By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator
I get constant reports that my middle-schooler is disruptive in class. My son complains about the teachers throwing him out of class even before he sits down and before the bell rings to begin class. I am always around him, his school and his friends. I am always digging for answers and listening to their stories. They too complain about the teachers not being fair.
I have gone to the school to try to get help or answers and it seems that it helps him. The complaints stop for awhile but then the ball gets easily dropped and the calls keep coming back. How can I work with my son and the school to get to the bottom of this? I want to help reinforce his good behavior but I also want to be sure that he is being judged fairly and that there are appropriate consequences for misbehavior.
It's hard to be objective when your son and his behavior is called into question. It sounds like you are on the right track, trying to get to the bottom of the situation and reinforcing his good behavior. However, from what you describe - "constant reports" of disruptive behavior - the likelihood is high that your son does have a behavior problem in the classroom. If it were only one teacher, then you might question if it is legitimate, but since the feedback does come from many teachers, you need to take this seriously and take the needed action.
It is tough for parents to remain impartial. I would think it would be best to seek advice from a school counselor, district psychologist or independent child counselor. There could be issues that you may not be aware of, like attention deficit disorder or a learning disability, which can be addressed through testing and observation by professionals.
What is most important is that you serve as your child's advocate and ultimately make decisions that will best suit your child. However, in making this decision, it would be best to seek outside expertise from teachers and a child counselor.
In addition, you can request a conference with his teachers and ask that there be a facilitator, such as a lead teacher or counselor. Tell your son to accompany you. In the meeting, you and your son can all hear information directly from teachers and make a plan of action.
Suggest that teachers institute a behavior contract. To do this, ask them to identify the behaviors they expect your son to exhibit, such as: come to class on time, be prepared to learn by bringing all necessary materials, do not talk or whisper to other students while a lesson is being presented, and so forth. Have a rating scale for each line item, like a plus for "exemplary behavior," a check for "OK behavior," and a minus for "poor behavior." Have your son rate himself on all line items in each class and show his assessment to his teachers at the end of each class period, or if that's not feasible, then after school. He should briefly discuss with each teacher if what he felt he deserved is in concert with each teacher's impression of how he behaved. At the end of each day, review the contract at home and give positive or negative rewards as reflected in the scores.
This system worked well for me when I taught, because it gives students all the information they need to be successful: 1) meeting with teachers to hear from them what they expect; 2) self-assessment; 3) teacher-student interaction; 4) positive or negative consequences.
Being able to self-discipline and behave within the confines of any organization is a critical life skill. Help your son to see how his actions affect others so that he can continue through life successfully.