Mom Needing Advice on How to Talk to My Son's "Student Teacher"

Updated on January 23, 2008
R.L. asks from Taylor, AR
24 answers

My son just started school this August. He went to preschool for two years when we lived in another small town. The whole town knows my son's paternal side of the familiy, but they do not know me. I attended the parent/teacher conference recently and talked a great deal to my son's teacher and his student teacher was present. His "real" teacher told me that my son is a great kid and is very smart, but sometimes it is hard to keep his attention. We even talked about ADD and all the other medical attention terms. We both agree he does not fit the description.
My problem is...recently his student teacher has been writing notes on a lot of his work saying that she "had to explain several times the instructions and he would not pay attention". My son even participates in an after school tutoring program twice a week. His "real" teacher has no complaints, she has a few kids of her own and says he is "just a boy" and that she knows he is capable of doing his work and that he does do his work. His tutor always speaks highly of my son. I, along with my son's grandparents on his father's side work with my son every single day on homework, even when he does't have homework...we make study guides for him. He had rather play sometimes, but he knows his stuff.
How do I talk to this student teacher about this and not come off as rude? I have read the instructions she gives these kids and even I (college graduate and grad. student) can't really understand what the heck she wants sometimes.
I usually have no problem speaking to people in a clear and respectable manner, but I'm beginning to get frustrated with this student teacher. Any suggestions?

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So What Happened?

Wow! The responses are great! I am setting up a conference with both teachers. The student teacher sent another note home, this time it was because I forgot to return something for the first time this year. It was a very scolding letter, but I took a deep breath and sent a note back. I was very nice and professional in my letter and basically touched lightly on what my concerns are. She replied and said we could have a conference if I would like....and you know, that is what I want.
I will do this now and have the confidence to speak and listen without the fear of being rude. When kids reach school age, this parent business is a whole other ball game. Thanks so much!

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K.S.

answers from Birmingham on

I believe that the best way to handle the "student" teacher is to talk to the "real" teacher. The lead teacher is still in control of the classroom and should be told about any problems or concerns you have.

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N.D.

answers from Jackson on

I would have a meeting with the "real" teacher first, show her the things the student teacher has been sending home and ask her if she would agree or disagree with the student teacher because you are getting mixed signals. I would also tell the "real" teacher you found the instructions (from the student teacher) to be hard to understand at times, and if that's the case what chance does a 6 year old have at fully understanding what he is supposed to do.
The student teacher is there for a reason, to learn herself. She is not a teacher yet and really shouldn't be trying to act as one. (It would seem the commenter below is a little defensive, in my opinion) Every situation is different, but as a mom it is your job to protect your children, and if you feel that this student teacher is not being fare, appropriate, or just over stepped her place, then I think you should go to the "real" teacher and get to the bottom of it. And if the student teacher is going to be in your son's class for a while, the sooner the better.

1 mom found this helpful
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C.W.

answers from Memphis on

Hi, I am a University Supervisor-that means I am responsible for supervising student teachers. If you have concerns about your student teacher, you need to request the contact information for the Univ. Supervisor and advise this person of your concerns. You can get the contact information from your child's teacher. University's place novice teachers in classrooms for training purposes. The University needs to know what is going on. As a parent, and an advocate for your child, this is how you should preceed.

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E.H.

answers from Baton Rouge on

I am in school to be a teacher. But I have not done any student teaching yet- only observing for and hour or so at a time. But here is my question and advice:
Have you talked to his teacher about it? A student teacher is just learning what and how to really do things in the classroom- the best way for us to learn is by doing it. We don't take classes on how to grade papers and what to write and not to write on a child's paper. So my first suggestion would be to talk to the TEACHER. You can always ask the teacher for any suggestions in talking to the student teacher.
There are some times, I think, that the student teacher grades papers and the teacher has no idea what is said or done unless they are told. So you may just want to start by talking to the teacher and seeing if she goes over what the ST writes or not.

Good luck!

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J.W.

answers from Little Rock on

I work for a university where I am in contact with a lot of student teachers. The student teacher has been placed there by the university and the school district. The best thing to do is go to the "real" teacher first and if nothing seems to be resolved, then go to your child's principal. You really do need to speak up though. This is the time for the student teacher to learn and he/she may not understand that their instructions are hard to follow.

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B.L.

answers from Birmingham on

I think you should talk to the teacher, not the student teacher. The student teacher is working under and being evaluated by the teacher, so talk to her and express your concerns about the messages you are getting from the student teacher.

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L.J.

answers from Birmingham on

I had a similar experience when our daughter was just 5 and one of the asst. teachers would talk to the kids like they were in high school when giving instructions. Most didn't respond well and it was hard for the parents not to laugh (no disrespect was intended at all by us). I would ask the main teacher and the student teacher could meet with you at the same time. Since the student teachers report to the teachers, involve her heavily in your concerns and see if they can help get the matters resolved. If not, you pretty much just have to do what you can to get through this school year and make it to a new teacher and class. You may also want to show the actual teacher the notes from the student teacher, especially any that you think are scolding and/or disrespectful to you as the parent or the student.

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C.B.

answers from Knoxville on

Having a degree in education, I saw many people that were excited to put their learning into action- often with out the wisdom or experience to really know what they are doing. It sounds like might be the case. I wouldn't talk to the student teacher, I would speak with the lead teacher. The student teacher is still in a learning position, and the lead teacher is the supervisor. It also sounds like the lead teacher has a little more experience. Discuss your concerns with the lead teacher, and she should guide the student teacher. It might be that the lead teacher doesn’t even know that the student teacher is writing the notes- and the student teacher might not want her to know because she is over stepping her boundaries.

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L.O.

answers from New Orleans on

My first thought, as a former student teacher, teacher and mentor teacher, is that the student teacher is writing the notes more for her sake than yours. Student teacher programs require the student teachers to have very detailed notes about each child in their class. She may be making notes to help herself remember when she is writing up the reports that she has to turn in to the college.

Another thought is that the college has emphasized daily parent communication, and she is trying to find a way to do that?

Is your son able to read the notes? If so or if just the fact that all that "red" ink bothers him, maybe you could ask her to write her notes in a separate folder and send them home with him.

My best advice is to go easy on her and understand that she is not intentionally trying to hurt your son or his feelings. She is just trying to get through the end of the semester, so she can graduate. She, if she is worth her salt as a future teacher, is scared about doing something wrong; that may harm your child or her chances of graduating. Talk to her, but be understanding of what she is going through.

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L.G.

answers from Hattiesburg on

R.,
Here is a helpful formula I have learned for initiating challenging discussions:
I feel _____ when ______ because _______.
The idea is to place all the "cause" or "blame" on yourself, (afterall, it is your problem and you are owning it - it is not a problem for the teacher who seems happy to write notes.)to keep the other person from feeling defensive.
Never use "YOU" in the phrase.... and practice, practice, practice... Role play in the car or in your mirror and feel really comfortable about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it before you get there.
For example:
I feel frustrated when I receive notes about my son's behavior because during conference times and other discussions this does not come up as an issue. How can we work this out?
Don't feel like you need to explain more. Repeat the statement if necessary. It says it all - but be open to ideas that can work for both of you. Perhaps she and your son could choose a code word to remind him to stay on task? Perhaps your son is less attentive to her, as children often intuit the trepidation of student teachers, and unconciously take advantage?
I have found this really works for me - with people of all ages (grin) and makes me feel more comfortable addressing challenging situations as well...
L. G

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J.B.

answers from Knoxville on

Hi R.,
First I would speak with your son's "teacher" and address the problem. After all it is her job to "teach" this woman the "correct" way to address issues such as these.

Then...

If that doesn't fix the problem, sometimes you just have to be seen as perhaps rude or some other derogotory term to get your point across. But for the sake of your child, it's worth you intervening.

Good Luck,
J.

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H.L.

answers from Baton Rouge on

Have you tried explaining to the real teacher about your concern or seeing if she is doing that to other students? Maybe try sitting down with the teacher and the student teacher and if it's not to much have the tutor come in to. Just to see if their is something that she is seeing that noone else sees. It's hard to see one person out of many others to see something but this way you can get to the bottom of it. Also you can probably let her know then that she might need to find another way to explain it to him. Good luck

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L.

answers from Mobile on

Good luck--you sound like a caring and intelligent parent. I'm sure it will work out!

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N.P.

answers from Knoxville on

I have taught for many years. Call for a "formal" conference with this student teacher, his teacher, the principal, and any one else in your family that will appear educated. It sometimes happens that student teachers like to show their "intelligence" by being over-zealous in their jobs. Take copious notes. Be nice and concerned. Write down your concerns before going and state them in a positive way. Be positive! Ask her experience in working with children. Ask if she notices these behaviors in other children. Let her know that you are in grad. school now yourself. The purpose in doing this is to let her know that you won't swallow just anything that a teacher in training says. It is important at an early age to get positive feedback. Small comments stck with children through high school. Save his papers and bring them and talk about her instructions. Often student teachers aren't aware they aren't communicating clearly. Afterall, she is a teacher in training. Take the approach that she will learn from this and afterall, she is a student herself. Some teachers take the opportunity to do other things when they have a student teacher around and aren't aware of everything happening. They allow the student teacher to handle things. Being kind to these young children is paramount! I have taught in many schools around the world and several colleges and universities and can't say enough about teacher attitude. Notice if she smiles at the children and talks with them, not at them. A teacher only brings out the best in children with kindness. Take these comments with you and others that you may get and read them. I can tell you that your son probably is extremely smart and at an early age if they know the material, they don't want to do the busy work. They have to learn to do this work just because it is required. My son was a gifted child who went to kindergarden with the ability to read the newspaper. I went to school many times because he wasn't paying attention. In the long run, he was tested and read on a 7th grade level with a 98% comprehension. He was tested and put in a school for gifted kids in a special program. He was often not appreciated by some teachers. They just don't want to be bothered with the extra work that some kids make for them. TOO BAD! The law says that every child has a right to have their needs met. This includes gifted and special needs. Today, many students are labeled too early in a negative way. You would know if your child had a problem. Stick to your guns and state that. Be nice. Take copious notes while you are talking. Let them know that you plan to follow-up with this in three weeks with another conference. Get her phone number and call if you can. I believe the teacher is right when she says that he is behaving like boys do. Developmentally they are behind girls and have a harder time with small motor skills and don't like having to do small tasks. Keeping negative remarks and comments away from him is highly advised. You also have a right to observe while she is teaching. You will know if you have to back her down and let her know that you will be there and stand your ground. I have seen some fabulous teachers from many countries and I've taught teachers how to teach. At this age, emphasizing what your son does well is paramount and easing him into things that are more difficult for him takes place gradually. Enjoying school for him is necessary.

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D.W.

answers from Jackson on

I think I would try to discuss your problem with the teacher. Maybe she can forward the information to the "student teacher" in the appropriate manner. She should be on your side, since she does not see any behavioral/learning problems with your son. Also, she should be "mentoring" the student teacher, so the student teacher should learn from this and respect his "real" teacher's experience. Good Luck!

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T.H.

answers from Little Rock on

As a 16 year veteran teacher, this student teacher should not be going against what the teacher says. You should show the papers to the teacher, and tell her that you are concerned about the comments. If the ST disagrees with the teacher, she should NOT disagree: the teacher is the ultimate "judge" of your child's work and grades. Good luck!

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S.M.

answers from Birmingham on

You have every right to be concerned, but I taught 3rd grade for 6 years and this is common. The best thing to do is be specific. Have examples in your hand that you need to have explained. It's also good to remember that you are not in the classroom, and a good practice for teachers is to explain directions orally. You might not see every direction written. You can definitely ask if there were addition oral directions, but again be specific. Don't take it too personal. It's always better for a teacher to be more observant of a child's behavior, as opposed to not at all.

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T.C.

answers from Nashville on

I think you should talk to your son's real teacher about your concerns. Hopefully she will be able to address your concerns and talk to the student teacher about the issue. Since she is a student, she obviously has some learning to do and needs feedback on how she is handling the students.

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A.M.

answers from Nashville on

Maybe you could suggest a weekly note on how your son is doing instead. I'm sure the student teacher does have your sons best interest at heart and is trying to address what she sees as an issue--- Allowing her to express her concerns and discuss them with you in a professional manner can only help her when she is on her own in the class room and has to have her own parent/teacher confrences. You said you didn't want to come off as rude, I think this can be accomplished by talking to her as you would the "real" teacher --- and try not to go in there with the attitude that she is incompetent or already have it set in your head that no matter what she says she is wrong. If it doesn't go well then you can have a meeting with both teachers and get it all hashed out before it gets out of control.
Good luck

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H.G.

answers from Fayetteville on

Since you seem to have a good line of communictaion with the "real" teacher, maybe you should make a call to her and tell her how you feel. She is supposed to be supervising the student teacher, so point out your concerns, and the confusion with some of the directions given by the student teacher and see what she says. Maybe you are not the only parent with issues, but either way she should be made aware of the problem. Then either she can work on it in class or maybe the 3 of you can sit down again and the teacher can be a buffer to help explain the issues to the student teacher. Good luck with it!

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J.G.

answers from Augusta on

I agree with you that it sound like the student teacher may not be communicating well with your son. I do not think it would be rude to pull her off to the side quitely and ask her why she gives him these instructions. Maybe you should go to the school and observe them without their knowledge to see their interaction. You are a great parent to take the extra time to give him homework even if the teachers do not. Your son has a great support system at home which will help him Tremendously when he gets older and further into the school system. It could be a relationship issue between that teacher and your son.

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T.M.

answers from Memphis on

I would be understanding but firm. Make the request that she, the student teahcer, needs to check her critisisms because they are not helpful. You have every reason to believe that your son is doing just fine and if the notes and comments do not stop, you will be takeing steps to make sure she has no further contact with your son. It's just that simple. Good Luck.

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A.W.

answers from Baton Rouge on

WOW, this is hard but I will do my best to help you... First things first, you need to express your feelings and concerns to the "teacher" and ask for a conference with both the teacher and student teacher together....and then go from there....you have to remember that these students teachers are fresh out of college and are quick to name a child with a disorder....Sounds like in your case that this student teacher is trying to get her marks in very soon....she doesnt have the experience nor the say so really to be categorizing your child add.. i hope this helped and please let me know how it goes....

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A.C.

answers from Dothan on

I would first talk to the "real" teacher about this issue. If the other teacher is student teaching, she should not be in the class more than a few weeks normally. I would show concern about the fact that basically two teachers are saying two different things, especially when they are from the same class. This could be very conflicting and confusing for your son as well.