympathize as I too have those ears that just can't parse some accents. I understand your DD's struggles and continue with them to this day. I hope you can get her moved. no tones ear

When our son began middle school he came home every day complaining about his math teacher - saying she was crazy and that the classroom was dangerous (stacked boxes, a ladder that fell over on a student), I thought it was adjusting to so many teachers after the one teacher experience in K-6 grade. Then I went to back to school nite. She was nuts. And the room was filled with boxes stacked 10 foot high (hence the need for the ladder) - and in a school on a fault line! There were a group of us in that room that nite who knew each other from grammar school - we all met in the hall and we all went to school the next morning and waited patiently until we were able to meet with the principal - there were 7 of us. Our children were all moved out of that class to another within the week. So definetly meet with the principal and if you can, gather as many other parents as you can and demand a change. Math has so many issues and if you cannot understand the instructor its as if not having one. Good Luck been there

There are many resources available online that are useful in explaining math concepts. For example, if you google ''quadratic formula'', you'll find a lot of short instructional videos featuring a person explaining the concept and sample problems to walk through. The great thing about videos is, if you don't ''get'' it the first time viewing, you can watch it over and over again, or try another video, until you get it.

Often, the math textbook publisher will have an website that you can go to, to get supplementary materials for the chapters in the textbook. Last year, my middle school-age son and I viewed a lot of these videos together at home, since he wasn't ''getting'' the concepts when they were introduced in class. Wish the internet existed when I was a middle school math student

We had a similar experience with our daughter and a high school math teacher a few years back. Like in your case other parents were up in arms about the situation and wanted the teacher removed. Many students were complaining. The administration had a talk with the teacher emphasizing the importance of speaking slowly to the class not the blackboard. I advised our daughter to get re-seated to the front row away from the window and any noise. Kids are resilient, they adapt to situations, and that is what happened. Somehow the kids listened harder, the teacher tried harder and the grades went up and before too long all was well-or good enough to finish the year. Maybe the same teacher transferred to your school??? anon

I never been in your situation as a parent (my child is still a toddler), but I wanted to write and say that I feel for you and think this situation is completely unfair to your child (and the other kids in the class). I myself am an immigrant and have a slight accent, so I feel for the teacher and of course don't think that immigrants should not be able to get teaching jobs. But if the teacher is unable to make himself understood by the students and teach effectively than he should not be teaching. Especially not in middle school, where the children still need a good teacher to explain the material and help them love the subject. I had some Teaching Assistants in college with heavy accents and honestly I just never went to the lectures and just taught myself - but this of course is not an option in middle school. I think you should definitely complain and pursue this until you are heard.

If the other students understand the teacher than a solution could just be to move your daughter to another class. Though likely if your daughter and even you have a hard time understanding the teacher, likely the other students do as well. Did you talk to the other parents? Maybe if you joined together and talked to the principle it won't be seen as just your daughter's problem, but the teacher's problem that needs to be addressed asap. I think if the principle ignores you, you should consider going to the school board, or maybe talk to someone in the school district. If I was in your shoes I would of course hate for the teacher to get fired, but my child's education comes first and if the teacher cannot teach effectively or even be understood by his students he should be replaced with someone else who can.

I wish you the best of luck in getting this resolved. anon

I'm sorry to hear this is happening. I've coached people from 81 countries and native American English speakers, both of whom are learning to work effectively together in educational institutions, companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations.

The instructor is probably anxious himself, this being his first semester at your daughter's school. On a cultural note, If the teacher is from Asia or Eastern Europe, more formal respect from students is highly regarded.

First, manage your own worries around your concerns for your daughter, as you don't want to heighten her anxiety with yours.

You can coach your daughter on how to interact with the teacher. Remember a time when she displayed courage. Remind her how courageous she was in that situation. Ask her in a gentle tone of voice to remember that time and how it felt to be so brace. Then tell her the teacher may be feeling nervous too because it's his first semester in front of her and all her classmates! Then suggest she go up to the teacher after class and say, ''Mr. XYZ, thanks for coming to my school to teach us. I want to learn math well with your help. Kids like teachers we can connect with. After you write something on the board, would you please turn and face us when you are speaking? I'd like to see your smiling face as I'm learning math! Thanks!''

Remember, principals are under the gun to be better leaders and help their teachers get the school scores up (this is another topic which I won't go into here!). Teachers often feel unhappy about teaching to test. New teachers often feel anxious when faced with a room full of bright-eyed, active youth! Combine that with being an immigrant teacher, and the anxiety level for the teacher can skyrocket.

If your daughter's efforts don't yield positive change, get together with other parents who share the same concerns and approach the principal together. Go in the spirit of helping everyone--student, teacher and principal--be successful. Rather than criticizing the instructor or the principal, tell the principal you all want to work with the administration and teachers so everyone has a great experience at the school. Try acknowledging that the district hired the instructor for his math knowledge, and ask if you can offer a suggestion. Then ask the principal to recommend to the teacher that he face the students when speaking. She may not have good coaching skills, but you can gently coach her to be effective in her interactions with the instructor and you.

I hope this is helpful. All the best! Barbara

My 25yo son just dropped a math class at Berkeley City College for the exact same reason. His teacher has a heavy accent, and spoke to the blackboard, not to the class. Maybe it's the same teacher! My son is highly motivated -- has recently developed a love of math and has gone back to school and surprised himself with his ability to get As in math. But he was having trouble understanding the material in this class because of the teacher's accent and his habit of keeping his back to the class, despite my son sitting on the front row, and asking lots of questions. He said the teacher is ''a really nice guy but he can't teach.'' So after working really hard for a month, he finally gave up and withdrew from the class and will re-take it next semester with a different teacher.

My advice is to speak with the teacher and then the principal, and if things don't improve within a week or two, try to get transferred to a different class. If that doesn't work, I'd take my kid out of the class and do the math on the Kahn Academy website. One bad math teacher can ruin all math for a teenager and you don't want that to happen! a mom

My heart goes out to your daughter, especially because something very similar happened to me when I was in the 9th grade. I am now a public school teacher and am not sure how much recourse you will have...but I did want to suggest that perhaps time could be set aside every night for you (or another adult in your family if there is one) to go over the math with her. I realize that this may be a big time burden for your family, but it may be the best way to make sure that she's learning the content. She should also be using all of her available resources at the school (math tutoring if it's offered after or before school, etc.) . Good luck!! wishing you the very best

Disappointed in daughter's teacher this year

Sept 2012

My daughter is in a lovely public school. We have really enjoyed our time at this school--our daughter has made great friends (and so have we), there are terrific enrichment opportunities, the parents are deeply committed and involved in the school, and she has had wonderful teachers thus far.

This is the first year I am not wild about my daughter's teacher, and my daughter isn't very fond of her either. She seems to have a quick temper, yells quite a bit (my daughter has come home in tears over this) and doesn't seem to be all that interested in teaching. She shows a lot of movies, doesn't give very meaningful or challenging assignments, seems most concerned with keeping order among the 30 kids. I sympathize with her challenge--30 kids is a big class and I imagine it must be tough. There are many parent volunteers and a part time aide, so I think she's got some support. Today my daughter said, ''It's too bad we are stuck with Ms. X all year.'' This is a kid who loves school, does well and behaves well--to hear that was pretty disappointing. She's never spoken this way about a teacher and generally tries to see the best in everyone.

I know we both will not like every teacher she has and there's probably some value in making the best of this situation. But, I've got to say, it really stinks. We've considered moving her to private school for other reasons (smaller class size, more hands-on, progressive curriculum, no testing) but we like many things about the school and for financial reasons, it would be ideal to keep her in public until middle school. And I know there are less than ideal teachers in every situation. But I am concerned that this teacher's methods will somehow diminish my child's enthusiasm for school and make this a disappointing year for my daughter. If anyone has advice on getting through a year with a not-so-great teacher, please let me know. hoping for a good year

I wouldn't go as far as going to a private school yet. ALL schools (private included) will have less-than-great teachers; most will have teachers that are bad for your child. You have two choices if you stay where you are. 1) if you feel your child is still doing OK, and you think that the teachers in the next grade are good (ask around), you can teach your child to empathize with the teacher (she haas a really hard job, she's probably just tired), and you can teach her that some years will be good, and some less good. (BTW, this will become completely unavoidable in middle school). 2) If you feel that this is significantly impacting your child's learning, and her feeling for school overall (i.e she starts to ''hate'' school in general), you can request that your child be moved to a different classroom. Be absolutely sure you want to play this card though, as you usually only get to do it once in any given school.

Keep in mind that, even in private schools, there will usually be at least one teacher who just does not mesh at all with your child. In fact, one of the reasons that I decided against several of the private schools that I was considering, was that there was only one teacher per grade. If that teacher didn't work for my child, we were stuck and might have to move schools. At least at most public schools there's a choice. Karen

Dear Disappointed I empathize with you and I'm so sorry you've got a bad teacher this year. You didn't say what grade your daughter is in, though it's clearly elementary school. I'll share with you that in 4th grade my son had a disappointing teacher, and school really started to be a drag for him. It broke my heart, because for him it's critical that he connect with his teacher (as he had every year, and especially in 3rd grade) and having him dread going to school was an emotional drain on both of us. She was not a bad person, or even a bad teacher, but definitely not the right match for him. So I tried to volunteer in the classroom whenever I could, to get a better handle on what was going on there. I talked to the teacher about the issues he was having (that's when the mismatch became even more clear, unfortunately) and I tried to be empathetic but positive with my son. You're right, as you say in your email, that everyone has years like this (and even in private school - my daughter in a different school that was private had a horrible 3rd grade teacher, but now that she's in high school, she doesn't even remember her!) My son was old enough to hear this message. We'd go over all the good teachers he'd had over the years, and the fact that sometimes you don't get the greatest teacher, but you still have to do your best. If you feel like she's missing out on curriculum, maybe you can supplement? It's super hard for a parent, though, to see this happen to your child. If you have a supportive principal (we didn't) you could mention your concerns (in a fair and balanced way of course) and that might have some impact down the line. If it's really a question of a bad match maybe you can switch classrooms - though that is unusual. Sorry I don't have more of a magic bullet, but it's an unfortunate part of the process. We were very happy when the school year ended. Been there.

Student's recording of foul-mouthed substitute teacher

April 2012

Need advice My daughter is at Lamorinda Intermediate School. A substitute teacher was using foul language and threatening the students. One of the students recoded what the teacher was saying. What was said was repeated in every class throughout the day. (I've heard the recording, the language and threats are not appropriate.)

The student forwarded the recording to a dozen other students. News of the recording made its way back to the principal. Next day the principal summoned all of the students who had the recording to his office. He stated it was against school rules to use a phone in class and under California Educational Code 51512 they committed a misdemeanor making a recording. (Not true, it's only a crime if a non-student makes the recording. A student is subject to appropriate disciplinary action.)

The twelve students were all summoned one by one to the principal's office and told (threatened) if they would show (on their phone) who they forwarded the message to, AND would delete the recoding from the phone while he watched the police would not be called. The principal has banned from the school. But my concern is the message/lesson this taught my daughter about her rights and being told to do something she thinks was wrong or illegal by someone in authority.

Questions. The principal obviously knows the law, he cited it. What he didn't do was cite it accurately misleading the students into believing they had committed a crime. (They had not.) I feel this was poor judgment and now that these students know an authority figured lied to them are less likely to trust authority figures in the future. I believe an apology to the students is in order. (If the student had lied the OIS Student code of conduct would require this of a student.)

I have contacted the district superintendent. His assistance told me he has not heard the recoding and referred me back to the principal. (But wait a minute, that's the person whose actions are in question.) Who to do? Who owns the data on a phone? The person who has the phone or owns the phone? Is it illegal to delete evidence? Warning to BPN Parents -- This teacher is still teaching in Alameda and Contra Costa County. Thanks

I would go to each of the school board members individually, and provide them all the information you have re the teacher, the recording, etc., minus any information on who might have made the recording or passed it to others, and ask that the fundamental issue--a teacher acting inappropriately at the school--be addressed. And noting that if the board doesn't act, your next stop will be with the media. Does Orinda have a Patch site? Our town is well covered by Patch, and has absolutely helped hold the school district's feet to the fire on some issues. But based on the principal's reaction, it sounds like this needs to be raised above that level, and in my experience, taking it to all of the board members will send a message that it's not something that can be ignored. Readily A Parent

Hello Have you tried to speak to the principal directly? Seems like this would be the first step to establishing first hand information. An alternate lesson for your daughter - two wrongs do not make a right. another prespective

Messy, disorganized kindergarten classroom

Oct 2010

Hi. My oldest kid is now in kindergarten so this (public) elementary school thing is new to me and I'm not sure my expectations are on target. How messy is your child's room? Does your teacher stay after school at all to clean or prep for the next day? Are the kids expected to clean up their work stations each day? Does the carpet get vacuumed? Does paper on the ground get picked up? Is paint cleaned out after use or left to get dry? Is there food around the room, trash on the floor and a general level of chaos? If it is cleaned, who does it? Parent volunteers or staff/teachers? I'm no neat freak (in fact, I have a high tolerance for a mess), but it seems that a classroom should be more organized and clean than what I see. This could be the norm, so I'm just checking in with other public school kindergarten parents out there. Thanks for any input. Just wondering...

My first child's kindergarten classroom (Berkeley public school) was orderly. Teacher was organized & this reflected in her classroom. Second child's kinder classroom was the total opposite. The room overflowed with paper, miscellaneous books, random unorganized supplies, undelivered memos.... ugh. And the classroom very much reflected the teacher's state of mind: teaching way too many concepts at once, fuzzy focus, inconsistent discipline. -Glad that kindergarten is done!

I have seen a huge variation in room cleanliness - not just in K but in other grades, too. So much depends on the teacher and the custodian and the prevalence of ants. It also depends on kind and thoughtful volunteers who can approach a teacher with diplomacy and respect, and see if the teacher will allow them to help out by cleaning up after activities, or cleaning up one section of the room at a time. Different teachers have different reactions, so use persistent tact. Good luck. Anon

Yes, it sounds like your child's teacher either has a very high tolerance for messes, or just doesn't know how to manage the mess very well. In our (Berkeley public) K classroom...yes, the teacher stays after to prep. The kids clean up work stations, with the help of the K Aide and teacher. The carpet is vacuumed (we have a janitor) & the floors are swept daily. Paint is cleaned out from cups. It's not spotless, but it's neat, even at the end of the school day. (This is my youngest of 3 kids and all the K rooms have been managed the same way.) Sounds like a chat with the teacher, or maybe the principal, is in order... mom of 3 in Berkeley

Teacher does not know grade level content

April 2010

My son had the same teacher for third grade and fourth grade. The teacher moved from teaching third grade to fourth grade. She had told students not to ask specific questions about mathematics, science and grammar (sentence structure, Greek and Latin root words, etc.) because she does not know the answers. At Back to School Night the teacher explained to parents that she would not be teaching much in fourth grade as students have so much going on with their bodies that it was too much to grow their minds and their bodies at the same time.

Several parents have gone to the principal and she is working with the teacher. The teacher filed a grievance with the union. Little has improved. However eight parents paid for tutoring for their children (Sylvan, private tutors, Kumon), one family moved last week and two families will move before the year is over but continue the year at the school. Three parents are filing Universal Complaints with the district because their families cannot afford tutoring. Of the 12 parents who have met, all students have seen their benchmark test scores plummet from 35% - 65% on tests as the material has not been taught. Homework concepts are taught in class about 25% - 35% of the time, otherwise parents are teaching the concepts at home.

The teacher uses ''the smart kids'' work (teacher's words) to correct student papers in class and my son had five items marked wrong the week before spring break that were correct when the teacher used student work for correcting.

Here is my problem. She is one of the few minority teachers in the school. I believe she loves the students and loves ''teaching'' but simply does not know fourth grade content. From what I can see in the textbooks she had not covered half of the material in the book. What should I do? Concerned Parent who Wants to do Right by My Son and the Teacher

I'm disheartened to see that you're using race in the equation at all. An incompetent teacher is just that, an incompetent teacher. I would encourage you to continue to stick to your guns and talk to the teacher and principal about appropriate teaching skills and expectations until they are met. It is only by being consistent in this endeavor that this teacher will improve.

By commenting on this woman's race, it comes off that you think it might be ok to have different expectations based on what you look like. How sad. One shouldn't receive special dispensations for doing a bad job because you're a minority. Let's encourage everyone to do a fantastic job, for themselves and for our kids.

Good luck. meritocracy, anyone?

You are really in a bind, and I feel for you. I am a teacher and a mother. You are being extremely patient and kind in your remarks about the teacher. I would be furious. Teachers do get yanked around in so many ways, and teaching a different grade level is really challenging, but your son's teacher's attitude is unacceptable. Her job is to teach the content to her students, and she should be learning the content as she goes along. It sounds as if she is ticked off that she got reassigned to a new grade level and is refusing to do her best. School is almost over, so my best advice at this point is to stick it out, and advocate with the principal for a good teacher next year. I wish I could offer more.

Despite what many parents assume, we teachers do not teach whatever we want whenever we want. Curriculum is strictly mandated by the district and is regulated by a pacing guide that tells teachers the week in which they must teach certain concepts. If your child's teacher is going to be ''reported'' for doing something wrong, and if the principal and the district have the power to discipline the teacher for wrongdoing, it must have something to do with disregarding the mandated curriculum and pacing guide. Get your hands on the pacing guide - it's not hard to do - and check to see if your child's teacher is following it. The only way that a teacher would not know grade level content is if he or she ignores district-mandated curriculums and guides, which is a serious violation indeed. Teaching is a very difficult profession that requires a great deal of energy, but we're really not making it up as we go along. It's pretty heavily ''scripted'', and if your child's teacher doesn't know the curriculum, it's because she is not following the ''script''. anon

ARG! I am tearing my hair out in sympathy for you! I am an elementary teacher, with a masters, and 5 years of experience, but I was laid off due to budget cuts (because I was low on the seniority list because we moved here from out of state and I was newest to the district last year).

I have read SO many stories recently of crap teachers just sitting on their butts in our local schools because they have tenure and the unions protect them. It's next to impossible to get ready of these bad teachers, and CA doesn't offer enough incentives (or funding) to train them better.

This teacher is probably a very good person. Perhaps she was asked to teach a grade she wasn't used to. From grade to grade, there is a lot that is different and it can take a while to get a grasp of it all... BUT it's HER JOB to learn it for peet's sake! No excuse! 'physical development' of the child is the stupidest reason ever! There is ZERO room in a child's education these days for a year slacking off!

I really WANT a job, and every year we've lived here, I've gotten laid off because I'm not tenured... it just doesnt' seem fair that the best and brightest young teachers are the ones getting the shaft for old/tired/incompetent teachers. frustrated teacher!

I'm sorry that you're having this issue with your child's teacher. It must be incredibly frustrating for you and your child. A couple questions: do you feel that her being a minority has to do with her not being fired or removed or do you think that is the reason for her lack of content knowledge. That felt really hurtful for you to mention that since it had nothing to do with the content of the problem. Second question: what is the principal saying? Teachers are protected by the union for DUE process but there is definitely a process that includes evaluation. Have parents made formal complaints against this teacher? Parents are VERY powerful. Third, have these concerns been brought to the teacher. When you have observed the class, what do you notice about her teaching? Lastly, do you feel that your son is not learning anything this year? and has he complained about the class? that sucks

Teacher says 2nd grader is disrespectful

March 2009

Our 2nd grader works hard, brings home good report cards. But the latest 1 shocked us: the teachers said he was disrespectful towards them! They gave us no warning despite seeing us every day. We scheduled a meeting with them & the principal. The repeated, verbatim response to our & the principal's questions about the lack of communication with us was, ''I don't know.'' We were flabbergasted. These VETERAN teachers' examples of the disrespect? 1) He eagerly raises his hand while saying ''I have the answer'' or ''I have something to say,'' or 2) he follows the MO for conflict resolution (e.g. a discussion between wronged parties), but dares to say he is still dissatisfied with the results (he's been & CONTINUES TO BE bullied). We'll ask our overeager child to stop participating in class unless he is called upon, and to come to us to intervene & resolve the weekly instances of punching & slapping.

To improve communications, we'll be doing daily check-ins with these teachers. Any other suggestions? Is it of interest that our son still thinks ''stupid'' & ''shut up'' are bad words? That he rarely retaliates verbally, much less physically? That he is losing weight, interest & self esteem in schoool? That the teachers said we're lucky he didn't receive a worse report card despite not alerting us to his allegedly escalaating bad behavior? Dismayed & Disheartened

my advice...change schools. our child had similar issues in her school: unaddressed bullying; no/low opportunity to participate in class. she began to HATE school. we tried working with the teachers and principal but soon realized that things were not going to change at the school...and, therefore, the school was not the right fit for our child.

we switched schools. from day one at the new school...she LOVED school...never wants to miss a day for holidays or vacations.

why should your son hold back his enthusiasm about learning in the classroom in 2nd grade. there are schools out there that know how to channel this eager-spirit into a love of learning.

good luck love our school

You have the right to contact the principal and ask to observe your son's class--I think at any time. I would get in the classroom to both observe your son and the teacher's classroom management. You should probably go more than once and I don't think you need to give advance notice. You need to see if the teacher has a positive, constructive style of classroom management and is attentive to the students' self-concepts. Were all his teachers present, e.g., PE, library, music? The principal knows that these teachers should have sent you a progress report about his behavior so that there could have been an intervention before the report card. I am alarmed that your son is ''losing weight, interest and self-esteem.'' I would first make an appointment with his pediatrician to discuss the apparent stress he is suffering from. I would put in writing a request to the school resource teacher that you want a Student Study Team meeting to discuss how you as parents and the school personnel can help your son with his social skills,regain his academic interest and focus, and enhance his self-esteem. The clock starts ticking the minute you put this in writing and they must have the meeting within 45 days (I think). His teachers, the school psychologist, the principal, the resource teacher should be in attendance to analyze the situation and come up with strategies. I would also keep a journal on reports of bullying and make sure the principal is aware of each one. anonymous

Been there. Done that. Unfortunately. We had a similar situation pop up w/our child that spiraled into a living nightmare. My advice is to spend time in the classroom observing the teacher and your son. Be on the playground at recess. If this means taking time off of work, do it. Be there as much as you can to really see what is going on. Do not take the teacher's word for it. Trust your kid and trust your instincts. The bullying issue needs to be addressed immediately as well. Watch his interaction w/the kids and the way the teachers handle it. Do not be bullied by the administration- take an active role in resolving the issues and know that if all else fails, school ends soon and a new teacher may solve this all. I would also say to spend time in the classrooms of the teachers he may have next year and see if you can work w/the administration to get your son into the class that best suits his temperament. They will tell you that is not possible-- make it possible. Good luck. - Not a Fan of Public School Politics

AS a teacher, I can tell you that raising your hand while shouting out ''I have the answer'' is NOT disrespectful, it's totally age-appropriate excitement. It doesn't work well in classrooms, but aside from getting upset, the teachers should be working with your child, explaining that raising your hand MEANS that you have the answer so you don't need to say it too, explaining that everyone needs a turn, etc. It's not disrespectful or mean-spirited, just normal.

Aside from that, many parents are not realistic about how their children act in school. Is it possible that there is more you aren't saying? Either way, it couldn't hurt to have one of you sit with your child for an afternoon and observe... not next to him, but in the back, not helping. You might get a better idea of what's going on and if the problem is with your child or the teacher. veteran teacher

I was the overeager beaver too, and without meaning to, robbed other kids of the chance to answer questions, because I (liked the sound of my own voice and) always knew the answers. So on #1, I'm with the teachers: he needs to chill out a little. On #2, your son is doing the right thing and should continue doing so, teachers' feelings be damned.

He's following conflict resolution MO, but he needs it to work for him too - it's awful to be afraid of going to school because you always get bullied/beat on. The teachers are complaining because they want their job to be easier, and for him to fit neatly into a little box. But I say good for him for saying ''This doesn't work'' or ''This doesn't help my situation'', etc. These teachers' lack of skill is their own problem, not any disrespect from your son. Stand up for him on this one.

P.E. teacher-unfair!

Sept 2004

Hello- I am really steamed at my eleven-year-old daughter's P.E. teacher. My daughter had a terrible foot/ankle injury (I won't get into it) and is in a cast with cruches. She will not be able to do any running or P.E. excercises for at least a semester and a half. Now that she is in sixth grade she has to run the mile once a week. This is a huge part of her grade. As she is unable to do or make up the work her P.E. teachers say that regardless of her condition they will have to give her a B- because she is unable to do the exercises and the mile. I am very upset about this, as is she. As of now, if they were grading her, she would qualify for an A. Does anyone else think this is unreasonable and unfair or know what to do?

My daugther had a very similar experience in 4th grade. She missed about a month of school when we took a trip out of the country for a family event. All her other teachers gave her work in advance and she worked hard while away to do it, but her PE teacher graded her down and no make up was possible. I talked to the teacher but she wouldn't budge. It was upsetting at first, but in the end we put it down to one of those unfair experiences in life. We told our daughter that it wasn't fair, but it was, after all, only down to a B, not an F, and it's only a P.E. grade. anne

Totally absurd, unjust, and narrow-minded! Make an appointment with the pricipal. Don't accept it.

I would definately go to the principal, if you've already tried to reason with the PE teacher. Giving a bad grade due to a medical condition is unreasonable. seems unfair to me

Totally, totally unfair!!! My guess is that the best thing to do is to speak to the principal (assuming you and your daughter have already tried talking to the teacher directly, outside the chaos of gym class). I would think that your daughter and her teacher should be able to work out an alternate but equitable measure of success for the class, just as a more permanently disabled student would -- surely a disabled child in the class would not be limited to a B-! I would hope, too, that she (not you) is leading the fight for her fair grade. anon

I would write a letter to the Principal and send a copy to the teacher. I would explain that your daughter has a temporary disability, and that the teacher's threat to reduce her grade because she can't run a mile constitutes discrimination. I would request that the teacher prepare a written plan for alternate activities within 10 days, for the approval of her parents and her doctor. em

First of all, I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but a B in P.E. in 6th grade is not a big deal - try to keep some perspective. In one year or even one semester, noone will give a hoot. However, the PE teacher's solution does seem a bit half hearted. It seems like a real waste of your daughters time - what does she do sit passively and watch? I wonder if he or she just can't think what else to do with her. Discuss with him/her to possibility of organizing some other activity that can substitute until she's cleared to run again, like spending the period working in the library. This probably isn't something that the PE teacher has control over but it would be nice to suggest it to him/her. Or you can ask for some ideas and offer to talk with the principle so this can be arranged. That way its doesn't seem like you're just going over her head. Is there anything your daughter is interested in trying? Let this be a opportunity for her not just an aggravation anon

Teacher is ignoring son's harassment by another pupil

March 2004

Our son is in the second grade in a local private school and has struggled to please his teacher since September, but she has a geniune dislike of him and he feels it every single day. He is a friendly, outgoing kid (and did well his first 2 years at this school), but began this year on a difficult note when he strongly objected to another student who would not (could not?) leave him alone. This student spent much of her day following him around the room, wiping snot on his clothes, showing him her underwear, and pinching him. His reaction was to scream ''stop'' in class. His teacher met with us at the beginning of the year and told us how ''sweet'' the girl really was, that she and our son had a ''love-hate'' relationship, and essentially, that he would just have to try to get along with people like that. He has trouble concentrating in class anyway, but now this daily distraction has negatively affected his work and his mood to the point where he rarely finishes his work. He dreads going to school, clings to me in the morning (he hasn't done this since he was 3) and when I tell his teacher, she says he should try to get to school a little earlier each day, to have time to adjust. She does not discipline the girl consistently. In short, I believe that she genuinely dislikes my son, and cannot rise above this reaction and do her job as a teacher/professional. Nor do I have much faith that complaining to the director would help. I already did that about a couple of other issues this year involving this teacher, and had a ''lovely'' meeting with the director, but now the atmosphere in my son's class is even worse for my son. (The only time he has been glad to go to school was during the teacher's vacation, when a sub taught the class). This is a year-round school, and we have five more months there (we are moving to the Berkeley public schools in the fall). Should I try to get him switched to the other 2d grade class? I am so weary and frustrated with this problem but this is a no-win situation. sad mom

Since he'll be switching schools anyway, why don't you see if there's space in the new school now and if so let him make the tranistion to the new school early and get him out of the situation. Anon

I had trouble with a school situation (as a parent) years ago. Have you tried volunteering in the classroom in order to get a direct sense of the situation? If your impressions remain the same then consider working with the Director to change classes. former teacher

I can really sympathize with your frustration about your son and have had similar experiences where teachers have not ''seen'' what's going on socially in the classroom and, in particular, how one child's behavior can seriously impact others. Teachers have their blind spots like anyone else and she really may not understand how destructive this little girl is. But are you sure she really dislikes your son? It may be that she is downplaying the effects this little girl has in order to ''keep the peace.'' Maybe the thing to do is to talk to the girl's parents about what's going on and try to work with them. Also, I believe if you let the school know you are actually considering withdrawing your son, they will take your concerns more seriously. Good luck. I know how stressful these situations can be. been there

Wow, this sounds like a situation that is causing serious distress in your child's life. I think the issues are that he is being harrassed (even if it is ''sweet'' as the teacher says, it sounds like it feels harsh to him) and not having his need for security met by his teacher. In my very biased opinion (as a child care provider and former teacher), a teachers foremost responsibility is to ensure each child's emotional and physical safety. If your kid feels like his teacher doesnt care about him, why would he WANT to go to school? The teacher's role is advocate and protector for the students, and this is not the role the teacher is fulfilling if your son would rather trust a sub than the teacher he knows. Especially when the student is 7!! If it isn't working, i think you should move your son to another school (or classroom if there is another 2nd grade class) where he has a teacher who has the capacity to protect and advocate for EVERY child in his/her classroom. If your son doesn't trust the teacher, and you really believe the teacher doesnt like your child, working it out with the teacher sounds painful for you and your son. There are so many great teachers who treat children with respect and compassion. If you've run into a teacher who can't do that, I think you should think about finding a new teacher who has the capacity to. Good, good luck. Berkeley nanny

I do not have much to offer in terms of HOW to address the situation, but I will offer this. My youngest sister, now about 32, had a very nasty 2nd grade teacher who just did not like her for some reason. To this day, she remembers how horrible that year was. For years, because of things the teacher said to her, she thought she was not as smart as the rest of us, and I think it affected her academic performance for years. For a 7-year old, a year is a LONG time. The damage from a teacher who seems uncaring, or worse, actively hostile, can be profound and long- lasting. Get him into a different class ASAP. Good luck. Anon