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Some tips on classroom behavior

Published January 21. 2012 09:01AM

Dear Dr. Smith,

More than half of the school year is over. My son is in second grade and is having a bad school year. He comes home in the afternoon and is very unhappy. He gets yelled at all the time, has recess taken away, and sits on the "bad" chair a lot. I have had two conferences with his teacher. She told me that he has "inappropriate" behaviors in the classroom. I asked for examples. She said, "He yells out answers before I call on him." Also, she says that he talks too much and challenges her authority by correcting her at times.

My son has a measured IQ of 150. He's a smart kid. He gets very good grades in every subject. He is also precocious and not intimidated by adults. My husband and I have encouraged him to be verbal and share his feelings. Apparently, his teacher doesn't hold those traits in high esteem. So, following the teacher's suggestions, his father and I have tried to teach him to suppress his natural tendencies in this teacher's classroom. We encourage him to be quiet, wait until he is called on before he gives an answer, and never to correct his teacher.

My question for you is this - why should we have to try and change our boy's basic personality to fit one teacher's viewpoint? His first grade teacher had no problem with him and told us how much she enjoyed having him in class. We feel as though his second grade teacher is forcing us into hindering his personal growth and natural tendencies. Should we ask to have his classroom changed? Should we move him to a different school or homeschool him? Help us, please!


Two Parents

Who Want the Best for Their Son

Dear Two Parents,

First and foremost, I want to thank you for writing to me and being honest about your problem. It sounds as though the two of you are encouraging your son to "fit the mold" required by his current teacher. I think that is a positive thing. You are helping your child to broaden his personal growth and natural tendencies by having some flexibility in his world. After all, he has a long way to go before graduation and he will meet many different teachers who will expect certain behaviors of him.

Elementary school teachers have quite a variety of student types in their classrooms. Each child is unique and precious and deserves special handling. However, in a roomful of 25 second graders, that ideal is often not attainable. Any teacher will tell you that certain rules and regulations are necessary so that all the children can learn. All of the kids in the room are expected to adhere to the rules. And, the very first rule is to keep your mouth closed unless you are called upon to ask or answer a question or there is free time for discussion.

Your son may be the smartest kid in the room, but he will look like the dumbest one if he can't learn that basic rule. Yelling out answers or correcting your teacher will not make your son a popular kid with either his teacher OR with his fellow classmates. Plus, how in the heck does a second grader correct his teacher, anyway? I can only imagine that she might have labeled a type of dinosaur incorrectly or mistakenly identified some rare spider. Those areas are the beloved provinces of 8-year-old boys.

My best suggestion is this - keep reinforcing correct classroom behavior. Let your son know that you will not accept poor school behavior of any type. By doing this, you will have saved your son from a lifetime of aggravation. You do not want him to be known as a "difficult" or "strange" or "rude" child. You don't want the third grade teacher to hear about him ahead of time and automatically dislike him before he even walks in her room.

As for changing classrooms, changing schools, or homeschooling - of course those are options at your disposal. However, his current behavior will most likely not be welcomed in any other classroom or school, and homeschooling might reinforce his antisocial (yes, he has some) tendencies.

If your son is as smart as you say he is, then he should learn the basic facts quite easily. Classrooms need rules. He needs to follow those rules. Period. End of story. By teaching him that, you will have helped him get ready to be an adult in a difficult world.

Let me know how things go. If your son begins to adjust to this teacher's classroom management style, the school year can improve dramatically.


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