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My Child Thinks Her Teacher Doesn't Like Her

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

My second-grader feels her teacher doesn't like her. She hasn't been doing well in school because she doesn't feel accepted by her teacher. I addressed these problems with her teacher, but didn't get the response I wanted. I went to observe the classroom. True to my daughter's words, her teacher seemed distant and very strict. I went to help her, because I noticed she was struggling over the easiest task. I realized that my daughter felt intimidated and disliked by her teacher and was not performing well because of it.

I addressed these concerns again with the teacher, and told her my daughter was having stress-related anxiety because of the way she taught. I asked the teacher to help her through the anxiety aspect and that I would come back to observe. What should I do? I want my daughter to succeed without this kind of negative impression she gets from her teacher.

Answer:

Alice Terry, author of More Life Through Management, states, "A fundamental question for a student is 'Does my teacher like me?' Given a rigorous aligned curriculum, the answer to that simple question is our best predictor of student achievement." This quote certainly validates your concerns.

More research is performed regarding the student- teacher relationship in the primary grades, because it is viewed as a long term predictor of school success. The developmental and cognitive abilities of young children make it difficult to value themselves apart from the way others perceive them.

However, although the current trend in classroom management stresses, "equitable and positive classroom interactions;" increases in student aggression and inattentiveness leaves teachers feeling conflicted. They want to be emotionally sensitive, but may fear that they will loose control of their classroom. Their firmness may become disheartening to children who fear disapproval or have a low tolerance for disappointment.

When you said that you, "...did not get the response I wanted," was the teacher unresponsive, or just unclear about your request? Perhaps working together to define specific strategies might produce better results and improve communication.

Children may not always be in an ideal learning experience, but they can still learn to do their best. Find out which of the teacher's behaviors your daughter finds most intimidating. Help her to check this out with her teacher in order to test her perceptions, and start a dialog. Encourage your daughter to ask her teacher for what she needs (i.e. help in math, to be the lunch monitor, etc.). Doing this helps your daughter begin to identify and express her needs directly. Improving her ability to communicate, even with someone whom she finds scary, can help build her self-confidence.

If you feel that your child's teacher is still unresponsive, you might want to discuss this with the principal to see what else might be done.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/22/2009:
"i understand perfectly how this parent feels. My grandson has gone through the same thing with the teacherr he has. After the experience he now states that he canot learn things because he is just a loses. At these schools who listens. They protect from within. You are not an educator, just an hysterical parent who cannot accept you childs shortcommings. It certainltly changes the child's view of school."
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