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My 14 year old daughter goes to a selective girls grammar school. Up until recently, shes always been happy at school highly motivated and a hard worker and tended to get top marks in most subjects. Shes also quite modest so would never brag about this. She has a close circle of friends who mean a lot to her. Her English teacher in Years 7 and 8 was sacked and a new teacher came in Year 9. He, apparently, is very charismatic (teaches drama also) but after 2 months of his lessons, my daughters getting very depressed. The content of his lessons is all doom and gloom nuclear war, end of the world, torture, death sentences There really seems to be no end to his distressing topics. He coyly warns his pupils at the beginning of each lesson: Dont get upset, but . The most disturbing thing is when he told his class about when he attended the funeral of a previous pupil of his (their age) who had committed suicide due to depression. Apparently he was so moved he sat down on a bench and wrote a poem about her! This seems like very bizarre and inappropriate behavior to me how can a teenagers suicide be turned into an anecdote that hinges upon his creative powers as a poet? The thing that worries me most is I discovered a letter (on my desktop so possibly she wanted me to see it) from my daughter to the teacher. Shes usually really polite but in this letter she lets rip shes fed up of his chats and takes offense that he tells her she is too intelligent for her (very close) friends and that she ought to consider the implications of socialising with those who are her intellectual inferiors. I dont know if she sent this letter. But I feel this teacher is transgressing the boundaries of normal, teacherly behaviour and I sense him as a threat to my daughters (and other girls in her class) well-being. I know in advance that any approach I might make to the Head of English will be fobbed off. Am I over- or under-reacting? Id appreciate any suggestions as to what to do. Thanks.
Thanks, Greensleeves. Alarm bells have been jingling for a while, but now it is a klaxon. The only way I could access any correspondence is by hacking into her email account. I feel the Head won't even listen to me unless I have 'evidence' but would this be justified? I've always valued her privacy. I've spoken to her about the 'doom and gloomness' of her teacher before - she acknowledges he's weird and told me he read out her homework and ticked off the others for being so 'obtuse', but re the attempt to ostracise her from her friends - she has been silent.
Hack into her email account and check her phone. If she wanted you to find out then she'll appeciate you doing it. This isn't a time for worrying about privacy. I don't even really think you should tell her before checking as she might feel she has to delete everything.
Ask the head who is the designated child protection person for school and go to them.
I'm a teacher and I would be concerned. I suspect she wanted you to find the letter and so left it where you would access it. There are however two separate issues: one - and the one that is the most serious - is whether or not the teacher is behaving in an inappropriate or unprofessional manner towards your daughter. Whilst teachers may advise pupils about whether a friendship choice is appropriate it should only ever be because it is clearly having a detrimental affect on behaviour or effort in class. It should never, ever be something so value laden as saying they are her 'intellectual inferiors.' I'll be honest and say in my career I have come across male colleagues who are inappropriate in the attentions they pay teenage girls, in every single school I have ever worked in; including fee paying ones. There are some men who like to be hero worshipped by girls by flattering them. And there are those - thankfully far rarer cases - where their intentions are far more sinister. If you have ANY concerns you must, must, must approach the school. And not the Head of the department, but the Head of the school. And you need to take a witness with you too. (As an aside, he may have been a quick, emergency hire since you say the previous teacher was sacked. Therefore they may have hired a candidate who, under normal recruitment processes, wouldn't have made the short list. I would definitely ask if his police criminal records check was up to date and given to the school!)
The second issue, which could be one you take to the head of dept. - is the curriculum content and whether it is entirely appropriate. Does the school not provide a schedule or curriculum plan on its web site for each subject? Most schools do. At least this way you can check if he is teaching what has already been agreed within the school. It may be there are perfectly good reasons for the choice of material being used (again a separate issue from whether he is presenting it in an appropriate manner). If it is good material, but gloomy topics your daughter dislikes, then it may be something she just has to put up with and accept she is not always going to like the content presented.
Teenagers can be hugely loyal to teachers. If your DD really liked the previous teacher who was sacked she may be taking out her anger over this loss on the new teacher and simply thinks everything he does is crap. I've seen that happen a lot. Or he may be a bad teacher; I've seen that a lot too! Most concerning; he may be a predator. They are there in schools as well. Don't suppress your concern out of fear of being wrong. If you are wrong, nothing is lost. If you are right and you do nothing the consequences of inaction can be very serious and damaging.