September 07, 2008,
J.C. asks from San Francisco, CA on September 03, 2008
Teacher Playing Favorites
We are struggling with a teacher who is blatantly playing favorites in class. My son is in the 7th grade music program at a new school. It is the band director at the school that we are having difficulty with. At first I wanted to believe that there was more to the story and that maybe my son was taking it too personally. He had had a great relationship with his previous band teacher. However, the favoritism has continued and seems to be getting more and more obvious. Has anyone been through this before? Quiting the music program is not really an option. I'm encouraging my son to keep doing his best and try not to be discouraged. I've signed up to do more volunteer work. The parents of the other player are very involved in fundraising. I've requested a parent-teacher conference, but I've not heard back yet. I know that in the long term it can be a good life lesson that sometimes life isn't fair, but I'd rather he not have to learn that now. Any advice is appreciated. He has get through the rest of 7th grade and all of 8th grade with this teacher. He told me yesterday that it's hard to deal with, but at least this teacher is only the middle school band teacher. He loves music and is hoping to continue playing throughout all of his schooling. I'm not sure how direct I should be with the teacher. I'm a little worried about making things worse than they already are.
PS I guess I should have mentioned that there have been 3 instances so far of class rules being modified or ignored to the advantage of the other student. This is in direct conflict with the parent-student book that we signed and turned in at the start of the school year. And yes the school is a 6-8 and all the other students in band had this teacher last year as well.
P.S. answers from San Francisco on September 04, 2008
Although it's not pleasant, he's old enough to find out that life isn't fair. It will be a lesson that stays with him. Favoritism will rear its ugly head EVERYWHERE, in school, sports, groups of friends, at his first job, etc. Better get used to it now.
Going to the teacher on behalf of your son might create more problems than it will solve. It might be time for your son to stand up for himself --- stay after class to ask why 'X' was allowed to break a rule without consequences. He might start by saying something like "I'm not sure I understand all the rules. X did such-an-such yet was not punished. Did I misunderstand the rule?"
However, the fact that the teacher appears to be playing favorites may not stop him from telling other students that your son's mom came in to stand up for him --- that wouldn't go well for your son.
In any case, you can take satisfaction knowing that this teacher will never be able to maintain discipline in his classroom if not everyone is made to follow the rules. Kids will start rebelling at the unfairness sooner or later.
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D.C. answers from San Francisco on September 04, 2008
Like several other people have mentioned...it is a little hard to answer this question without knowing exactly what it is the teacher is doing to play favorites.
Just based on the little bit that you said...you mentioned that all the other students had the teacher last year, and this is your son's first year with this teacher. Maybe what you and your son see as favoritism is actually just a rapport with the students that has built over the last year. Your son had a great relationship with his previous band teacher, and I'm sure he wants that with the new teacher...but that takes time. As the comfort level grows between the teacher and your son, the rapport will grow as well. It's very natural for a teacher, or any person for that matter, to be more comfortable with students they already know than with a new student that they are just getting to know. That's human nature. Give it some time....and remember that people can sense vibes...if your son shows resentment towards the teacher because he feels the teacher is playing "favorites"....then it will be harder for the teacher to get to know him and build that rapport...it can be a vicious cycle.
Talking to the teacher should always be an option...but I think accusing the teacher of "playing favorites" will cause some bad vibes off the bat. Maybe just mention to the teacher that your son may need help adjusting to the new class? I was in band in middle school, and I know that band is very much like any sports team....there needs to be a sense of comfort and confidence and unity from your "team mates" and "coach"....naturally when a new team mate enters the picture, there is an adjustment period. Ask the teacher to help along with this adjustment.
Hope this helps...good luck to your son. I hope things improve!
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J.K. answers from Fresno on September 04, 2008
Hi J., Sorry to say that this actually an all too common practice even more so in sports. You could have a meeting with teacher and let him no where you stand but try to do it in a calm way so as to not rock the boat. Your son should be there as well so he can say how it makes him feel. He will be able to get through and move to high school.
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D.B. answers from San Francisco on September 04, 2008
Is the band teacher's name Julie? Haaaa! Yes, we've all been through it. Having been in music all through Jr High and High School, and having experienced the same thing, it does seem that music and drama teachers do have favorites and the same kids get the solos all the time, even if they don't deserve it. As an adult, I still come across the same thing in my church choir!!!!! It is not right, but there may be little you can do about it.
I do encourage you to continue to ask for the conference, but be ware of your speach when you confront him/her. You don't want the teacher to take it out on your son even more, and you don't want your son to be embarrassed. I'm not sure what kind of problem your son is having, but I would ask the teacher to give him a chance to prove himself. If you get no results, you can go to the principle, or just accept that life isn't fair.
I'm so sorry you are going through this. I know it is so frustrating. I don't know if you believe in God, but if you do, the Bible says "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord" and I believe the teacher will at some point be brought to light for his/her unfairness and that your son will get his chance if he doesn't try to fight him/her. I've seen it so many times where prayer is the best solution to the problem.
You sound like an excellent mom. Keep it up. Your kids are very lucky to have a mom that cares so much about them!
D.R. answers from San Francisco on September 05, 2008
I was so happy to see Erinn's response, because I had the same thought.
I am a 7th grade teacher, and without any more details regarding the events, I can think of all sorts of explanations for what your son is experiencing, and only one of those explanations would be playing favorites.
One of my first thoughts was that the other student (or students) involved may have IEP [Individual Educational Plans] that are required by law for students with disabilities who require special accommodations and/or modifications.
For example, if I had a student who had special modifications on homework (perhaps doing a limited set of the homework problems), I could certainly see other students thinking I'm playing favorites by giving him full credit for partially-completed homework assignments.
I'd also say that it's quite common for middle schoolers to be particularly concerned about fairness -- and possibly seeing favoritism in just the relationship a teacher may already have with students that the teacher knows from last year.
But teachers are also human, and I know I do get along better with some students than with others. I try very hard not to let that show, as does every other teacher I know. I've also been in classes with teachers who played favorites (and occasionally maybe even benefited from a bit of favoritism.)
Without any specifics of what is actually happening, however, I would probably give things a few weeks to settle down and then reassess. I would probably try to listen to my child's complaints without encouraging them in any way [Responding like "I can see why you would think that is unfair" as opposed to something that might encourage the belief that the teacher is playing favorites--something like "That teacher's behavior is simply unacceptable. I will not stand for that!"]
As others have suggested, though, if you really feel the matter can't wait, you should approach the teacher with an open mind. He or she may have some insights to share about the situation that will change your perspective.
I don't say all of this because I assume the teacher is right, only that it is far more helpful to go in with the approach that you both want what is best for your child, and a teacher has a different point of view on the situation than either you or your son.
H.M. answers from Sacramento on September 04, 2008
If your not getting a response from the teacher then you need to follow the chain of command up. Go to the principal and inform him of what you think/observe going on in the class and bring up the 3 instances when rules were modified or ignored. If the principal is not helpful then you can continue up the chain of command to the Superintendent. Make sure that you document any repercussions that happen after your disscussion with the prinicpal and/or superintendent. You have to show your son that he has the right to stand up for his rights as long as the rules are being broken.
E.V. answers from San Francisco on September 04, 2008
You have plenty of great responses, and I wanted to throw out there one more thing for thought. Not knowing exactly the nature of what the complaint makes it hard to know what to advise, but I will say that some students in class may have a hidden (to the class and all the parents) disability or IEP that the teacher is not allowed to speak about, but yet has to modify for. That can be very hard to explain to kids in a group and can look like favoritism. Tread gently and remind your student that he only has to worry about himself and doing his job well to really enjoy it.
S.B. answers from Redding on September 04, 2008
My son has been in the music program since the 3rd grade. And he loves it. We live in a town of less than 3,000 people, so we are very fortunate to have someone so skilled at teaching every single instrument you can think of. He gives all children a role, and a place and a part.
I don't know, but they could be favoring a child who is a stand out and more musically inclined than the rest. I know in our case, the ones who have really struggled get to shine and have solos. It's all about everyone being a part of the ensemble and feeling proud of their hard work and accomplishments. The wonderful thing about our music teacher is that he gives every kid a chance. There are harmonica players, piano players, drum players, violin and clarinette and flute players. Saxophone and guitar. Everything.
Their concerts bring down the house. And every child has a place. Even if they are ringing the sleigh bells or dinging the triangle.
Don't let your son give up on music. Let him watch PBS when they have full concert productions. A lot of the musicians sit and read along until it's their part. It's the sum of the parts and not any one person who can make a band work.
I do agree that everyone should be treated the same, but you have to accept that some students are more advanced than others. In our school, if you don't have a good attitude and you're not keeping up with your other work...you're out. It's a privelege. Not a right.
It may just be that things are different with this new teacher. But I agree that rules shouldn't be modified for one child because they are talented. That sends a very wrong signal.
If I were you, I would talk to the music teacher about how your child is doing and leave the compararison of the other kid out, if you can. You don't want to seem like a donineering mother. He (or she) may have ideas for teaching your son in line with his interests and capabilities that you had never thought of. Just let them know how much your child loves music and wants to fit in. I'm sure they will make sure that happens for him. In my experience, music teachers, because of their creative natures, try to foster that in any truly interested kid.
Don't give up just yet.
I wish you the very best. I really do.
I always cry my head off out of pride everytime my son performs at school. And, he is the biggest helper of setting up all the instruments and stacking them down and storing them back to the music room. There should be a part for everyone.