Dear Dr. Smith,

First of all, I want to thank you for your columns. I read all of them and learn a lot from you. That's why I decided to write to you. Maybe you can help me.

My son just finished fourth grade. He had a bad year. I honestly believe that his teacher did not like him. He was unhappy a lot and sometimes didn't want to go to school. I wanted to go and talk to the teacher and principal, but my husband didn't want that. He told my son to "suck it up"" and do his best.

As you can see, we do not baby our son. But, I can't stand the thought of his being unhappy again this coming school year. Even though he passed to fifth grade, I know he didn't learn everything he should have learned. He could be an "A" student if he is motivated.

What can I do to help him have a better year next year? Thanks for reading this and I'll look for your answer.

Sincerely,

A Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

Thanks for reading my columns and for writing to me. I enjoy getting mail from my readers and hope that I can help you.

My initial reaction might disturb you. I feel that you needed to go and talk to your son's teacher. If the parent and the teacher work together, the child usually benefits greatly. The fact that your husband's response to your suggestion stopped you from contacting the teacher tells me something. You would rather please your husband than find an educational solution for your child.

Now that I've probably angered you, perhaps we can dissect the problem further. You said "we do not baby our son." I can't see how meeting with a teacher to discuss your son's progress is "babying" him. Maybe your husband feels that way. Some men think that a parent-teacher conference is a sign of weakness. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps it is part of the male macho image.

So, my first suggestion is this - YOU call the school, find out which 5th grade teacher has your son, and make an appointment to meet him/her at the earliest convenience. Let the teacher know that you want to support your son in the best possible way. Ask for suggestions on how to have a good school year.

Naturally, remind your son of his responsibilities in school. He must maintain a homework notebook daily, do his homework each evening, participate in classroom discussions and projects, obey and respect his teachers, and follow the school rules.

The fact that your son had a "bad year" in 4th grade does not mean that he will have a bad year in 5th grade. Each teacher is different - the same way each child is different. Some teachers and students rub each other the wrong way. It can't be helped - we're all human.

But, if the relationship between the teacher and pupil becomes so toxic that it affects the child's learning, then a parent-teacher conference is necessary. If that doesn't help, then a parent-teacher-principal conference is required.

I am a firm believer in the fact that parents are the child's first and best teachers. You teach your child by example and by showing behavior that lets him learn life skills.

Tell your husband that Dr. Smith wants him to be a part of his son's education. By showing an interest in communicating with the teacher, both of you are letting your son know that he is your priority.

Good luck, and let me know how 5th grade goes.

IF YOU WOULD L IKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.