Improving the Student-Teacher Relationship

Q: My 10-year-old son is having a very difficult time with his teacher at school. It is true that my son can be chutzpahdig towards adults, and can be hyperactive in his behavior. However, this teacher has all the character traits that my son finds very hard to deal with. The teacher is rigid and inflexible in many areas. He is a new teacher, and has great trouble disciplining the class. When I hear the things this teacher says and does, I can see why my son has difficulty. His teacher’s pedagogical skills are lacking and his rapport with the class is limited.

I do emphatically point out to my son, however, how his behavior could bother any teacher, and how he has to recognize his role in the relationship and make improvements.

I realize that it is the end of the year and there is a limited amount that can be done to change the situation. However, I need to know what to do in the future, if this situation happens again.

 

A: Your question focuses on two areas: 1)Your son learning to show respect towards authority, and 2) Improving the relationship between your son and his teacher.

Finding fault with another is an easy path to self-aggrandizement. Looking at another’s human imperfections (in this case, those of your son’s teacher) can simply be an excuse for your son’s avoiding having to listen to his teacher’s rebuke. You need to stress to your child that putting down another person does not raise our stature or make us look better than the person with whom we find fault.

The importance of learning from all people needs to be emphasized, with examples. School is a laboratory for life. The more we learn to understand and co-exist with all types of personalities, the more we can expand our life activities, both spiritually and physically. Your son may need to deal with difficult personalities one day, on a continual basis. It is hashgachah pratis that such a person is his teacher today; there are things that your son can learn from him. Being a new teacher is challenging, and being dan l’chaf zechus is the way to better empathize with his teacher in this situation.

Parents should stress a teacher’s redeeming qualities and have their child appreciate what is admirable about the teacher.

In relation to improving the relationship with your son’s teacher, you need to speak to your son about a typical situation where he might misbehave in class. Ways to better control such negative behavior patterns need to be explored. Triggers that may occur to exacerbate this problematic behavior need be targeted, and you and your son can discuss alternative means of self-expression and ways to exhibit more self-control. If your son indeed improves his behavior, he can be rewarded with verbal praise and a tangible reward or privilege.

Your son’s teacher should be contacted to discuss your son’s improved behavior, in order to help improve and solidify their relationship. If this teacher is rigid in his approach, your innovative ideas to work with your son may not be of interest to him. However, expressing positive and appreciative statements about the teacher when contacting him can only help build a sense of trust and a strengthened working relationship between teacher and student, which will benefit your son as well.

Hatzlachah.