“My teacher hates me!” James exclaimed as he threw his backpack onto the kitchen floor. “She always yells at me for talking or not paying attention, but I am paying attention!”
For parents, it can be disheartening to hear that your child feels disliked or disrespected by his teacher — even if you wonder if he’s exaggerating and maybe things in the classroom aren’t as contentious as he makes them seem.
By this point in the school year, most classrooms have established a rhythm and it could be that your child’s personality or learning style just doesn’t mesh well with his teacher’s. But what can be done?
- Ask your child for examples of what happens at school while acknowledging his feelings. “It sounds like you had a rough day at school. I’m sorry to hear that. Help me picture what happened. What did Mrs. Haggerty say? What was happening right before that?”
- Use imagery language to help your child picture what he could do differently, based on what the issue may be. “I know you were so excited about going to the movies over the weekend. When do you picture is the best time to tell your friends? During homeroom announcements or during recess?” Offering choices can make it easier for students who have difficulty verbalising their thoughts or are hesitant to talk about how school is going.
- Check in with the teacher. Because tone can often be misinterpreted, it may be best to meet in person. Sending a brief email to set up a time to chat may be helpful. Keeping a positive and respectful tone may help keep things productive: “James seems to be having a tough time meeting the classroom expectations lately. I would love to meet one day to discuss what I can do to help support him.”
James’s mother, Christine, took all of the aforementioned steps: she asked James what was happening and took notes while he was talking so he would know she took his concerns seriously. She met with Mrs. Haggerty and remained neutral despite feeling angry and hurt that James felt disliked and disrespected. Mrs. Haggerty reported that James was disruptive in class, didn’t follow her directions and wasted time instead of completing assignments. They decided that Mrs. Haggerty would send home a note each day reporting on James’s behaviour.
Christine sat James down and they talked about what he could do to be a good listener and a good friend in the classroom. They practised examples at home and Christine scoured Pinterest for ideas about motivators and sticker charts she could use to help make James have more fun at school.
Despite everyone’s efforts, James came home crying again a few weeks later. “Mrs. Haggerty gets mad at me for not turning to the right page but she says everything too fast. I can’t read the big words in the Social Studies textbook, so I ask to use the bathroom or make jokes about whoever is sitting next to me. Then Mrs. Haggerty yells at me, and I feel so sad because I was trying my best but I just can’t remember what she said to do!”
James’s stresses come pouring out between sobs.
For students like James, behaviours often begin in the classroom when the workload becomes too hard or when they realise they aren’t able to read as well or as quickly as their peers. They know they can’t always do the assignments presented to them, so it becomes easier to find new and clever ways to avoid tasks. James has a high IQ, so it’s often assumed that he should be able to read and comprehend as well as anyone — and if he can’t, it must be because he’s being lazy or doesn’t care. James’s self-esteem slowly started to plummet as he noticed more and more how much easier reading was for his peers.
But if the foundational sensory-cognitive skills for reading are not in place, students may struggle to reach their learning potential. A cause of difficulty in establishing sight words and contextual fluency is difficulty in visualising letters in words. This is called weak symbol imagery. A primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating an imagined gestalt. This is called weak concept imagery. This weakness causes individuals to get only “parts” of information they read or hear, but not the whole.
Signs of weak symbol imagery can be easier to spot (slow, labored reading, difficulty with spelling) than those of weak concept imagery (difficulty with following directions, answering open-ended questions, grasping humor, mental mapping).
Like James, Tallulah was struggling at school and wasn’t able to read despite being extremely bright. Watch the video below to hear her mum describe how Lindamood-Bell instruction changed their family’s life: “She took a final assessment at the end, and the results were just incredible. More than what I had hoped for.”
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