I'm Ms. Pushover and I'll be Your Teacher

My ten year old son is starting 5th grade this year and I’m dreading it. He’s the “baby” of two older sisters and myself, and he’s always been somewhat headstrong. By this, I mean that in order to keep his place with two much older sisters (8 and ten years older), he’s always had to speak his mind, assert himself and generally not take any crap. However well this has worked in the family, it doesn’t carry over well in the classroom.

He will be starting the second year at a new private school, and his teacher is young–she’s slightly younger than myself, and has spent the past few years teaching PRESCHOOL, and now is jumping to 5th grade. Class size is small, however, here’s what worries me. Son needs someone who will set boundaries and REINFORCE them with CONSISTENCY (something which his–male–teacher last year admitted to me that he, as a teacher, had difficulty doing–and big surprise! It cause a LOT of problems with my son.) Son likes to push the envelope. Not in an evil way, not in a mean way, but just to see what he can get away with. He’s very popular in school (everyone knows and likes him, including the adults), but to have him in the classroom can be difficult. For example, last year they had a “reading corner” which was really just a couch with pillows. Instead of reading on the couch, Son would take the pillows and build a fort. My response would have been, “Get off the pillows and either read or sit back at your desk.” Apparently, this was NOT the response of the past teacher.

My question (finally!) is how in the world do I communicate with the new teacher Son’s need for consistent boundaries without coming across as telling her how to run things in her classroom? Advice from teachers would be GREATLY appreciated!

I am not a teacher, or a parent for that matter. But I have done TONS of work with kids, so take my comments with the appropriate dose of salt.

One, it’s perfectly OK for you to tell the teacher how to do her job with regards to your son. You know him better than anyone, and you are in the best position to tell her how to be most effective in dealing with him.

Two, don’t assume that because she is jumping from preschool to 5th grade, she won’t know how to set and reinforce boundaries. If anything, preschoolers need that a lot MORE than 5th graders, because preschoolers are still learning impulse control and benefit greatly from regular schedules. So she’s probably used to doing that sort of thing, she’ll just have to watch how she presents it to the kids so that they won’t feel talked down to, which no one responds well to at any age.

Both those things said, just keep in mind that tone and demeanor will be everything in this conversation. Say something like, “I just wanted to give you advanced warning that my son can be a handful, and he’s very headstrong. I’ve found that I really need to make sure that boundaries are clear and reinforced, and I’d love your help in doing that in school, as well. Mr. Fourth Grade Teacher said that doing XYZ with my son was helpful, so you might try that. Give me a call anytime if there’s anything I can do to help make teaching my son betetr for you. He’s a great kid, and I know he’s looking forward to having you as his teacher.”

Why not arrange for a meeting with her? Nothing serious - just make arrangements to drop by and discuss the situation in an amiable fashion. Being new to grade school teaching, she’ll likely appreciate having a “heads-up” from a parent and it will make things that much easier when it comes to dealing with all the children, not just your own. Your son doesn’t sound like a problem student, so I’m sure everything will work out. :slight_smile:

Well, shucks, I didn’t see Beadalin’s post when I was typing mine up. But I absolutely echo what was said - speaking to the teacher need not be hostile or even overly serious. Just a simple, short, friendly chat will do.

Have you read this? “Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic”. My wife bought several copies and gave one to each teacher when our son was in grade school. “Hi, here’s my son, and here’s the manual.”

Worf: “Klingon children can be … willful…”

I don’t have kids, but I did work in a school for three years (admin/clerical) and so heard a lot from the teachers :slight_smile:

Based on that experience, I reckon that catching up with the teacher and letting her know that your son is a handful and - most importantly - you’re not going to march down in a flaming ball of motherly rage if she sets and enforces boundaries on him, that she’ll really appreciate it.

Teachers deal with some pretty whacked out parents, and I suspect that a lot of the time they let the kids get away with more than they should just because they can’t face Yet Another Parent Whose Angel Is Being Victimised (ie, made to conform to the same rules as everyone else).

Take the time to chat with her. If she knows you’re setting boundaries when he’s at home, she’ll feel more confident in continuing your good work during school hours.

Why don’t you try talking to your son? I mean, why should the rest of the class put up with his disruptiveness? Tell him you’ll ring his teacher once a week, and if you find out he’s not behaving, punish him in some way. I don’t know, take away his Play Station or something.

I agree that the person who needs talking to is your son.

Forgive me if this is rude but… what was wrong with building the pillow fort? Sounds like it gave him a harmless outlet.

You seem to have done a fair job of telling us…now just tell the teacher the same thing. Then sit your son down and establish some boundaries from your end.

I am a teacher, and that is my professional opinion. :wink:

Um, yea, sounds a lot like me through out school. I took advantage of my limits just to see what the reactions were. I never got out of hand with it and always would do it in a light heated fasion so as to never annoy/disrupt/slow down the class. A self taught lesson in sociology, really. Just do what others have said and it should work out perfectly.

You’re raising Bart Simpson. :slight_smile: :cool:

I would say that building a pillow fort would be quite disruptive. Do you really think the other kids would just ignore one of their classmates doing that?

Well, if the designated purpose of the couch is for reading, building a fort would A: not be reading B: prevent other students from reading there and C: distract kids who may be trying to read elsewhere. Short of an indoor recess, I see no way building a fort wouldn’t be disruptive.

I was hoping for an answer from the OP, but I will respond to these.
A: Not reading? So? A “reading corner” does not sound like something that is used as a part of a structured classtime activity. How critical is it that this child use this unstructured time specifically for reading? Even if he was behind in reading (which the OP could tell us) it is obvious that he was not going to be using this time for reading. You can’t force a fidgety 4th grader to sit still and read productively.

B: Maybe I misinterpreted “Couch with pillows”. Are these pillows the couch cushions, or are they extra pillows on top of the couch? If they are extra pillows, other kids could still use the couch for reading.

C: A couch will not hold more than a couple of 4th grade kids at a time without them disrupting each other no matter what they are doing on the couch. Will it be disruptive to others in other areas? Hard to tell without more info. What is the rest of the class doing while he is at the reading corner? I think it perfectly possible that a single boy could be quietly playing inside a pillow fort without disrupting the class. Granted it is also possible that a single boy playing loudly and throwing pillows could disrupt the class. But the evidence on my side is that the teacher allowed the fort building. It was the parent (OP) who thought it inappropriate.

If I turned this into a debate, it is because I have unpleasant memories as a child being forced into a mold for no reason other than to conform to what other kids were doing. I hate conformity enforced simply for the sake of conformity.

As for the OP’s question, from teacher friends the advice about simply letting the teacher know that you will not be raving overprotective parent if your kid is reprimanded seems very good.

Thank you for all the advice. First, I have always talked to my son (“this is what is expected in class”, etc.) however, if the teacher in the classroom is not backing up what I’m saying, it’s rather pointless. I cannot say to my son, I expect you to do X, Y and Z, if the teacher doesn’t reinforce doing X, Y and Z. <sigh>

Yes, at times I do think I’m raising Bart Simpson.

The problem with building the fort out of pillows (extra pillows on the couch) was that it was supposed to be reading time, not “build a fort time”. The school he now attends is fairly liberal, with lots of play time, however, he really needs to understand that not all time is play time. Ask me how many homework assignement he turned in the past year–not many. His teacher told me that if he–the teacher–hadn’t seen my son’s participation in class (he is very intelligent, and participates a lot) and knew that Son KNEW the answers, then Son wouldn’t have passed because he wasn’t turning in the majority of his homework. I did attempt weekly phone calls/emails/notes, but they were not returned!

I’ve already told Son that this year will be much different. We’ve purchased an official planner, which I will expect to see every evening (with completed homework assignements), but I’d like to make sure communication with the teacher is clear and regular. I’m crossing my fingers, since this is a new teacher this year, that communication can be open, and this year will be different.

In the What Should You Have Learned in High School, But Didn’t? thread, I mentioned that I never learned the discipline of how to study. I was smart and it all came so easily, and the teachers let me get away without turning in homework. They certainly didn’t do me any favours. I’d highly recommend that you speak with his teacher and make sure she understands that you expect him to get his homework in. It’s not too early to start good habits.


My advice has already been given by others in this thread, so I won’t repeat. What I can add is about methods of communicating with the teacher. If she isn’t responding to e-mail or messages, she might not be getting them (my school is shamefully bad about this).

The best way to be sure is to go and see her in person. It might take some time, but look at it as an investment in your son’s future happiness and success. I once had a mom come spend most of a week going to classes with her son and he shaped up and stayed that way. That situation was a worst case scenario involving legal stuff and wildly permissive parents-- what’s cute at six isn’t so much at sixteen-- but being a positive physical presence at your son’s school can’t hurt. Good luck!