child in conflict with teachers

(32 Posts)
innercity Mon 25-Nov-13 22:24:41

DS is quite socially adapt, though quirky and with a slightly unusual sense of humour (just like his dad). His class had a succession of unlucky situations with teachers (lots of supply, teachers getting ill, going on maternity leave, etc). I supported him at home in his learning and he’s doing well.

This year the school finally cracked down on the fact that the class is behind (esp in literacy) and assigned two experienced teachers who do a job share. Now, the problem emerged that he is constantly told off by the teachers and is extremely unhappy. Literally every Monday he cries and doesn’t want to go to school (though he likes his friends there and wouldn’t want to leave). Still every morning there is a problem.

Today’s parent evening revealed the situation to be quite bad (I didn’t realize how bad). I couldn’t recognize DS in how the teachers were describing him. They had, I would say, no sense of who he is and painted a picture in which some arrogant little bastard is dismissive and rude – especially to academically weak pupils. I felt they’ve put him (and me) into a box “arrogant smartie” and were quite aggressive. Not a single good word about him was uttered. He is not at all the smartest kid in the class or anything like it and in fact he doesn’t have a very high self-esteem. He is quite quirky and I have to say we’re both foreign with a very different cultural background (to English) which can I imagine result in some miscommunication. For him, English is a SL. Still, the teachers pointed out how he finds it difficult to do group work with the weakest children (and remain positive and kind and approving of their ideas) – presumably because of having a very high opinion about himself.

The school is an inner city East London school in a relatively deprived neighborhood with a lot of disadvantaged and vulnerable children. It has a very good reputation and is very good in dealing with bullying; generally there is a very positive atmosphere.

I am totally confused about what to do. I feel that being a weaker and a disadvantaged child is better there than being a stronger and less evidently struggling pupil. I also think it might be quite difficult for a 8yo to always remain positive when he might not be interested / can get frustrated. I fear that he is punished for being bright and slightly unusual. I also feel he is being hammered into some sort of enforced niceness. Don’t get me wrong, it is good being nice and I enjoy people being nice to me which starts in primary school, but he recently told me that now he knows how to avoid conflict at school: never tell what you think but always say: “how nice, this is great”. I think this is awful if this is the result of schooling at the age of 8.

Sorry this is long! Would appreciate any opinions.

innercity Mon 25-Nov-13 22:26:57

sorry forgot to flag this is primary school, year 4

Alexandrite Tue 26-Nov-13 00:23:56

I sympathise as that must have been upsetting for you. Could you ask the school how you can work together to improve his behaviour? Perhaps behaviour targets, reward charts. That sort of thing. That way you and he know what he needs to work towards to improve his behaviour. The school will probably be pleased you are willing to work with them on this

NoComet Tue 26-Nov-13 01:02:10

Id find another school

eofa1 Tue 26-Nov-13 09:20:36

Or work with him on not being dismissive and arrogant towards weaker students hmm

JohnnyUtah Tue 26-Nov-13 09:24:03

Aw, he needs to work on his skills, he's only eight. He needs to learn to put his ideas forward without dismissing others' - its a vital life skill after all. Do some role play with him, tell him how you feel when he is rude about your ideas.

cory Tue 26-Nov-13 09:26:02

What would he say if he did not say "how nice, this is great"? What sort of situation is he talking about? Is he talking about when some of his less bright friends tell him about what they are doing or what level they are working on? And would his natural reaction be to say "that's nothing, that's not clever at all"? Because if that is the case- he does need to learn you can't do that.

I am asking because I was that bright child. And it is only in retrospect that I realise how much I must have hurt and upset other children and made them feel there was no point in trying.

What made me realise was when I became the mother to a little boy who was not academically very forward and who ended up sitting next to the brightest boy in the class. After a few weeks of Reception ds was already coming home saying "I'm not very clever". By the end of the year he was saying "there's no point in trying, I'm just dim, I can't do things like the others". I knew where that was coming from... It was a constant drip-drip of his friend pointing out that he was on a higher level than ds, that ds couldn't do what he could, that ds' work was for dim kids, comparing the work they had done and showing ds how his was inferior (and yes, it was, but ds didn't need to have that constantly shoved up his face).

They parted ways eventually, but ds persisted in the belief that he was a bit dim because he had spent several years being told that by the friend he trusted. It took him until secondary to get his confidence back.

In retrospect I am horrified to think I may have done that to somebody. In fact I know I did it to my elder brother. Why didn't they stop me?

Doing nothing wasn't kind to me, it wasn't kind to the other children. I was well into secondary before I knew what it was like to be liked by my peers. Because nobody taught me how to handle other people without hurting them. I could have had much happier memories if I had been taught better.

It's been quite a steep learning curve for me, partly because I am also foreign, partly because my mother (very bright but with limited social skills) never taught me. But I have put a lot of work into trying to teach my children and I think it has helped them.

Also, kids learn a lot from helping weaker learners (it cements their own understanding, being able to explain things mean you really master them, IYSWIM).

As to the arrogance, could it contain a grain of truth?

Speaking as a foreigner with a confident Y4 boy (who has told the teacher she does not sufficiently challenge him….ahem), I find that in England it is extremely important to never say "I am good at this" or " This is easy". It is essential to be self deprecating if you are to be liked.

Also, 8 yr old boys can be tremendous show offs and can often do with being told to tone it down a bit.

Hulababy Tue 26-Nov-13 09:38:22

Without knowing what it is he is saying to those other children, it is tricky.

Can you give some examples of what he might have normally said instead of "how nice..." to give us a clue?

"Still, the teachers pointed out how he finds it difficult to do group work with the weakest children (and remain positive and kind and approving of their ideas) – presumably because of having a very high opinion about himself. "

He does need to learn to listen to other people's ideas and take them on board, and not only believe hsi own ideas are the best way forward.

DeWe Tue 26-Nov-13 09:42:36

You don't have to be the brightest child in the class to be an "arrogant smartie", in fact, looking back there was a girl who could have worn that tag at primary. She wasn't the top, but she made a lot of us there was no point in trying to get things because she would point out that she was much better.

It's not so much saying "I am good at this", more "I am better at you at this" is the issue. That age do that, particularly the boys can be very competitive. I've seen one swear blind he was the fastest, even as he was overtaken... Then he told the others he hadn't run his best and could have beaten them all if he'd tried.

Alexandrite Tue 26-Nov-13 09:51:28

It's unlikely the problem is that the school think being a weaker and a disadvantaged child is better than being a stronger and less evidently struggling pupil. The problem is that they have noticed him being dismissive and rude – especially to academically weak pupils. That's something you really need to work with the school on. I'd seek advice from them on how to deal with it. You'll be doing him a big favour socially if you help him with this and it might make him more positive about going to school.

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 10:05:56

Thanks for all replies. I realise it sounds like DS is arrogant and the teachers are right. To be frank, DS also has many difficulties (particularly with memory) and it took me a full year to teach him time tables (of practicing nearly every day). So he is in no way a child who gets things easily.

And I just have doubts.

DS never had such problems before. He was always liked by his peers and had good relationships with them. How come it just changed from year3 to year 4?

He also has anxiety and sleeps badly at night - he comes to school tired. The teacher shouts at them and snatches things out of their hands. I think he is distressed. The two pupils he has been rude to are weaker academically but the three of them have conflicts outside of group work - the two pupils choose to inform teachers on everything he does and the teachers take action on what those two pupils say. So the picture is more complex but I think that the teachers CHOOSE to describe it and see it in only in this way: he is arrogant, - they're not looking for other explanations. Also I feel that in that school if you're weaker academically you're de facto in the right.

The fact that he doesn't sleep at night and cries in the morning is only something that I see. Also - I understand he needs to learn to be positive and appreciative of other pupils' ideas and express things positively, but there also should be a room for cultural differences, no?

Also - yes, school and I are willing to work together to help him learn to deal with others positively, but my problem is - what if the school is willing to help him deal with problems that the school itself creates??? they don't seem to have any clue of what he is really. But they already labelled him and offer support to teach him handling social situations better - where he never had any problems in the social situations before and basically anywhere else...

Shall I just take him out - I suspect there might be some ethos of the school which doesn't fit him (or he doesn't fit) - or this problem will persist in any English state school and the only option is to sell my kidney and send him private (not the the money for the kidney will be enough smile)

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 10:16:58

I know there are kids who say 'I'll beat you on this' whereas they will never be able to and DS is not like that.

He is quite sensitive and this entire bundle of problems arose only as he entered Y4 and I just can't help thinking it's got to do with the teacher. Yes, boys change, have hormone rushes, etc but the personality can't change from July to September so radically!

Basically I just fear that if they choose to interpret him in that way because it is easier and it confirms certain stereotypes (as written above, you have to be self-deprecating in Eng; there is a dislike - as many people above indicated - of ppl who appear to think they're good at smth; so there is a cultural stereotype and the teacher just uses it) then however DS really is or however hard he tries, it won't change much - because he will have a label stuck to him.

noblegiraffe Tue 26-Nov-13 10:24:07

It would be unusual if both teachers, who you say are experienced, agreed in their opinion of him as arrogant and dismissive of weaker pupils if it wasn't an issue.

Would it be possible to sit in on a lesson to observe his behaviour for yourself?

eofa1 Tue 26-Nov-13 10:30:08

Being horrible to other kids is not a cultural difference, it's just being horrible to other kids. Teachers don't, generally speaking, enjoy giving negative feedback and if they're telling you that your son's behaviour is causing real problems then it probably is. I'd focus on helping him develop better social skills, rather than on how awfully special and sensitive he is, how the teachers just don't understand him, and how you need a school that better comprehends his unique nature. I don't know why you'd assume they've "labelled" him as an easy solution; giving negative feedback to parents who think their kids can do no wrong isn't the easy option... As another poster has pointed out, not addressing issues like this with him because you think the teachers must be being mean will do him no favours in the long run.

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 10:42:01

I don't think he is unique or special, but he is sensitive. There are kids who are tougher, physically stronger and there are kids who are weaker. He is weaker than some others. I don't understand aggression in your post - I am trying to understand the situation and yes, I act as an advocate for my child.

I am a single mother and it is tough. I work full time and my son and I haven't slept properly for the last 9 months because of his anxiety. His anxiety is the problem.

The school though says he is rude to everyone not just the two children mentioned. I find it weird that he was always 'a joy' in all previous school reports and suddenly became a very problematic pupil. I think this is unusual.

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 10:46:03

Also I had a situation with his school in year1 when I was trying to ask the teacher what was wrong with DS as he was simultaneously bored and falling behind. That particular teacher - it was clear - put a label 'pushy parent' onto me (though I didn't know what it was at the time and I only recently had come to Britain) and bullied my DS (would tell him in class - "so, you're bored" and tear his work apart). Luckily she only taught him for one month. So I have experience of what it's like to be labelled as a parent and a child at that school.

noblegiraffe Tue 26-Nov-13 10:48:06

Has anything happened outside of school that has affected him emotionally? You say he has been suffering from anxiety for 9 months, so that's not caused by these new teachers.
It must be tough for you as a lone parent working full time, but it is probably tough for him too.

Have you spoken to a doctor about his anxiety?

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 10:48:27

Starballbunny do you speak from experience and see something in my post that suggests I shall change schools? I find it also very difficult to discuss this because I realise whatever I say - because it is on this issue I sound like a twat and people or so much do not discuss things openly here...

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 10:49:41

Yes, he is seeing a psychotherapist for his anxiety and yes, he was traumatised by robbery that he witnessed.

Alexandrite Tue 26-Nov-13 10:53:18

Is there something that happened 9 months ago that has sparked off his anxiety and you both not sleeping? Could this have caused his change in behaviour?

Alexandrite Tue 26-Nov-13 10:55:03

Cross posted. Sorry to hear that. I'd speak to the teachers about the trauma he experienced and tell them he is seeing a psychotherapist about it. Ask how you can work together on his behaviour

Total arm-chair therapy here - he sounds scared. He sounds like he is trying to convince himself, and others that he is big and strong and clever - and not scared. He is not thinking about what impact his actions have on others - just on trying to make himself feel better. And if he has had a succession of teachers there is no-one constant there to make him feel safe.

So, quite possible what the teachers are witnessing and commenting on is correct.

I think you need to talk to the psychotherapist and the school and get them in touch with each other.

And innercity you are right, it is not what/how you see your son - or how he really "is" but if this is how his anxiety is showing at school accept it and work on moving forward. He is crying out for help.

Oh and BTW you do not sound like a twat to me - just a concerned mother who cannot marry up the son she knows with the son she has been told about.

smee Tue 26-Nov-13 11:24:25

Inner, I reckon if it was me I'd ask for another meeting with the class teacher. You could be positive, say clearly it's not good that they're having problems with his behaviour, but reinforce that it's not going to improve if he's not happy - explain about him crying every Monday. No good teacher will want to hear that. Talk to them about school/ home partnership as that seems to be a bit of a buzz thing in a 'good' school. Ask if you could have e-mail contact maybe for regular updates, so even if you don't pick up every day, could they let you know if there's been a problem/ they need to talk to you about something. I'd also ask if you could have a 3 way meeting for you - your son- the teacher to allow him to talk to the Teacher about how hard he's finding it/ them to say what's acceptable and agree a structured way through. All those things might help. Definitely worth being positive and pro-active though to reverse the trend. Hope you can sort it all.

innercity Tue 26-Nov-13 11:31:58

thanks, saved your message as it has a whole plan! thanks, will go and speak to the teacher

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