In all schools, students encounter many teachers throughout the day. With the introduction of differing expectations and personalities, the potential for conflict with a teacher can increase.
Q: My daughter came home and said that she feels her middle-school teacher hates her. After talking with my daughter about what happened, I am angry. My daughter no longer wants to go to that teacher's class. What do I do?
A: Many times middle-school kids interpret a teacher's facial expression or voice tone as anger and assume that the teacher doesn't like them. Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd did an interesting study using MRI scans comparing observed facial expression and subsequent reaction from adults as compared with adolescents, which illustrates this point. She concluded that teenagers "see anger when there isn't anger, or sadness when there isn't sadness in the adult face." To learn more, type Yurgelun-Todd's name into a search engine and read "Inside the Teenage Brain."
Many times, kids don't hear what was actually said to them by others, as parents realize in daily communication with their children. I often ask students in my office to repeat an important point I had just said. I find what they seem to have heard is not what I intended as the message.
That having been said, the first step in this situation is for the parent to contact the teacher. If you are unable to set up a time to meet with the teacher or if you prefer, contact the guidance counselor to work out a convenient time. You and the counselor might discuss the pros and cons of having your child in the meeting. During the meeting, relate specifically what your child said or felt. Your goal is to share, to listen, to relate and to reach a resolution.
If you are unhappy with the result of speaking with the teacher on your own or with the guidance counselor , the next step is to contact the principal. You, the teacher, counselor , principal and other school professionals are a team focused on the success of your child in school. Parents need to remember that they are modeling for their children how adults deal with issues through fact-finding and problem-solving.
Remember, even though you are upset, the goal is to find a way to get through this, with the larger lesson to your daughter that there are ways to overcome setbacks and continue on productively.
Q: In the hallway at the last parent-teacher conference day, I overheard a parent using the acronyms 504 and IEP. What do these numbers/letters stand for?
A: 504 is a short way of referencing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Students who qualify for a 504 plan in schools must be determined to have a physical or mental impairment that "substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such an impairment or be regarded as having such an impairment" (U.S. Department of Education). Students who qualify would receive services appropriate to the determined impairment. More information on Section 504 can be obtained through the U.S. Department of Education at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, a document with certain requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. It is a document for students determined to be eligible for special education services. It includes present levels of educational performance, goals and services. More information on IEPs can be found at http://ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html#process.
Both 504s and IEPs come from federal laws. A student's eligibility is determined through a school committee that could include parents, general education teacher, special education teacher, school psychologist and school counselor , among others.
Anne-Marie Hughes is a local middle school guidance counselor . Her column appears the first Sunday of every month in The Sunday Gazette. Send questions for Ask The Counselor to counselor @dailygazette.net.