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I Think My Son's Teacher Is Playing Favorites

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My fourth-grader is a good student and gets good grades. He had enjoyed school up until the teacher we have now and also had last year. She has her pets and makes it very clear. I can also see this when visiting the classroom. I have tried to discuss this with the teacher, but in turn she cornered our son and intimidated him. I don't know how to handle the situation now. He has learned nothing from this teacher in two years. I've heard other parents discussing this same problem.


It appears from your statement "My fourth-grader is a good student and gets good grades" that your son is still able to perform well even when the learning conditions are not optimal. I would be curious to know how he has been able to do this for the past two years. Perhaps he learned his resiliency from you, and you are unaware that you have taught him to effectively cope with people in authority.

This skill might be a positive trait that you can highlight for him. Of course, no parent wants to feel like the teacher is unresponsive or inappropriate; it can be wounding to the parent as well as the child. However, the old question "Whose problem is this?" might be helpful for you to gain clarity. If after some honest soul-searching you discover that your son is indeed doing well in school, you might choose to let this issue go.

If, on the other hand, you feel that your son no longer enjoys school, is consistently intimidated by his teacher and is getting poor grades - and your attempts to talk with the teacher have not been positive - then you might want to discuss your experience with the principal. It would be helpful to state specifically what you would like to see changed and what steps you have taken to address this with the teacher.

Complaints about preferential treatment are not easy for the principal to address. It could be productive to have both the teacher and principal present when you voice your concerns; this way there would be less chance for miscommunication and a greater opportunity to have a positive plan going forward.

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.