Personality Conflict

It’s been 10 years now that we’ve had a kid in school, 11 if you count preschool. In that time we’ve had teachers who were fun, and smart, and kind, and gentle, and rules-y, and stressed, and tired. We’ve always emphasized to the kids that they need to find a way to work with all personalities, and that being a teacher is a hard job so they deserve our respect even if we don’t quite mesh with them. Until now, that has worked – while our kids haven’t loved every teacher, they’ve gotten though alright.

This is the first year that we have a teacher-kid situation that is a genuine personality conflict. I do think this teacher means well, but this teacher has a bombastic, Big! Fun! style of teaching that involves a lot of teasing and lot of hijinks and a lot of rushing forward with big plans without filling in the details, and it does not work for one of my kids, the kid that has him. Luckily, the kid in question only has him for one class, three hours a week, but it has still resulted in many tears, coming home at the end of the day using words like “hate” and “horrible” and “terrible” to describe school and this teacher in particular.

If this were your kid, would you say something?

I’m torn. On one hand, I think it is quite likely that this teacher has no idea he is destroying my kid’s whole day. I’m sure he would be concerned to hear how much of an effect he is having on the kid’s feeling about school.

But on the other hand, I can see, I think, that it’s nothing personal, and that it’s just this teacher’s personality. Can I ask him to change his whole personality? Can I ask him to handle my kid with kid gloves (heh), to pussyfoot around while he is happily Going Big with the rest of the class?

And I’m worried that his style of teaching specifically VALUES independence and hardiness, and pointing out that my sensitive kid is sad will only highlight the fact that the kid is not doing well in that class, and does not have the skills valued to succeed in that class.

Hm. What do you think – continue to comfort my child and emphasize that we must work with all types, that it’s nothing personal…or ask the teacher to change and to make allowances?

6 thoughts on “Personality Conflict

  1. I vote for this being a Valuable Learning Experience for the child. If it’s an option, it might be a good idea for the child to see the school counselor to work through the feelings and copings and so forth, so that such a short time doesn’t ruin the whole school day—and frankly, I’d be hoping something might get back to the teacher this way. (Not about the specific child, of course, but just a heads-up from the counselor that not everyone loves hijinks.)

  2. lvsconsulting

    Have you met the teacher yet? Might be a good idea to meet the teacher, just talking about how your child is doing in the class, etc. and see what your gut instinct tells you after that meeting. I’m all for letting the kid figure it out, but you also don’t want this wrecking your child’s interest in that subject. As you say, the teacher may not be aware – I think that it’s also helpful for the teacher to understand that not all kids will resonate with that style… and that the teacher might do well to also be a bit more sensitive.

  3. Jacquelyn

    Man, I feel for you. This is such a hard situation to be in but if your child is using words like ‘hate’ and ‘horrible’ to describe what’s going on, and these aren’t the ways your child has reacted to school situations before, then I think you do need to let your child know that he/she can depend on you to help. You’ve got to make an appointment to chat with the teacher.

    However, I don’t think that you should discuss the teacher’s behaviour, (that person is NOT going to change), but you can talk about your child’s feelings and ask about what is going on in the classroom and leave it at that.

    From your writings, I get the sense that you are not a helicopter parent. If you are concerned about why your child is having such a hard time, I think that your concern is likely very warranted.

  4. A.Q.

    I actually would talk to the teacher about if he has any recommendations for helping your kid cope in his classroom. The teacher is being this way because he thinks that it’s a great way to engage kids, but he has to know that it isn’t a style that resonates with every child. Your kid probably isn’t alone in having issues with it. If he modified what he was doing a bit and he also gave you some advice on helping your kid manage, it’s likely to be more of a win than comforting your child and telling him/her to cope.

    I mean, you can say that you value independence and hardiness, but if the kid’s experience is that he/she is being whacked with a hammer for the entire duration of the class, that’s not building independence and hardiness. It’s tearing it down.

  5. What did you end up doing?

    Perhaps mentioning it to someone above the teacher in terms that are more kid-focused than teacher focused might help. Because as you say, the teacher may have success in engaging the bulk of his class but might oversee that the style is causing one quiet child anxiety. Perhaps there are other children in a similar boat and just ‘fake’ it at school and lash out at home?

    A principal or someone in counseling might be better equipped to point out the child’s reaction to the teacher’s methods, rather than the parent going to the teacher to say ‘look, I appreciate the effort but it’s causing my child anxiety’.

    It all depends on how well you know the teacher, or the school system. I probably would have spoken to a teacher myself if I had known the teacher well, but with a new teacher or school, I would probably seek out assistance from someone who has a professional relationship to the teacher in question. The teacher sounds like he is very dedicated to his students and perhaps unaware, simply because your child may not be outspoken or exhibiting behaviour that would alert the teacher to the discomfort. (My son would be this way, quiet and ‘suffering’ and then lashing out or reacting at home.)

    it’s tricky isn’t it. You don’t want to dismiss the child’s anxiety but at the same time you want them to learn that life isn’t always easy, and to learn how to navigate the tricky parts. I still have trouble with this myself, activating coping mechanisms when I know a high anxiety situation is about to happen, but at least I am aware and an adult. Children sometimes only feel the feelings which they may internalize.

    Good luck Lynn. I’d be interested in hearing what you ended up deciding.

  6. smothermother

    Ugh. We are having a similar situation with one of the jellybean’s teachers. But it’s a little more complicated that his is lashing out in class which is getting him into trouble. We have spoken to the VP and the teacher. The jellybean has this teacher 3 times a week, has asked on numerous occasions to be pulled out of the class, and just shuts down when he has to do that homework. We are very much of the “you need to figure out how to work with all sorts of people” but also know there is a little bit of a teacher problem too. We are trying so hard to work with him to come up with some tools to help him deal with this teacher but it’s so hard. I would speak to the teacher. Give them a heads up about how the kid is reacting to his classes. He is probably clueless and would really appreciate the feedback. That’s what the hubby said he would like.

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