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Clash with teacher and principal over .... textbooks. AIBU? Help meeting tomorrow!

(128 Posts)
TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 08:30:06

I have reached an impasse with my son's teacher and principal and I honestly don't know if I AIBU or not, so before our meeting tomorrow, give me some thoughts. I am truly lost.

We moved to Australia from Spain 18 months ago. Before coming here, my son spoke 4 languages but none of these was English (our previous posts were in Spain, Italy and Switzerland ). He started with 2 months of Y2, and I knew from the teacher that he didn't understand a word but was happy and trying.

January last year , he started Y3, during all the year I was told he was doing fine, improving , learning, lovely boy , bla bla . I could only listen to her words, as the school policy forbids bringing textbooks home so I had no clue about school work and achievements. Mid year report was good. Teacher was praising him.

So on my happy pink cloud until December when my son brings home all his textbooks. Big massive shock. Phrases which makes no sense, incomplete works , messy texts, illegible pages. A complete difference from what the textbooks he had in the previous years. His level has worsen, handwriting has turned a disaster when mixing the European cursive with the Australian print and even the drawings are senseless .

This January, I asked the Y4 teacher if I could have my son's textbooks home from time to time to help identify all the gaps he still had in English and help him get organized by going through his work, have him find his own mistakes, and let him tell me what he founds difficult, and so on. I am French and in France, you learn from very young to spend 10 minutes per day to re-read what has been done in class, finish whatever was left incomplete , so you consolidate what you have learned that day.

Big clash and total refusal to let me see my son’s textbooks. They tell me I can see them in the class but whenever I ask to (3 times since January) , there are excuses or meetings in the principal office, never in the class where the textbooks are. Meanwhile the teacher has changed her attitude towards my son (even if I haven’t commented on this with her) and she tells me I need to work with him, he doesn’t get the English phonics, and more and more critics. I am more than happy to help, when I requested to provide a plan, I was told it will be discussed at the next meeting.

So now I get to the point: is it a cultural clash? No access to textbooks is normal and whatever request considered an offence? My wish has nothing to do with judging the teacher, her teaching or the class. I just want to help my son because a student that struggles in Y4 will struggle in Y9 if nothing is done. I want to see what he writes, challenge him to write more articulate sentences than “they did lots of cool stuff” and understands his weaknesses such as its and it’s, force him to keep nice textbooks until (hopefully it becomes an habit) , ...

I am a nightmare mother? A true pian in the A… ? Should I back off? I am getting nowhere and only achieving an hatred .
What am I doing wrong and what should I do?
Thanks in advance

Wait4nothing Thu 07-Apr-16 08:47:08

I'm not sure how much help I can be but didn't want to read and run.

I can totally see your frustration but as a teacher in England, we would not send home books regularly (in fact we don't even send them at the end of the year - they are all passed to new class). At all our parents evening and additional afternoons throughout the year we have books available to look at - could you ask to see books at parents evening?
What I would suggest is getting some kind of workbooks to work on at home, like you say 10 mins 1to1 a day will make so much difference. You could ask the teacher for some guidance on this but I would also just look at maybe last years curriculum and try to fill any gaps.

dementedpixie Thu 07-Apr-16 08:52:41

We only get to look at the books at parents night as they aren't brought home (apart from the homework jotter).

Gruach Thu 07-Apr-16 08:54:36

I can't be much help either - but, just to clarify, am I right that you mean exercise books (that he writes in) rather than textbooks? Or even workbooks - with text and spaces for child to add work?

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 08:59:28

Thanks for answering. I am not talking about the books (they don't use them here), but the exercises book, binder books in which the child writes. They are called textbooks here.

I have bought tens of these revision books but then I am told, I shouldn't have him do the operations with algorithm but mental maths or other similar comments. I would love to work on what they are doing in class but I don't know what they are doing.

It is not so much about the curriculum but my son has a huge language gap compared to his classmates I would like to fill and also the way he keeps his textbooks, messy and bare.

As a teacher do you let your children bring home the exercises books?

We had the open classrooms right this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to look for my son's class books but I hadn't even opened them that the teacher told me I couldn't as the open classroom was just to admire the work on the walls. So i did, after a while when I turned to face another wall, the principal was seating on my son's table, presumably to avoid me sneaking the books.

This is so ridiculous...

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 09:02:07

Homework is a photocopy and the child writes them on a sheet and gives it to the the teacher. Maths is done on Mathletics.

lateforeverything Thu 07-Apr-16 09:02:48

I've have experience of schools in England and two mainland European countries. The system of the book from class going is indeed a very continental thing that I've never seen in England so this appears to be a cultural clash.

How much homework is your son getting? Were there no indications of any difficulties present whilst he was doing home learning?

Also, the transition from European cursive to print is largely unavoidable. There are words in English that have certain letter strings that your son will have never written before so spelling new words inevitably leads to a bit of a mish-mash between the two writing styles.

lateforeverything Thu 07-Apr-16 09:05:12

going *home

lateforeverything Thu 07-Apr-16 09:08:26

Just read your next post. Well the open classrooms in my English school are also an opportunity to look at books in order to see how the work in the books link to the topic and displays around the classroom.

You could approach it from that way.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 09:16:15

Homeworks are a joke. They receive a spelling list and they have to colour the vowels, write them in numbers, in train, ...
I have always asked him to put these words in sentences and to look up for synonym.
The activities are counting as you skip rope, cooking, doing chores, building a boomerang, a robot, .....
So he was always doing far more than his share. Even on mathletics.

But the longer text are written in class and verbs were missing, subject forgotten, punctuation absent, ....

Now the teacher tells me he has no logic, doesn't know how to draw a map, even his typing is disorganised .

I understand now that my request is unusual but such a feral response, seriously?

It seems that since I asked about his work, the teacher has suddenly decided it is horrible. In February, when I asked after a month how things were going she said very well but then I asked to see his class work and suddenly he becomes Mr. Hyde.

I reckon I better leave things as they are before we get to the breaking point.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 09:17:25

lateforeverything excellent suggestion !

irvine101 Thu 07-Apr-16 09:18:16

Can you ask the teacher what they are covering that term/semester and help your ds on that skill? If they use Mathletics, you know about maths. For literacy, if you use age appropriate workbooks at home, you can't go wrong IIMO.
My ds's school never sends books home. We can only see it briefly at parents' eve.

SugarDiabetes Thu 07-Apr-16 09:23:24

I'm a primary head teacher in the UK and, of course, I'm only going on my own experience here.

I would support a teacher in a classroom on Open Days when I consider that a parent is going to be 'difficult' - by that, I mean put unreasonable demands on the teacher's time or expect the session to run differently, in a way which suits them but not the whole class.

Some parents do come across as challenging and yet often they don't mean to. Usually it's because the 2-way communication has been poor and there are misunderstandings.

And yet I have never met a parent who didn't want the best for their child and that's exactly what I want, too. So we have a shared goal rather than a battle! Once that has been established - we are all on the same team: Team Fred - then we can iron out the differences.

I would advise you to go into school and have this conversation with the head/principal. Apologise if you feel they are misinterpreting your requests, let them know you want the best outcomes for your child in a system that is alien to you and ask what you can best do to support your son - (explain about how textbooks are used in France - I had no idea! If a parent in the UK wants to have textbooks home it's usually to sue us over missed marking! grin)

I don't mean to come across at all as saying you've been wrong and school have been right and you are a difficult parent, but imo this can be resolved very easily.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 09:25:13

The activities in Mathletics are locked. They are doing geometry now but only the 4 operations are in display when we open it, so I think I will have to purchase my own license.
She gives tasks but then the topic is hidden again.

Thank you all for your suggestion. I will certainly have less steam tomorrow and just ask her for a plan and work double and triple at home.

Good idea irvine101 I will certainly do.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 09:30:53

SugarDiabetes I didn't see it that way, about suing the teacher!

In honour to your name I will be as sweet as a pie . To be honest I have been very polite so far, but I guess my request must have come as shocking to her as if I had asked to see her underwear and my insistence as an insult.

irvine101 Thu 07-Apr-16 09:31:33

For maths, you can use Khan Academy as well. It's a free American website, it covers all aspect of maths from early maths to higher maths.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 09:41:53

Dinner time here, I will come back later.

kesstrel Thu 07-Apr-16 09:49:33

There is huge culture difference between the approach to education in France, and that in Australia/England.

For example, the use of standard algorithms for maths in primary. Many education professors, and thus teachers and schools, oppose this on the alleged grounds that it leads to children "doing" maths while not understanding it. There has also been a historical claim that fluent knowledge of times tables, for example, is unnecessary. A number of cognitive psychologists (and secondary maths teachers) disagree with this, but their voices are mostly not being listened to. England has begun to shift from this position, in the same way it has shifted with regard to teaching reading via phonics.

But Australia, in my understanding, is still well behind this curve. I suggest you read some of the posts in this blog. It is written by a secondary teacher in Australia, but he has children in primary school, and he has read extremely widely on these issues, and is currently doing a PhD in curriculum design. If you search the blog using terms like Australia, primary, maths etc you will find more relevant posts.

"In primary maths, discovery learning takes on the form of ‘multiple’, ‘alternative’ or ‘invented’ strategies. Students are intended to make-up their own ways of solving problems and to solve a single problem in several different ways. Explicitly teaching a standard approach, such as the standard algorithm for addition, is discouraged."

Ellle Thu 07-Apr-16 10:36:14

Just an idea, is there a way you could get hold of the primary curriculum online? That way you could get an idea of the kind of things your son should be learning or already doing in his year group, and check the previous years content to see if there are gaps you could help with.
At DS's school the teachers always send home a newsletter talking about the topic and the kind of things they will be learning in the next term, with ideas on how to support that at home.

Regarding the language gaps, it occurs to me that the best way to help could be that you read with/to him a variety of books in English, and talk about them, discuss them. Reading and talking about books helps a lot with vocabulary, and helps you to identify vocabulary that he still doesn't know and whether his understanding is good or not. This in turn will help him when he writes in English.

Just out of curiosity, you said that before moving to Australia your son spoke 4 languages but none of those were English. I take it then his home language is not English, and that was his first exposure to English? What about the other languages, is he still maintaining exposure to them and speaking them? I have two sons being raised bilingual, so it is a topic of interest. In our case the home language is not English, but when DS1 needs to do homework or read school books my husband is the one that usually does it with him as he is the English native speaker. When DS started school, his English was not as good as his minority language, but it soon caught up and both his reading and writing are quite good now.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 10:40:34

There is big difference indeed. No algebra, pattern, probabilities, 3D geometry in primary in Continental Europe. Far more arithmetics, memory, poetry, and pages and pages of writing.

I understand now why she was so cross for my son to do the algorithm for everything but I am not so sure it is wrong as my other son who is in y8, is a the top of his class in math despite having done all primary maths in the european way.
I'll read more about the approaches and views. But again there are several theories and you should use the one that works for you...

Thank you all so much for your comments and link.
I will just let go, and tomorrow start by apologising if I have caused such a tumult. So maybe we can now all start focusing on how to help my son .

I will come back to update after the meeting.

TheAussieProject Thu 07-Apr-16 10:46:57

Ellle DH is Italian, I am French, and in Barcelona they were speaking Spanish and Catalan.
Both my sons have lost Catalan I think, not much exposure to Spanish but they knew it very well and during the Summer Holiday we went back and after some hesitation they were happily speaking with their friend.
French is still constant even if I try to speak more English to them. As soon as English is consolidated in both, I want to push more for the French, but right now, I want them to focus on their English.
So I am the one trying to help even though my English is not perfect and as every French speaker in the world I have the most dreadful accent!!

kesstrel Thu 07-Apr-16 11:34:56

I understand now why she was so cross for my son to do the algorithm for everything but I am not so sure it is wrong

Plenty of secondary maths teachers and cognitive psychologists would agree with you. Unfortunately, your son's teacher won't be aware of that. She will have been taught in her teacher training that her approach is the "right" one, and will not be aware that it is based on very limited evidence.

How long are you in Australia for? Is there any chance you could take your son out of school and home educate him?

TheAussieProject Fri 08-Apr-16 04:39:48

Update, nothing worth taking out the popcorns.

I apologised for any offence I might have caused and explained briefly, actually re-explained , the motives of my request, but understand this is not something that would be acceptable, so I won't mention it again.

I anyway left empty handed as she didn't give me any suggestions or plan on how to help my son. Not sure she has any

I will not homeschool him because he loves school so much and the friends, the band, the sport team, but I might double school him by working on the curriculum on my own with the books.

You will probably see me more often here and I hope you will help me help my son.

I am still puzzled by the English/Australian way. In France, not only do you see the workbooks, but a parent is expected to sign any page in which the teacher has commented. There is a continuity between the class and home, and if you do for example one morning the area and perimeter at school, the child will do activities on that at home the same afternoon to consolidate the learning, not something unrelated , and applying the teacher's formula.

I just have to accept things are different and stop comparing. Easy to say, harder to follow.

ChinngisKhan Fri 08-Apr-16 04:56:18

Just to say, I'm an Australian teacher and we would not allow books to go home with parents for fear of never getting them back again!

Do you have a subscription to Readinng Eggs? That may help with the phonics.

You can access the Australian curriculum here:
to see what the expectations are for his year level.

I would suggest that as he is learning a new language he has been working on the oral/verbal and comprehension side of things first - the written part will come later.

derxa Fri 08-Apr-16 05:00:36

I am still puzzled by the English/Australian way I think we all are from time to time grin

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