Today’s Marcy and Jackie column addresses some frequently asked questions about teacher/student relationships, and what to do when you overhear your child having an uncomfortable conversation. We welcome your questions to these two veteran teachers at email@example.com.
Q. My son doesn’t get along with his middle school algebra teacher and wants his counselor to transfer him into another class. The counselor refuses. What can I do? I’m worried my son won’t do well in math and won’t be prepared for high school.
A. Your concerns are understandable because more advanced algebra is a gate-keeper or required course for college and higher math. You said your son “doesn’t get along” with the math teacher, but you didn’t say that your son isn’t learning in the class. In a perfect world, we’d all have teachers we admire and appreciate, but in the real world we sometimes have to learn to make the best of a situation. That’s a lesson, too. We suggest you observe the class to see what the problem is — if it’s your son’s behavior or the teacher’s teaching. After your observation, set up two conferences — one with your son, the other with the teacher. Both will benefit from your feedback.
Q. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on my daughter’s cell phone conversation, but I overheard her ask a friend if she could copy her friend’s history homework. I felt uncomfortable talking to my daughter about this because I probably shouldn’t have been listening in on her conversation. Now, I’m in a tough spot. I don’t want my daughter to get in the habit of copying others’ work, but I also don’t want to look like a controlling mother. What do you think? My daughter is in 9th grade.
A. If your daughter discussed this within earshot of you, she may be asking for help — from someone other than her friend. If it makes you feel better, apologize for listening in but then reach out to learn the problem. Why isn’t your daughter able to do her own homework? Is there something she doesn’t understand? Is it history that’s overwhelming or other subjects, too? Often a “won’t do” is a “can’t do” so getting to the root of the problem is critical. Talk to her about school and real-world consequences for stealing someone’s work and then crack open a history book together. Read the questions at the back of the chapter first and set a purpose for reading.
Formerly an English teacher, Marcy Winograd now teaches government at a public LAUSD high school in South Los Angeles. Jackie Hirtz, MS Ed., a writer and writing coach, taught elementary school for seven years. Together, Marcy and Jackie have written for children’s television, print, and new media. Their most recent project is the tween novel Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush available on Amazon. You can follow Marcy and Jackie @tweenorama and learn more about Lola Zola at their blog www.lolazola.com