Would You Say Something to This Teacher or Let It Go

Updated on March 18, 2014
K.S. asks from Littleton, CO
19 answers

I am probably being too emotional about this issue, and may just need you all to be rational so I may borrow some of your logic. My daughter is in 8th grade. This has been a really tough year academically for her. Most of her teachers go on and on about preparing the kids for what high school is like. It feels like they are tearing them down in this effort, instead of boosting their confidence for the next level. For instance, at conferences, a few teachers have made comments like "a b- in my class is really good, it's more like high school." Huh? Is she saying that she is using high school standards to grade 8th graders? Or that you get dumber in high school? Or another teacher told the kids "I'm grading the papers you turned in yesterday, only 3 Fs so far- surprising!" It's just a negative vibe. So that's just to set the stage.

In science a few months back, she kept getting bad grades on a weekly quiz, despite me studying with her and knowing that she knew the material. It was very puzzling, I e-mailed her teacher 3 times with no response and left messages as well. (School policy is that teachers have 24 hours to respond to parents, but this teacher is known for not doing that). I finally decided that I wanted to show DD that she can succeed in spite of this guy, not because of him, and we really dug into the quizzes. Turned out there was one original concept on each quiz that she didn't understand, so each week she scored well on the stuff she knew, but this one concept brought her grade down. This, of course, should have been her knowing that this concept pops up and she didn't understand it. Totally get that was her mistake and responsibility. Anyway, we fixed that ourselves. Just upset that we never received any response or support from the teacher.

Now, she has two Ds under class participation. I had her ask about it, and he told her that they get a participation grade each day, and she received the Ds for two days that she was home sick. So these were excused absences for illness, but she got Ds. I understand that she shouldn't earn points when she's not there, but be penalized for being sick? Seems unfair. I e-mailed him about this, and of course, no response. I did talk to other parents who had the same thing happen to their kids, and when they asked, he was firm in unchanging it and apparently has the principal's support to enforce this policy. And just FYI, this is a small school, there are only about 95 8th graders.

I am so furious with this guy. I am not wanting to go to the principal or up the chain to complain, I don't think it matters at this point. I do feel like I want to send him an e-mail just to say I am disappointed that he refused to respond to e-mails and that he is not supporting my daughter as a teacher should. I have hesitated, mostly because I am worried that he will just take out his anger at me on my daughter and this may affect her grade. The participation grade is really not affecting her grade much, and she has brought the grade up after the concept quiz incidents.

What would you do? I feel like I'm not pointing out his wrongs just to make sure he doesn't treat my daughter badly, and that seems wimpy. But if I send something, and her grade does suffer, then I feel partly to blame (of course my daughter has something to do with her grades!!). Just feel so angry. Many kids, including my daughter, have this idea that high school is impossible and brutal and I just hate that. Help!!

What can I do next?

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answers from Dallas on

I strongly feel like e-mailing is not going to help. Go to his class and ask to set up a time for you both to talk. Ask him to help you understand somethings. Make it about you and not attacking him. Can you help me understand that when I e-mail I don't get a response. Can you help me understand XYZ, etc.
I feel like we live in a generation of people that hide behind computers. Communicate face to face. If this doesn't help, go above his head.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Here's what I would advise if your daughter was my student (I am a 7/8 School Counselor)

Well, so 1. Call your daughter's counselor and get his/her advice opinion (that;s what we are here for, as a liason of sorts... since you want to avoid going "up the chain")

2. Conference with the teacher. He is obviously not a communicator via email but I think your concerns are valid and can be answered in a brief meeting with him. Usually you can request the school counselor set it up since he doesn;t answer your emails.

3. You should tell the counselor about the negative vibe that is spreading about High School, and 8th grade work in general. A small school like yours would actually take your experience to heart and talk about ways to counteract it I think. We had a year where the 7th grade class came in with a huge reputation from elementary school. All the teachers in 7th grade talked about it and ragged on them all the time for being such an immature sucky class. Some parents (of the nice kids, whom there were plenty of) started to confide that it was bringing their kids down. When they went into 8th grade the principal made a big deal to all the 8th grade teachers that NO comments of the sort were to be made to the kids that year, about their reputation. It made a huge difference. The class rose to the challenge, the 8th grade teachers ended up enjoying their spirited personalities, and they went into High School on a positive note. My point is, the teachers really set the educational tone for the school, and any good principal should understand that. I actually would go up the chain for that one if I were you. It's the principal's responsibility to help teachers set the tone.

4. Consider backing off a little from the grade checking. I am assuming you have some sort of viewing system whence you can see every detail of every quiz, every participation grade etc. Let your daughter take the lead on this, If she is not concerned about the 2 D's for participation, it's probably because she understands they are not going to affect her final grade in the grand scheme. Let her be the worrier, she is the one sitting in class every day.

Lastly, 8th grade is a hard year. It's the last year they take all the prescribed classes, before they can start to tailor their schedule to their strengths in High School. Just know that it doesn't necessarily get harder next year. High School will be just as doable as middle school. Also, 8th grade science is especially tough. In California anyway, it's the physical sciences, all the really conceptual abstract stuff that can't be seen with a naked eye (chemistry, physics, astronomy). Plus it is a very superficial taste of those disciplines, which entire classes are based around in High School. So it barely scratches the surface and most kids get through 8th grade science without truly "getting" any of it. That's okay, it all gets revisited later in their HS coursework.

Hope this helps.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Getting right to the one thing you can deal with: I would get other parents to come with you to the teacher (and then the principal IF it's true the principal backs him) about the policy of a D for class participation if a child is out on an excused absence. This is a ridiculous and punitive policy that achieves nothing.

If you go on your own, you look like the complainer, the squeaky wheel, and can be brushed off easily. If you go as part of a group of parents, the teacher and principal must at least appear to take you a little more seriously. You will need these other parents to be ones who are willing to take part--no last-second cancellations so you are there solo on the day. Meet with the others first to plan what you will say. Write down your opening statement -- script it, don't wing it. Then every parent should commit to stating out loud the examples from their own child: "On Jan. 18, Bobby was out sick and it was an excused absence, but he received a D for that day" or "On Feb. 20, Amy was at an orthodontist appointment that could not be moved, and which was an excused absence, but she got a D for participation that day." Dates, times, exact reasons.

Then ask the teacher (and the principal if needed): What is the reason behind the policy? If he says "It prepares them for how tough high school is" (which is total bull), see if you can have one parent there who ALSO has a HS student in the family who can refute that: "My older two kids are both in HS and neither has a single teacher who follows this same practice, so honestly, this is not a practice that is used in HS and therefore I do not see how it prepares eighth graders for HS."

Be very clear to the teacher that you are as a group asking that this policy end. It's too bad that it wasn't ended much earlier in the year as the school year's close to being done, but go for it-- you may benefit future kids too. If the teacher and principal both insist this is the teacher's prerogative, and you want to pursue it, inform them at the end of the meetings that though you really don't want to get into details of how a teacher runs his classroom, this policy is so out of line that you will ask the school board about it next. You will NOT be popular and if your child will be in this same school next school year you should consider whether you want to go the school board route because this teacher will badmouth you and your kid to ninth grade teachers, I fear. But if your kid changes schools next year, consider going for it. It's sad that you have to worry that the teacher will take it out on your child for what's left of the year -- that's why going as part of a group of parents gives a little protection, so that if he starts taking it out on all those kids, you all go back together.

Bravo, bravo, bravo to you and your daughter for figuring out what was going on with the science quizzes and working on that. THAT is a skill she will indeed need in HS -- the ability to dissect what went wrong.

As for kids now dreading HS due to these teachers: Try to see if you can get your kid and maybe some of her friends together with some good, smart HS students so they can talk about what HS is REALLY like and can ask directly: Do teachers pull this stuff there?

Some years you just get a real (expletive!) for a teacher, who is a dictator and not really interested in the learning as much as in "toughening up" the kids (which really means making the teacher feel like the big boss everyone fears). Your kid may have to wait this out. I would definitely consult with your daughter before you get together a group to talk about the absences/Ds -- your daughter may not want you to do it, and I'd respect that, but geez, it's infuriating. I feel for you both!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I would put the complaints about his participation policy not properly accounting for sick days and about his lack of responsiveness in writing to the principal.

The rest of it? Grades in 8th grade don't count for anything. Let your daughter know that while you want her to work her hardest and do her best, there's no point in getting upset over illogical grading policies because they're not going to affect her beyond this year. If her grades "suffer" because he gets angry that a parent complained about him, then document that too but otherwise, who cares? Unless her transcript is an issue for admissions to a private high school, it doesn't carry any weight going forward.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think what he is doing is wrong, and frankly, he sounds like a lazy teacher. He's not doing his job on multiple levels.

What I would do is forward the chain of e-mails to him and copy the principal. Write, "We have yet to hear back from you on any of the e-mails below. I was able to figure out that Susie didn't understand XYZ concept, and I taught that to her at home. I still need clarification as to why her class participation grade would suffer due to an excused absence due to illness. In compliance with the school district's policy, we did not send her to school when she was ill. Therefore, what would you suggest that students do who cannot attend school due to illness? Would you like them to attend even when they have a fever (vomiting, etc)? Please clarify your policy. We take Susie's education seriously, and look forward to partnering with you to understand the best way forward."

At least then the principal has been made aware that this teacher is not responding to e-mails from parents requesting help/clarification, as well as he has been made aware that the teacher is lowering students' grades due to excused illness absences. He sounds like a pretty crappy teacher. :(

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answers from Boston on

You've tried to communicate with this teacher- 3 emails without a response is unacceptable. It's part of his job- communicating with parents- and he's violating the school's policy by not. It doesn't take much time to send an email or make a quick phone call. You've given him 3 chances (which was nice of you), now it's time to contact the principal. Be sure and document your email attempts to the teacher, talk with the principal about your concerns and see how he/she wants to handle it...either he'll take it from there or set up a meeting with the two of you. Be sure he follows up with you and that you see a change for the better- it should get resolved in some manner.

Giving an absent student a grade of D for participation seems reasonable ONLY if they are given the opportunity to make this up some how, otherwise it seems unreasonable especially when your daughter isn't out excessively. You've heard that the principal "has his back" but I wouldn't be so sure about that...principals don't like teachers who use negativity to motivate students because it doesn't work.

Be sure and advocate for your child, for all you know this principal feels the same way and is dying to get rid of this teacher- your complaints could lead to an investigation that will only help him be successful in that.

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answers from Honolulu on

Well the Teacher does not respond to your e-mail inquires. If he did, then you would be able to ask questions and get answers.
So that would irk me, too.
And he is not responding within 24 hours per procedures.

2) You NEED to, ask or find out from the 'Grade Level Chair' HOW school work is graded. There has to be a "criteria" about grading and how it is derived, PER school curriculum. So find that out. Because, per some schools or how their curriculum is, they MAY use "formative" and/or "Summative" grading, to then derive a student's FINAL grade. And per the Common Core Standards etc. and how your Dept. of Education says how grades are derived. It is not capricious. It should not be, capricious grading. And as far as my daughter's school, (middle school), grades are NOT "averaged" like it was when I was a kid. Grades are derived, by "summative" grades ONLY. ie: Summative grades are scores that the student got on Tests. NOT on daily homework or quizzes. THUS, find out from your kid's school, HOW GRADES ARE DERIVED.

3) And common sense is, IF a kid is out sick, they are not present. Hence, how CAN a Teacher, even derive a "grade" for "participation?"
However, per my State's Dept. of Education, any absence... even if there is a Doctor's Note, that absence is marked as "unexcused." However, per my kids' schools, if a kid is absent, the student's absence is not held against them and they DO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY, to make up any missed in-class work and any homework for the days the student was absent. So again... ASK the school, what their policies are on this.
When/if a kid is absent, it is the student's and parent's responsibility, to then GET their kid's missed school work and to get, their kid's homework from school, to bring home so the kid can do it, even if they are home sick. If possible.

4) Your daughter's Teacher... has an attitude that is irking yourself and the other parents. His approach to things, are "negative." However, there will always be Teachers, that are noxious. But if there is a bona fide wrongness, to how the Teacher is teaching and if it is preferential or discriminatory or "unfair" then you, DOCUMENT it, put it in a letter, send it to the Principal etc. and seek an explanation or clarification on things.
And have proof on your end... that your daughter is doing the work, and doing it on par, etc.

5) If your daughter is having trouble in her class or classes, then maybe get her a Tutor, or does the school have study halls or times in which the Teacher themselves, has certain periods in which they help the students? My daughter's middle school has that. So ask your daughter's school about that, too.

6) also, sometimes, EVEN if the kid, knows the material... and you studied with your child... sometimes kids make CARELESS errors on their tests. And that itself, can bring their grade down, of course. A careless error is an error. So, observe your daughter, doing her work, and see if she is prone to making careless errors, despite her knowing the material. I work at a school. I see this happen. Even to the best of students.

7) See why, your daughter is not doing well in school. Each school, each grade level, has a certain curriculum to follow and each grade level teaches that. AS a grade level. And each grade level, has certain criteria that has to be met, and taught. See what that is. At my kids' school, the Teachers DO hand out, an info. sheet, per the assignment, on WHAT exactly is the criteria for the lesson/what the kid has to do to perform their assignment/and how it will be graded/and the rubric for it. For example.
Therefore, each student and parent, does have, in hand, the criteria for each assignment, and if it is graded or not, and if it is a summative or formative assignment and grade. Some teachers are good about that and dispersing that information. Some are not.

If you do make a formal complaint about the Teacher and go up the food chain, so be it. Because, you are getting no response from her Teacher. BUT also, DOCUMENT that, and keep documenting it. Because, if the Teacher becomes retaliatory toward your daughter for your "complaining"... then you have, documentation about it.

Some Teachers do not communicate. Some do. Some are asses. Some are not. So find that out.
And find out, HOW grades are derived, and per what criteria.
A Teacher, CANNOT just make things up, on how they grade or per the curriculum's criteria.
I work at a school.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't think he will take it out on your daughter. But if you know that the participation points won't make a difference, then don't bother to email him. Just tell your daughter to keep bringing her grade up.

However, I understand wanting to prepare 8th graders for high school. I don't see that as negative. There are habits they need to get into now, before their bad study habits send them on a crash course to dropping out. (Not saying your daughter will do that, but from what I'm seeing in 8th grade, their teachers are correct to say what they are saying).

Good luck with it! You sound like a thoughtful mom.

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answers from Austin on

Is your daughter in advanced academic classes?
At the beginning of the year did they talk about the expectations in these classes faster paced more accelerated classes?

Participation IS very important. I recall our daughter, who was very shy, was reluctant in some classes to raise her hand also. And so I made sure our daughter would go for some extra work with those teachers. It showed her that the teachers were not as intimidating as she had thought and showed the teachers our daughter did know the subjects and material. It also allowed her to speak without what she perceived as "judgement" from other students.

Remember in middle school and high school, the teachers only have 1 class with your child. It is not elementary school, where the student is with a teacher almost the entire day. So they depend on the students speaking up and participating for the teacher to make sure the student is really comprehending the subject.

YOU set the tone for what high school is going to be like. If you let her think she is in some way not able to handle these classes she is going to live up to your expectation.

How are all of the other students doing in these classes? If you were to find out 80% or more are not having these same issues, would that make you stop and consider, maybe your child needs to be in the regular class in this particular subject?

I recall our daughter in middle school was in all advanced classes and yes, they are taught at a high school level. In High school the AP classes are taught at a College level.

If she started to feel like she was falling behind, she knew SHE needed to go and take care of these things, because in middle school, the students had been in charge of speaking up with the teachers before the parents were to speak with the teachers.

This worked well for our kids. Once they were in High School, they really had it under control, and knew if they were having any problems, the first things the parents were supposed to ask is, "What did your teacher say when you spoke with them about this?"

Take a breath and decide what exactly you feel is the problem.
Do you think the class is too difficult?
Do you feel like your daughter is not sure what the expectation is for this teacher?
Does she feel like she is too shy to speak up?
And work with her to figure out a way to go and speak directly to this teacher about her concerns.
She can do this, In a few months she will be a freshman in High School.

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answers from Kansas City on

If the school policy is that e-mails or phone calls be returned within 24 hours and he is no abiding by that policy why would you not go to the principle?? I sure would.


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answers from Richland on

Just continue what you are doing, teaching her how to cope with difficult teachers. This isn't going to be the last. 14 is far too old to still be trying to fight their battles. You got this far, keep going. In the long run it is what is best for your daughter.

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answers from New York on

Best strategy, if you can do it, is to say something, but don't express anger. Email the teacher and cc the principal. Request a conference, possibly with the principal there. At said conference, be very courteous, very diplomatic. Put (good) words in his mouth: "I know you want all the kids to succeed, I know you're committed to working with kids who are struggling, etc., so, what do you advise when...?"

The bottom line is, you have every right to speak up, but focus on results, not on expressing your feelings. If you play your cards right, he'll know he's being watched, and he'll treat your daughter BETTER, the way he should have all along.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think I would wait and then send a LETTER, not e-mail or text, and copy it to the superintendent of the school district. I would let them know that he is putting a negative connotation in the kids minds about high school, that he is unresponsive to parents, and just generally a "negative nelly" all around. That should go in his personnel file.

As for how the kids are perceiving high school, hopefully a lot of that will turn positive once the kids have an assembly where they meet some of the high school administrators and further be disspelled when they go for orientation. What a jerky teacher!

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answers from Appleton on

I would bring this up at a PTO meeting. Some people simply should not be teachers. This may be the case with this man. A local 2 yr university has a math teacher who has an adverage of 90% students fail her class the first time through. This is not the fault of the students but the teacher. If teacher is unable to get the information to the students he/she is not teaching. There is a difference between teaching and lecturing.

Your daughter should not be getting a bad grade for being sick. iwould be speaking to other parents to find out if their kids are getting the same treatment. Also if a large majority of his students are missing the same concept the teacher is not explaining it well enough to the kids. This is teacher error not student error.

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answers from New York on

How dare he not respond to you after several attempts. You are the mom, she is still a minor. You need to stick up for her and teach her how in the future, she can stick up for herself. Don't let it go. And if your being her concerned mother affects her grades, take it to a higher level.

Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

When we have run into a bad teacher, we went up the food chain. And sometimes we joined forces. When a calculus teacher was teaching everyone AP because he was too lazy for different lesson plans and kids, even after tutoring, were failing and struggling, the parents took it to the principal til things changed. He was reminded that kids did not all sign up for AP, thankyouverymuch. If your DD is getting a D for not being in class, then I would fight that. The principal thinks it's OK policy? Really? I'd join up with the other parents.

If he won't reply to your emails, then start ccing the principal or insist on a meeting face to face. Or both. We had to bring in the VP of SD's school to help us with her tech teacher. And at the end of the year, SD failed the exam. We said, "Well, how can this be? This child had As all year." After a lot of calling, they finally tracked the teacher down and regraded it by hand. Surprise surprise, SD did pass it...with an A. Had we not questioned it, the teacher would have gotten away with giving a student she didn't like a bad grade. The school said it was a typographical error. I call b.s. on that. Took her three weeks to find the test so they could score it.

Now, that said, what is the context of the other comments? I was told "If you get a B in this class, consider it good because it's college-level". In other words, the kids used to getting As were given a head's up that it's harder work. More expectation. And there's not necessarily anything wrong with a tougher class. Not everything will be an easy A. Even for smart kids.

The idea that HS will be horrible or college worse is not new. Teachers prep kids for it being really hard and then when it's moderately hard, they are relieved. And some kids will struggle mightily in HS or college. You need to be her parent and say, "In my experience..." or have her talk to a friend who is in HS.

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answers from Cleveland on

I'd be mad too. But what about contacting the principal to ask why he/she supports the D's for participation when it is an excused absence? If you ask nicely and politely and as if you are just confused versus angry, the principal has to explain him/herself. And how that can be done is beyond me so I'd want to see him/her try. You can mention you emailed the teacher but no response and speaking to other parents, you have learned this policy is supported by the principal. I wouldn't bring up the other lack of responses to emails. Ultimately, the problem with the quizzes was your daughter's fault and maybe that was so obvious to him he didn't feel like dealing with it. He does have 95 8th graders and maybe some other grades too? I know I emailed my daughter's teacher with probably a stupid question. I acknowledged it was a silly quesiton but she never bothered to respond. And she has about 26 kids... I haven't made a fuss but figure she is busy and it wasn't really her responsibility and if I really want lots of 1:1 attention,I should pay for private... Some teachers are great about emailing back. She's not so great but she's overall a decent teacher. So I let it go. Maybe this teacher figures by 8th grade, a mother shouldn't be the one to approach him and I can see that. I know in 8th I would have gone to see the teacher myself... Has she gone and asked about the D's or for extra help at times? Maybe he wants the kids to take care of these things themselves... So maybe have her ask nicely and politely about the D's and if no satisfaction, then email the principal. My kids aren't that old yet. Curious what other people will say as maybe she's the one who should go to the principal about the D's too... Her and a few other kids who have been affected?...

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answers from Jacksonville on

I wish I had a good answer for you. Unfortunately, I do not. I got the same feeling from many of the middle school teachers my son had. The same "they HAVE to be able to do this or they won't pass high school science classes" mentality. Um.. how about they aren't IN high school and you teach/grade accordingly??

And the same teachers repeatedly failed to follow up or respond to emails for us, as well. It is exceedingly frustrating. And the administration, I'm sure, knows about this teacher's lack of promptness (or at all) in responding. I have a counselor friend (in another school system) and believe me, unless this is a new teacher... they have heard it all before. You aren't the first one. And they have opted not to do anything. Or, there is some small subjective loophole that allows them an out from doing anything.

Bottom line with these types of situations is you have to be on top of your kid yourself. YOU have to ensure they do what is required. Otherwise, the teacher really doesn't care. There are many of those in the system.

There are also, however, a few who actually really DO care. Both of my kids had the same science teachers for 6th and 7th grades. One student is a "get by" kinda kid, and one excels at EVERYTHING she touches. They both had similar experiences in the 6th grade class (lack of response from the teacher to my emails, no explanation for certain things, delays in posting grades to the online system, etc), and in the 7th grade class (lots of encouragement and obvious effort to engage the kids, as engaged kids who enjoy the class and subject put in more and better effort and learn more).
Both kids still rate the 7th grade science teacher as one of their favorites of all time. And not just the teacher, but the CLASS.
Those teachers are rare. But they are out there.

I'd venture to say that most fall somewhere in between the two extremes, and that how far to which end of the extreme they fall depends upon the effort of the students.

Sucks to not have support from the teacher. And it's frustrating as hell.
If I had it to do over again, I'd probably call guidance and set up a parent/teacher conference. I requested a conference with the teacher via email at one point, but apparently that isn't sufficient. You have to call guidance, otherwise the teacher is free to ignore the request.


answers from Houston on

To answer you post question, I would let it go. Teachers are human and can be vindictive. Let him find another child to pick on. Save yours.

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