Maintaining a positive relationship with teachers who don’t like my kid
March 4, 2019 12:47 PM   Subscribe

My kid (6) is having trouble meeting behavioral expectations at her elementary school. At this point very few of the teachers are on her side - she’s annoyed them to the “bitch eating crackers” point (I’ve seen two of them vibrate with suppressed rage when talking to us). What do we do next, and how do we defuse tensions at parent-teacher conference later this month?

The behaviors in question are a rotating pie case of infractions. At the beginning the concerns were sensory/self-stimulation stuff (e.g. chewing on things, making noises) and executive function (transitions) but the teachers are now reporting more classroom disruption and open defiance. I think they think she has a disorder of some kind, but we’ve seen three different medical professionals and all of them pretty much think this is normal for age stuff, it’s just we’re in a setting with an unusually low tolerance for it. For context, she’s in an accelerated school - this is appropriate academically, but it comes with other expectations that she’s not meeting, and to top it all off she’s young for grade, not the youngest, but close.

We have an ongoing relationship with a child psychologist now. When she observed Little eirias at school, her impression was 1) yep, this is annoying behavior and it really is also bothering other children, they aren’t just saying that; 2) the teachers are exacerbating the problem by giving her constant negative attention for bad behaviors, and they need to reinforce the positive instead; 3) she may be bored, as she seems to be beyond the material. Unfortunately, 2) and 3) are outside our control. Few teachers are willing to grit their teeth and praise Little eirias for good behaviors achieved by accident at this point, even though all the mental health people we’ve spoken with were unanimous that that is the only thing that will work. And even in this school setting, I think asking for her to be bumped up academically is going to be cast as us deflecting and refusing to engage with the real problem. (I’ve also seen her clown when things are *too* hard, so it’s an iffy strategy anyway.)

We have not seriously considered pulling her out yet, but it may come to that. We have been concerned about expulsion, because the notes from school have been distressing, but per the principal that is still not an option they’re thinking about. We just don’t have any compelling alternatives in our area, unfortunately.

Has anyone been here before? How can we best advocate for our child in this situation? And what is the best strategy for getting through parent teacher conferences this month with minimal pain?
posted by eirias to Education (64 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can you ask your child psychologist to sit in on the PT conference? Or set up a 15-20 minute meeting with the principal and teachers, and psychologist for some kind of IEP? This may cost some money but if it's professionals talking to professionals you may get a lot more communication done.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:52 PM on March 4 [19 favorites]


Few teachers are willing to grit their teeth and praise Little eirias for good behaviors achieved by accident at this point, even though all the mental health people we’ve spoken with were unanimous that that is the only thing that will work.

I actually think this is an appropriate request to make of the teachers, backed up by the opinion of your mental health team. ("Don't pay attention to bad behaviors" is more of a problem, for obvious reasons.) They're elementary-school teachers, they ought to be able to deploy ordinary strategies to deal with age-appropriate misbehavior.
posted by praemunire at 12:57 PM on March 4 [35 favorites]


I think one thing that's important for you and the school to do is get on the same page about the language you use and actions you take to address disruptive behavior. So if you hear about disruptive behaviors at school, you can reinforce appropriately at home.

I would also ask some deeper questions about the approach the school takes to social, emotional, learning and the kinds of professional development offered to the teachers (that's a question for the principal alone). Does the school use a positive discipline approach? Something else?

Is there enough recess, PE, offered to kids at this school? Are there items for kids in the classroom who need sensory soothing activities (koosh balls, velcro to rub, physio balls or rocker stools to sit on)?

It does sound like it might be better for your child to be at a school where they can be with kids more in her social/emotional development range (younger), but have plenty of opportunities to do advanced work if they are bored (work with a math specialist, read ahead, get a more complex project to work on).
posted by brookeb at 1:00 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, 2) and 3) are outside our control.

some US-centric advice here.

2 and 3 are not outside the school's control. if this is a public school the normal route would be to escalate to the principal level and/or get the district psych or other responsible administrator on board for a plan that addresses your wee-uns behavior with the teachers. acting out at age six is entirely common and something a teacher should have good strategies for dealing with. if your kid's teachers do not have good strategies, it is possible the school could help the teachers become better in this regard, at the simplest level by drawing up a plan for what to do when the wee-un acts out (let them go to the reading corner to read, send them to the library, not deny them recess time as punishment, etc)

If this is a charter or private school, you may need to proceed differently and possibly more cautiously, as they are not required by law to take all students.
posted by zippy at 1:10 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


As someone who coaches a lot of kids sports I'm not sure your job here is go advocate for the teachers to tolerate your child as much as it is for you to teach your child to behave appropriately. If that means pulling her from this school, do it.

There are lots of smart kids in the world, it doesn't excuse poor behavior and being smart is useless without the accompanying social skills.You have a lot of professionals here telling you your kid is extremely disruptive and it's not due to a medical issue. Listen to them. If it's not working something needs to change and it's unlikely to be the way an entire school approaches discipline.

She is 6. Social skills trump academics. If she's smart and motivated she'll do fine academically no matter what.
posted by fshgrl at 1:15 PM on March 4 [74 favorites]


We have not seriously considered pulling her out yet, but it may come to that.

I'm at the stage of parenting where I look back and see my mistakes. Keeping my wonderful, gifted square-peg child in a round hole of high-quality education is near the top of the list.

A six-year-old child needs to be in a place where she is celebrated, full stop. She's got her whole life to get her book-learning in. You've got one shot at her self-image.

If it were me, I'd find her a new school asap.

(Also, I'm sorry, B. xo)
posted by headnsouth at 1:18 PM on March 4 [75 favorites]


Deep breath: the teachers probably don't dislike your kid. For the most part, they don't have time or temperament. Few teachers do. Of the thousands of students who've come through my classroom, there's only *one* I ever truly disliked – and he was an actual, dyed-in-the-wool criminal. Notably, he wasn't six. So, as a baseline, I think it's important that you remember your daughter is love-able and like-able by her teachers, and that the issue is with your daughter's behaviors, not with her very person.

However, from your (totally fair-minded) description of the problem it does sound like the teachers are as desperate and frustrated as you. Your daughter's behavior is challenging to their classroom culture, to other students' learning, and to their relationship with an engaged parent (you). They've reached out to tell you that they're concerned about her disruption, open defiance, and "a disorder of some kind." These are not easy things to tell a parent, and they come only as a last resort. I'd take them seriously.

The poor girl. The background roar of stress and expectation must be tremendous for her. A lot for anybody's shoulders – and especially for an elementary student. According to your post, she's one of the youngest in an accelerated school where she's not meeting behavioral standard in a setting with unusually low tolerance for irritating actions. Which is – a lot. Plus, it sounds to me like you understand the intensity and severity of these behaviors to the extent you've got an ongoing relationship with a psychologist and three medical professionals.

So, I'd recommend you approach conferences (and pre-conference contact) from a collaborative, pro-social child-development point of view. Acknowledge the teachers' concerns, efforts, and communication. As appropriate, listen to their frustrations - but proactively redirect negativity/blame/frustration into a constructive conversation about what's best for the kid. Ask them what they think would be best for your daughter. Take it under advisement. Request an IEP evaluation. Consider the impact that an "accelerated" program has (because no matter how accelerated it is academically-speaking, there's no way to accelerate social-development) on your daughter.
posted by mr. remy at 1:24 PM on March 4 [15 favorites]


My child is only 3,5 but was in a situation with his kindergarten that..... wasn’t.... great....

Also sensory issues and the school wasn’t accomodating.

When we had a home visit from a young children’s advice doctor (we are not in the states) she said: it sounds like they don’t like him.

And I was like: what do you mean??! How do you know that???? You’ve been here 30 minutes!!!!

And she said: when to like someone you make things easier for them, if you don’t like them you don’t bother to help them.

And a month later everything broke down with that kindergarten and he started somewhere else (where they like him!) and he is a different guy completely.
posted by catspajammies at 1:25 PM on March 4 [30 favorites]


I've been there with my kid, and I don't think you're at all wrong to perceive that the teachers don't like her, and that their refusal to engage in evidence-based discipline that's being recommended by *actual professionals* is a huge part of the problem. If you're in the U.S., I'd say get an IEP that forces them to use the correct methods, and institutes additional accommodations that might help. If you're not, then change schools. Sometimes with behavioral issues, changing the setting is the best option.
posted by schwinggg! at 1:27 PM on March 4 [11 favorites]


If it's not working something needs to change and it's unlikely to be the way an entire school approaches discipline.

Could not disagree more. There are better and worse ways to approach discipline. It's the job of the school and teachers to know that. There's likely very little that the parents can do at home to influence their child's behavior at school, because school is a completely different setting from home.
posted by schwinggg! at 1:30 PM on March 4 [10 favorites]


I was your kid. My parents pulled me out. I was homeschooled for a year and then went to a half-day homeschool program. While I have some mixed feelings at this point, I am overwhelmingly grateful that this is the choice they made. I simply needed to move my body a lot more than is "normal" and tolerated in traditional elementary schools. It was the right choice for me socially, and I think that's far more important at that age than any kind of accelerated academic progress.

Being somewhere where she is at odds with everyone - teachers, administration and other kids - isn't going to do her any favors, even if it's a "good" school. Being branded a trouble maker, particularly if she's engendering the bitch eating crackers response, is very damaging and makes it hard to grow.

I would strongly consider moving schools if that's an option.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:31 PM on March 4 [20 favorites]


"I’ve seen two of them vibrate with suppressed rage when talking to us."

Over a six-year-old? That sounds like a very dysfunctional place. If it's at all feasible, move her.
posted by Aquifer at 1:41 PM on March 4 [33 favorites]


I have been a middle school teacher in this kind of situation, and I have also been a parent of an elementary then middle schooler who needed extra understanding from teachers (in ways that weren’t really obvious.) This was in 2 different school districts. I am not trying to advocate for bribery, but when I was in the teacher role, we (teachers on my team) were so accustomed to being attacked or treated grumpily by justifiably worn out parents, that when one parent came in with a positive and cooperative and friendly attitude, it blew us away, and we would have done anything for that mom and that kid. I like to believe we would do anything for all the kids, but this was a child who has a pretty exhausting way of interacting with everyone. Teeth gritting may have occurred. That mom took the angle of trying to let us know how much she appreciated us from the start, because I believe she truly felt we were undervalued, AND she wanted to increase the chances of us extending a little extra patience when we might be on our last gasp. My wife and I used some of her strategies, including friendly emails and occasional sub trays or cookie trays sent to the school to be shared with anyone who worked with our child. I don’t know if the food really helped our child’s situation, but I know that as a teacher, that mom really got our attention with her kindness (through communication and through food), and it made me instinctively want to use her style of interaction when I was on the other side of the situation.
posted by chr1sb0y at 1:41 PM on March 4 [7 favorites]


I have a child with sensory issues. I received much the same feedback. My child would get sensory overload and go into "meltdown" mode. A meltdown would be disruptive to the class. During a meltdown, my daughter could be very defiant as well. Fortunately things are better now.

Two things helped:
1.) Noise-muffling or noise-cancelling headphones.
2.) Her teachers created a spot called "Chillville" in the corner of the room. When they saw her starting to struggle, the offered her the opportunity to go to Chillville until she could re-join the class.

My child is auditory avoiding, but tactile seeking. She needs the tactile stuff just as much as she needs her headphones. Instead of telling her to sit still, the teachers got her a nubbly ball-shaped seat cushion so she could rock back and forth on it. We got her chewy jewelry that she could gnaw on. It sounds like the teachers are trying to get your child to stop these behaviors, but that's perhaps not the best approach. An occupational therapist would have more suggestions.
posted by Ostara at 1:42 PM on March 4 [20 favorites]


"I’ve seen two of them vibrate with suppressed rage when talking to us."


Move. Classrooms for now, new school next year if necessary. Ended up being necessary for us, and the administration heard from me quite frankly about similar behaviors from the teacher when we’d gone through what you were going through, doctors and counseling and therapy. Somehow magically coincidentally, the teacher in my case now teaches a much older age level than six.


ETA: sensory issues were also at play and with ear protection and other sensory appropriate approaches, the issues that presented were ameliorated, though we did go through and anger and shouting phase that required more intervention at age 10.
posted by tilde at 2:02 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I read your subject line, formulated my answer, read the rest of your question, and the answer remained the same:

If your kid's teacher doesn't like him or her, get your kid out of that class. Little displeasure microaggressions, fewer opportunities, and a perception of cruelty go a long way toward making kids hate school and hate learning and not trust adults who should be trusted.

I can tell you, up through the end of elementary school, exactly which teachers of mine liked me and didn't like me. I am 36 years old and it still sticks in my craw. I can tell you how they failed me by not appreciating me as a human being, even though I could not have articulated it at the time. They caused me lasting harm. I'm still angry at you, Mrs. Zautdke. You were really cruel to me. You should have done better.

Starting in junior high, that feels like the right age to learn to cope with teachers who don't like you because not everyone in the world is going to like you. But those early formative years where a kid learns to love learning (or not), trust adults (or not), and develop an identity and self esteem (or not)? If a teacher doesn't like your kid, and it's as obvious as "vibrating with suppressed rage," just get the kid out. Who fucking cares if the teachers can work through it? Why would you want to bend over backwards and bribe those teachers with food or compliments or whatever? You don't owe them anything.
posted by juniperesque at 2:16 PM on March 4 [44 favorites]


This happened to little vine, and it was ADHD. (We saw a psychologist who was no help, but she referred us to a neuropsychologist who definitely was. The neuropsychological exam was the key for us.)

With that said, what worked was the teacher's slow, patient praise of any desired behaviors and the gradual extinguishing of undesired behaviors via ignoring and break-taking after a warning. If your school's teachers aren't going to be willing to do that -- get out!
posted by woodvine at 2:23 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


If you're in the U.S., I'd say get an IEP that forces them to use the correct methods

I don't think IEPs are available unless the child is diagnosed with a disability, which so far the doctors have declined to do. You can't get an IEP just because you want your child taught a certain way, even if you sincerely believe it would help.

It just doesn't seem like an IEP would be required here--if the child hasn't already thoroughly alienated her teachers and her classmates. That's the real problem. We can have certain expectations of adult teachers (including taking reasonable alternate approaches to discipline), but if her classmates hate her or think she's weird, too, that's going to be a hard environment for her to be happy in.
posted by praemunire at 2:32 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Few teachers are willing to grit their teeth and praise Little eirias for good behaviors achieved by accident at this point, even though all the mental health people we’ve spoken with were unanimous that that is the only thing that will work.

I want to be really clear here: whatever your kid's issues are, that is not acceptable. Positive reinforcement is like, an absolute bog-standard strategy, and if these teachers are not willing to do it, then they are bad teachers. I'm serious. I spend so much time finding things to praise with my more challenging kiddos (and I have some challenging kiddos), and that is true for every teacher in my building. (Actual sentence I said last week: "I'm so proud of you for eating your lunch and not throwing food at anyone.") No matter how many annoying things a kid does, they are a kid and they are learning, and it is my job to build a relationship with them and build on their successes, because every kid has successes, even if it's just that there was one twenty-minute span today where they didn't have a meltdown.

Also: your kid's teachers should like your kid. This stuff about "vibrating with rage" just horrifies me. All kids are lovable. Your kid is lovable. And your kid is SIX. Look, like all teachers I get frustrated, but I've never disliked a student. And if I ever found out that a parent believed I disliked their kid, I would be taking some serious time to check myself, because that is not okay. Parents and teachers have to be on the same team, and that can't happen when the teacher is acting like your kid's teachers.

Pull your kid out. This place sounds toxic.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:33 PM on March 4 [49 favorites]


I’ve seen two of them vibrate with suppressed rage when talking to us.

if this is true, get your kid out of the school NOW, for all the reasons others have articulated above

if it's not true and you're just imagining it, get your kid out of the school NOW anyway, because c'mon. this well is poisoned. your kid is six, this is an "accelerated school," what even are your sunk costs. give your kid a fresh start someplace where y'all aren't full of conflict emotions every time you set foot in the damn place.

(nobody here can tell you whether or not Your Kid Is The Problem; trying a different school may provide some clarity on that front)
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:57 PM on March 4 [10 favorites]


We dealt with this over the past year, albeit with the school being much more supportive than day care. Exact same age with a particularly bright child. The most important thing we did is request an eval by the school psychologist. This led to multiple beneficial accomodations by his teacher. We are in a great school district, so you may not have this available if this is a private school.

We worked with a child psychologist to get my son on appropriate medication. This helped him with some hyperactivity.

Finally, we did PCIT with a therapist. This was incredible. Consistent application of PCIT techniques has completely turned around the in school behavior. We had to coach the teachers a bit on direct, single step commands, but things are much, much better.

If you'd like to chat in detail, memail me and we can set up a call.
posted by bfranklin at 3:10 PM on March 4


I don't think IEPs are available unless the child is diagnosed with a disability, which so far the doctors have declined to do. You can't get an IEP just because you want your child taught a certain way, even if you sincerely believe it would help.

It just doesn't seem like an IEP would be required here--if the child hasn't already thoroughly alienated her teachers and her classmates. That's the real problem.


My viewpoint is that such a young child with such disruptive behavior by definition cannot access the curriculum, and qualifies for the IEP. I made that argument for my kid and was successful. At 6 she may still qualify for the "developmental delay" category, which makes it easier. Yes, you will need some testing, but the fact that she's on the verge of expulsion should really carry the day in terms of the eligibility.

And sometimes an IEP is defensive - you get it not because your child actually has a disability, but because the school is crap at discipline and has created the behavioral issues.
posted by schwinggg! at 3:34 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


(US centric advice for public schools)

My child is 12 and has ADHD and a (possible) mood disorder. It took >3 visits to professionals of various kinds to get a "diagnosis" we could work with.

This is not to encourage you to pathologize your daughter or assign her a medical label that doesn't fit. She may be perfectly neurotpyical for a 6-year-old, but if getting an outside assessment can help you deal with public schools, it is (IME) worth it. Teachers should not "vibrate with rage" when dealing with your kid. That sounds awful. If you are staying in this setting, you may need some allies to help you communicate your child's needs.

We got a neuro assessment on my son when he was about 8. We paid out-of-pocket for it since insurance would not. It was not cheap, but it fast-tracked us getting a 504 accommodation (which is like an "IEP lite" and schools are more willing to do since it doesn't cost them the $$ of a special education situation). His 504 plan included elements such as he was allowed to go to a chill-out space whenever he needed and he was excused from all but the most necessary of homework. It was tremendously valuable.

So sorry you're going through this - I feel for all of y'all.
posted by pantarei70 at 3:47 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Thank you all for sharing your stories. Several of them were sobering.

Just a little clarification about the school she’s at. It’s a private school for gifted kids - we’re sending her there because there’s no real accommodation available in the local public schools until older grades. We actually made this choice not because we want her to master calculus at twelve or something, but because I believe being chronically bored in school can itself warp people’s social-emotional development. So it’s not that I’m bothered that she has to work on stuff, and in fact I want her to confront challenge, and if this is the first one off the block, then that’s where we’ll start. But when the professionals all tell me the school’s approach to discipline is doomed, and the school nevertheless digs its heels in, I feel like I’m watching whatshisface inscribe the self-fulfilling prophecy on some gold tablets and bury it in the desert.

Anyway, the fact that it is small and private means our options are limited: there are no required accommodations for much of anything; the teachers she has worn out are the teachers that exist; in fact the guidance counselor is one of the suppressed-rage people, and both such conversations happened in the presence of the principal. Fun!

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of suggestions that we quit. The sunk costs are the one month deposit for the fall and a year of exposure to a (charmingly) weird math curriculum which nobody else has used since 1960. The larger problem is that it’s not clear what else we would do. In the local public her fidgeting and acting out would almost certainly increase from boredom, but in the changed context they would be unremarkable. That would be the path of least resistance for us as parents. She would almost certainly not be cherished there but she might not be hated (by the teachers at least). The other private options mostly just don’t solve the problem of her difference in any way - there’s the prep school at which she’d be an even squarer peg, the hippie school at which she might be accepted but wouldn’t be stretched, and some Catholic schools about which I am unenthusiastic.

I think the psychologist thinks we should pull her, honestly. She has said several times that she sees a lot of families from Little eirias’ school and the pretty clear subtext from her face is “...because I have to.” (Note that this provider is someone the school recommended to us.) She asked us pretty directly today if we’d thought of switching schools, which itself augurs poorly, I fear.
posted by eirias at 3:58 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


"in fact the guidance counselor is one of the suppressed-rage people" HOLY SHIT LEAVE that is the one person who should be no-holds barred in your kid's corner. Cut and run.

"the hippie school at which she might be accepted but wouldn’t be stretched" - I think you should reexamine this assumption. Kids are more than capable of doing their own stretching, especially when given the chance to. I did in fact complete calculus at 12, almost entirely because I was at a hippie school that let me stretch myself at my own pace. Learning things is fun - extremely fun! - until school cures you of that notion. I would explore that a little more. It sounds like she could use an emotionally supportive environment more than an academically rigorous one.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:14 PM on March 4 [51 favorites]


In the local public her fidgeting and acting out would almost certainly increase from boredom, but in the changed context they would be unremarkable. [...] She would almost certainly not be cherished there but she might not be hated (by the teachers at least).

Okay, I'm curious -- do you have any specific experiences that would lead you to believe this? If it's a general criticism of public schools, what I will say is that public school teachers tend to be better qualified and trained (I have truly never encountered an educator who refused to use positive reinforcement, ever), and the fact that we can't just kick out kids who annoy us means that our bar for cherishing is pretty low! I have a lot of kids with pretty severe behavior problems who I absolutely adore, because yeah they act out a bunch, but they are also charming and funny and sweet when they're given the opportunity, and I have faith that the wonderful things about them will come out more and more often as they grow. I don't think any school is a utopia, but even challenging first-graders are highly cherish-able, at least for someone who doesn't hate kids. Public school teachers will be well accustomed to handling disruption and misbehavior, and honestly that's a good thing. Your teachers sound...um, inflexible. To say the least.

You may also find that, depending on your kid's level of giftedness, there are more opportunities for her at a bigger school, even/especially a public one. A lot of our gifted kids take higher math, use more challenging texts in reading/social studies/science, have opportunities to participate in city-/state-wide projects and challenges, and so on (we don't have a gifted pull-out). It's not perfect and they're not challenged every moment of the day, but they're learning and they're loved, and that's more important.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:27 PM on March 4 [28 favorites]


Pull her out now. Suppressed rage?!

I don’t know why you think she wouldn’t be cherished at public school. In my experience, bright kids with involved parents do very well, even if on the irritating side. (Source: my bright but sometimes irritating kid.)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:37 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Re: why we think it would not go well at the local public - this is informed by other people’s experiences. My husband and I both had quite good public school educations that were well tailored to what we needed. That’s just not on the table in our neighborhood, unfortunately. Additionally the most recent administration there was reportedly a wackadoo nightmare (the school social worker is rumored to have told a family whose second grader was being bullied that if they were so worried they should send him to school with a gun). #1 city for families it ain’t...
posted by eirias at 4:53 PM on March 4


I'd reach out to the hippie school - it might actually be really cool. Just check that there is ample herd immunity.
Good luck - sounds crummy. Time for a job search in a different city?!
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:56 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


the hippie school at which she might be accepted but wouldn’t be stretched

per your description of her struggles at her current school, she does not respond to stretching. remaining quiet when other students are quiet would be a very hard stretch for her, which might be good for her, but it is not a stretch she is either willing or able to make at this time and in this place. and you say she may be beyond the material, so she's not being stretched academically either. if the hippie school is an actual alternative, it is by far the best one.

I am very curious about what she says to you when she's at ease and at home -- how she describes her own disruptive behavior, if she's aware of it when it's happening, if it happens at home, if she understands that it hurts other kids and doesn't just annoy teachers, if she's sorry about that or if that is the point of it. her subjective idea of what she's doing seems necessary to know in order to advocate for her with teachers.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:35 PM on March 4 [18 favorites]


I had an experience with my kid where we avoided sending them to a school because we believed what everyone else said about it being a bad school. We sent to a Waldorf school instead, and it was the worst for our child. I wasn't going to home school, so I ended up sending them to the "bad" school, and it was one of the best experiences of her schooling. Visit other schools, public, private, alternative. Find a place that is a safe, empowering place for your child. Social emotional skills are way more important at this age, and you might find that most of her negative behaviors end when she is in a school where she knows her teachers like her.
posted by momochan at 5:54 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Has anyone been here before? How can we best advocate for our child in this situation? And what is the best strategy for getting through parent teacher conferences this month with minimal pain?

I was an asynchronous learner who thrived at a school for gifted kids. I have two kids, one of whom I would never, EVER put in a school for gifted kids in the sense mine was (more on this in a moment). My kids are in grades 2 and 8.

So you have three problems:

1. Behaviour. My question is, does she act out in outside structured activities?How's her behaviour at home? What does she say about it? At my martial arts academy, we have kids who act out, who continue to act out until they have the right therapy, sometimes meds, and we have all put in extremely consistent systems. And then we have kids who "act out"...for two weeks and then don't. They look the same coming through the door, and have radically different needs.

If your daughter acts out everywhere, then I would maybe slow down and work on that...MAYBE.

2. Her intellectual development and your belief that boredom academically will lead to huge problems. Well...that was kind of true for me until I got to a school for academically gifted kids, but my intellectual development fit into school, meaning that I liked to demonstrate my intellectual development through smart answers to questions in various subjects. So in that sense, that was true and the school I ended up at was great.

However, I will point out for the umpteenth time that all us gifted kids did not end up as gifted adults, despite the enrichment...and recently I was at a party with a whack of us and none of our kids are in that (highly competitive) school, because none of us thought our kids would thrive there despite their genes and living in our homes with all our old Latin textbooks. My eldest is so smart but...he sucks at "doing school." No amount of intellectual capacity or challenges at the right points would make him happy in a school like I went to. It would eat him alive, and the peers he would be with wouldn't get him.

3. And on that note, fit. It sounds a bit like you are doing the "devil you know" argument here...you've heard the public school is terrible, you don't think the hippy school will be challenging, the Catholic schools are problematic, so you're...going to keep your child in a school that has adults who really dislike her and have refused to change their ways? If you are finding a parent-teacher conference hard, consider your daughter sitting there all day long five days a week.

I say this with full knowledge of how hard these decisions are. But it seems to me like the information you have is pretty strongly pointing to the fact that this school is not a good learning environment for your child.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:57 PM on March 4 [11 favorites]


being chronically bored in school can itself warp people’s social-emotional development

Being chronically hated is orders of magnitude worse. I cannot emphasize this enough. You’re talking about this in an academic, detached way, but your kid is learning that people will hate them for who they are, and that this is right and correct and as it should be.

I was your kid. Nobody pulled me out of that school, nobody offered any help, no one did anything as long as I kept getting perfect scores on all the tests. It harmed me.

Protect your child.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:10 PM on March 4 [44 favorites]


Any reason why your child is enrolled in an accelerated school? In our experience, in such learning environments have little to no tolerance for "special needs" students.
posted by JamesBay at 6:44 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


I too have a very bright six-year-old who we have had to make similar schooling decisions for. We put him into a hippie school with a heavy emphasis on social/emotional growth and much less emphasis on academics. (To give you a sense: the school values are compassion, persistence, respect, trust, and creativity and they heavily emphasise them in many aspects of the curriculum. There is no homework or grades. Lots of arts, outdoor stuff, cooking, etc).

The school seemed lovely but we were pretty worried that he would be chronically bored and that his social/emotional development would suffer because of that, for exactly the reasons you are. I understand very well where you're coming from.

He is doing great. He loves school (despite being a square peg in many, many ways) and I think a lot of it is because the teachers and the school believe their role is to nurture the whole person. That's really what kids need at this age (probably any age, but especially this age). Somewhat surprisingly to us, the huge emphasis on things like persistence and uniqueness and kindness has also meant that he's getting far more intellectual challenge than we feared he would. His teachers have perceived that one of his needs is for structure, and that his greatest joys come from learning hard things, and they have consistently come to us with ways that he can be challenged academically while still being a valued and central part of the class.

My hippie school is not your hippie school, but my point is that schools that don't on paper focus on academic challenge may nonetheless still be better even for very bright oddballs. Your daughter's current school sounds toxic and I'm worried that it is doing damage to her, and her behaviour is in part a response to that. So even if the hippie school isn't academically challenging, I'd suggest you move to it. But I am willing to bet there's a good probability that it will serve her academically better as well.
posted by forza at 6:49 PM on March 4 [20 favorites]


It sounds from your initial question like the hardest part of school for her is managing her behavior. For this reason, she should be in a school environment where behavior expectations are age-appropriate and behavior management is focused on the positive. You can find enrichment activities outside of school if the school doesn’t offer anything, but you will have a lot of trouble building up her self-worth if all the adults at her school are spending every school day ripping it to shreds.
posted by epj at 6:52 PM on March 4 [9 favorites]


Yes, I have experienced this. I yanked the child out of school in February of kindergarten year to homeschool him and all of the problem behaviors immediately stopped. Days later, he taught himself two-digit subtraction while taking a placement exam, was reading chapter books fluently within a few weeks, and absolutely THRIVED.

He was bored out of his mind in public school. He was never allowed to finish anything. He is a perfectionist.

It's been 13 years. He's now a first year college student receiving straight As. He is an absolutely perfect example of a square peg in a round hole; public school was NOT a good fit.

It might seem extreme action, but both his dad (and one of his older brothers) experiences were very similar, and I learned from both my in-laws mistakes and my own. It took years to repair the effects on my middle son, and honestly, their dad's education never really recovered.

I hadn't thought it was possible financially and logistically to homeschool with my older two sons, despite my middle son's kindergarten teacher recommending it. I was a single parent working full-time. With my youngest son, I realized I absolutely HAD to find a way to make it work, otherwise public school was going to destroy the best parts of him.

And so I did. And yes, it was worth it.
posted by stormyteal at 8:17 PM on March 4 [7 favorites]


Just as a follow-up to my earlier answer (I asked why your child is in an accelerated learning program), I do think you need to be prepared to fight and fight, and fight some more.

As mentioned, unless you have enrolled your child in a true gifted program where gifted students are considered special needs, you are going to face an uphill battle.

While I don't think this is true by any means for all or even the majority of teachers who teach accelerated programs, there is a significant minority of teachers who teach these classes because, theoretically, special needs kids like your child will be winnowed out, leaving conventional students who can sit still, print properly, read, work quietly and do all the sorts of things "normal" students are supposed to do.

That was our experience with French Immersion with our younger son. Any sort of common developmental delay was not tolerated. However, the teacher was not trained in special needs, which is only fair; it was French Immersion, and her focus was primary second-language acquisition.

We did try to keep our son in French Immersion, figuring he would catch up sooner or later. However, it was a complete struggle to receive any sort of in-class support. There were practical limitations, such as the fact there are few teachers' aides who have French language fluency.

But there were cultural considerations as well. As parents, we were not considered true stakeholders (to say nothing of our son). Instead, we were to be managed, and neutralized or placated if need be.

What worked for us to a certain extent was determining the lingo and bureaucratese of the school, such as jargon for special needs designations, and the internal school working group that identified and prioritized special needs students.

Cracking the code gave us some headway but, in the end, we gave up and removed our son from French Immersion. He was being ignored and he was not engaged with learning.

We felt that with a little bit of encouragement and assistance, he would have been able to eventually thrive, but the school didn't see it that way. I'm sure they had their reasons.

My main point here is to think about what is best for your child, and think about the environment you are sending them into every morning.

Is the battle worth it, even though the fight may be just?
posted by JamesBay at 9:15 PM on March 4


Being chronically hated is orders of magnitude worse. I cannot emphasize this enough. You’re talking about this in an academic, detached way, but your kid is learning that people will hate them for who they are, and that this is right and correct and as it should be.
I was your kid. Nobody pulled me out of that school, nobody offered any help, no one did anything as long as I kept getting perfect scores on all the tests. It harmed me.


Seconded. I learned that everyone at school hated me at age six. Adults didn't figure that out and the only thing that helped me was getting me away from those who hated me. This shit puts you in therapy for life. It colors every interaction you have with other humans when you have to reasonably assume they all hate you because you are a fucking annoying weirdo.

GO TO THE HIPPIE SCHOOL, OR JUST ANY OTHER SCHOOL FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:11 PM on March 4 [14 favorites]


I want her to confront challenge
At 6 years old, this is not particularly developmentally appropriate.

'the guidance counselor is one of the suppressed-rage people'
'both such conversations happened in the presence of the principal'
'a (charmingly) weird math curriculum which nobody else has used since 1960'


In just 3 sentences you've described a really bad school. And the class disruption you describe indicates an unhappy, angry child. You're supposed to have her back. You should get her out of there before the rigid environment does her any more damage.

Visit the other local schools and pay attention to whether the children seem lively, curious and kind to each other. Observe meal times and play times if you can, and make your choice of somewhere that's a better, kinder fit for your daughter. The growing mind teaches itself to a large extent, soaking up knowledge; the tragedy of some sorts of rigid education is that children are obstructed from that process.
posted by glasseyes at 1:57 AM on March 5 [11 favorites]


I think the psychologist thinks we should pull her, honestly. She has said several times that she sees a lot of families from Little eirias’ school and the pretty clear subtext from her face is “...because I have to.” (Note that this provider is someone the school recommended to us.) She asked us pretty directly today if we’d thought of switching schools, which itself augurs poorly, I fear.

This strikes me as huge. It's probably considered unprofessional for her to tell you that the school is bad, so she's coming as close to that line as possible, in multiple ways, to communicate this.

What that means is that the professional whose opinion you're paying for in this situation thinks that the school is the problem, and that the school is not good for your kid. That's probably worth sitting with a bit.

What school does this person think little eirias should go to? It might be worth discussing the options with her.

I also just want to second the points that the way the school treats your kid can impact their self-image and relationship to learning in a long-term way. I really question whether "being chronically bored in school can itself warp people’s social-emotional development" moreso than being the target of a teacher's suppressed rage. Kids pick up on that kind of stuff.

Also, I don't know if you saw this Ask, but one of the discussion topics there is boredom in school. The OP concludes that the problem wasn't the boredom per se but feeling like his / her self was wrong / bad. Seems somewhat relevant here.

It sounds like you're trying to balance a lot of considerations, stay involved, and do the best for your kid, so I commend you for all of that and wish you luck landing somewhere better or figuring out how to make it work here.
posted by slidell at 2:40 AM on March 5 [7 favorites]


Another teacher voting for pulling her out. Her behavior would barely raise an eyebrow in my middle school classroom--it's not developmentally appropriate to expect perfection from first graders.
posted by chaiminda at 3:40 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]


Private schools, from my experience, have hard times dealing with children in their narrow definitions. From your stated options, I would suggest looking real hard at the hippie school. Look, you can academically supplement and accelerate a child at home but having them learning to interact well with peers and adults outside of their family is really hard. Your child is not broken she needs a different framework to be successful. There is no shame in not fitting in and deciding to go elsewhere so that one's internal compass aligns in response to better surroundings.

You are not happy with the school; your child is definitely not happy at the school and her teachers are not happy at YOU/HER at the school so, get out of the school. For what you are paying in private fees I am willing to bet would go a long way to being reallocated to supplementation, whether that is private tutors or lessons.

I moved my son out of a school for basically failing maracas. A change in school has been amazingly good for him. The previous school and I parted on good terms. It was just not a good fit or whatever cliche is used to state that no one is at fault per se but things did not work out.
posted by jadepearl at 3:50 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


I was a really bright kid - my first elementary school was fine, then it closed due to low enrollment, and I went to the next nearest elementary school for 3rd grade, which was completely awful.

By a couple of months in, my parents were pulling me home for lunch (that was socially not great, but it meant I didn't have to deal with a lunchroom that really made me miserable - in hindsight, I have issues with certain kinds of noise, and there was no escaping it there), the classroom teacher basically ignored the top level reading/math groups, and I was generally hating it. They got me open-enrolled in a different elementary school in our town for 4th-6th grades, and that was much better for me.

What worked for me was that they did tons of enrichment and learning outside of school - lots of outside activities (some of which they were insistent that our family learns - music, for example - and some of which changed over time as I had preferences.) And I always had books, and was given plenty of time to read on my own, and my parents took me seriously when I asked questions about how things worked, and they got me a computer very early on (in 1985) and made it clear it was mine to explore and play with when I was awake.

My classroom teachers in the last elementary school were clear that I was working well above grade level (and above my peers) but they either let me free-read once I'd done the assigned work, or had me work on things I had more trouble with (handwriting!) and that worked out fine.
posted by jenettsilver at 6:44 AM on March 5


Additionally the most recent administration there was reportedly a wackadoo nightmare (the school social worker is rumored to have told a family whose second grader was being bullied that if they were so worried they should send him to school with a gun).

That story is a) a rumor, b) really sensationalist. I'd treat with great skepticism any source that passed on that rumor.

We're not there, you are, but I've seen decent schools get that kind of reputation based on inaccurate and outdated rumors. This seems especially prone to happen when there are big class and race divides between school populations.

Definitely look at the "hippy school" too, but be careful about that stereotype. Sometimes schools with that vibe can turn out to be very rigid in ways you don't expect.

What you're looking for among other things is reliable information about whether a school has teachers with the training required to deal with some (disruptive but not really that unusual) behavior problems. The description you give suggests that your school doesn't.

(Just one idea: the medical professionals sound reluctant to pass negative judgements on your school, but I wonder if they'll make positive recommendations? Might be worth a try.)
posted by floppyroofing at 7:20 AM on March 5 [9 favorites]


Friends of mine recently pulled their extremely bright 6yo from the public school she was attending due to issues like this. (Every public school is different; I am not knocking public schools; her teacher was using outdated, bad discipline methods and the only option for supporting her when she finished math worksheets before the other kids was...more worksheets.)

They did a ton of searching and a bunch of interviews at every school they could find, ultimately landing on a small Catholic school. My friend went into the interview with the principal wearing a "wild feminist" t-shirt and asked frank questions about the school's approach to relevant social issues, on top of the academic questions. Turns out, the school cares deeply about the whole child, about restorative justice-style discipline, about serious academics and the arts -- on top of having a policy in place to support trans kids and having numerous students with same-sex parents.

Now. Your profile says you're in WI, which is culturally super different from where I am in Portland, OR. But it is 100% worth examining all the options. You might be pleasantly surprised!
posted by linettasky at 1:03 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


queenofbithniya:

I am very curious about what she says to you when she's at ease and at home -- how she describes her own disruptive behavior, if she's aware of it when it's happening, if it happens at home, if she understands that it hurts other kids and doesn't just annoy teachers, if she's sorry about that or if that is the point of it. her subjective idea of what she's doing seems necessary to know in order to advocate for her with teachers.

This is a good idea. I asked her about this in a quiet moment last night. I didn’t get a very clear answer, but I will keep trying. Per a colleague who used to be a school psychologist, we would do well to treat the behavior as a signal from her that there is some need that she is trying to meet in a counterproductive way, and then see if we can figure out what that need is and teach her a better way to meet it, or change the environment to one that more naturally meets it.

The teachers think it’s a mix: that sometimes she is unaware of her noises but other times she is escalating them for attention, which unfortunately is working. I think there is a temptation with super-verbal kids like her to ascribe to malice and willfulness what can be more usefully understood as ineptitude or immaturity, so I am trying to keep my ears and eyes open. I think her behavior is probably not intended to hurt peers - the psychologist saw a lot of dirty looks from other kids to which she seemed oblivious. That said, she has a pattern of recasting negative feedback from peers as something else in order to avoid feeling rejected, so it is possible she does see and is pretending not to.

It has historically been hard to catch her at home and at ease, as hard days have generally been followed with us pressing her to recount what happened and, I am shamed to say, scolding her if she refuses. This was inspired by a set of daily behavior tracking sheets that she brought home from school, which were meant to help her improve a small set of behaviors by rewarding a certain number of check marks with a small treat. However, the teachers got so frustrated that these eventually turned into a vehicle for venting — just long lists of mistakes she made all day, relevant to the goals or not — so even when she met her goals, she wound up getting yelled at by us. Because of that, I think, she recently started sassing the teachers when they asked her to change any behavior that wasn’t on the sheet. Per the psychologist we are no longer to do this: we should only be reinforcing the day’s successes at home, not making her account for all her failures. (The school also gave up on the sheet, as the six-year-old rules-lawyering was incredibly tedious for them.) We are trying to change our parenting strategies to be in line with the psychologist’s recommendation that praise needs to be quite a bit more frequent than criticism. Over this school year, our relationship with Little eirias, and with each other, has really suffered. I do not know if she will succeed at this school, and I do not know if the teachers will succeed with her, but if we don’t succeed as a family, that’s 100% on me and should be the focus of my efforts, I think. I greatly appreciate the attention the commenters here have given to redirect my focus from “how can I manage this awkward situation?” to “what should I be doing to foster my child’s emotional development?”
posted by eirias at 6:30 AM on March 6


However, the teachers got so frustrated that these eventually turned into a vehicle for venting — just long lists of mistakes she made all day, relevant to the goals or not — so even when she met her goals, she wound up getting yelled at by us

I am not trying to pick on you, but for the sake of your kid: this is emotional abuse. Adults are taking out their frustrations on a child, and you’ve validated and aided them in that.

I think you have more work to do than you think you do. I really don’t think you understand how damaging what you’ve described is, including your own involvement. At a minimum you should get your child out of a school that has become an emotionally abusive environment and you need to understand it as such if you’re going to be able to repair this.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:14 AM on March 6 [10 favorites]


Six years old is really little. I feel like many people in this situation have forgotten that and I'm pretty shocked at the lack of empathy school officials have for a little, little kid clearly having a rough time. Your last update has me almost teary at how hard this must be for her. (I'm not trying to be dramatic, but man.) I'm almost proud of her for standing up to people who are being unkind to her. I don't think this school situation is salvageable and I think this sounds like a deeply toxic place.
posted by Aquifer at 10:31 AM on March 6 [11 favorites]


Your most recent followup is alarming. Her teachers vibrate with rage at her, her peers give her dirty looks, you press her to talk about it and then scold her when she doesn't want to, and at six years old she already "has a pattern of recasting negative feedback from peers as something else in order to avoid feeling rejected."

Please take her out of this school. She has no outlet whatsoever, nothing positive or relaxing or encouraging or silly, and her relationships with her parents - and theirs with each other - have suffered.

These are her formative years. This is your chance to have a happy, well-adjusted child, or not. There is no undoing childhood damage, only a lifetime of learning ways to cope with it.

Please readjust your priorities so that staying in a nominally "good" school where your daughter is miserable is not more important to you than her well-being.
posted by headnsouth at 10:55 AM on March 6 [9 favorites]


(The school also gave up on the sheet, as the six-year-old rules-lawyering was incredibly tedious for them.)

Good for her. The "sheet" was bullshit and the school made it worse by utilizing it incompetently. Please get your kid out of this school and into one where she will have a real advocate working on her behalf.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:03 AM on March 6 [12 favorites]


I am not trying to pick on you, but for the sake of your kid: this is emotional abuse. Adults are taking out their frustrations on a child, and you’ve validated and aided them in that.

I think you have more work to do than you think you do. I really don’t think you understand how damaging what you’ve described is, including your own involvement. At a minimum you should get your child out of a school that has become an emotionally abusive environment and you need to understand it as such if you’re going to be able to repair this.


Agreed. Literally cried reading this. It’s not okay and I get that the school has normalized this for you but it’s time to stand up for your daughter. Six year olds are so little!
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:37 AM on March 6 [10 favorites]


And PLEASE do not keep trying to make her tell you why she does what she does. She’s too young to get it and deserves to have quiet calm moments without those moments being turned into conversations about her so-called misbehavior. Poor thing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have so little time to relax and be free from criticism. Just leave her be.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:40 AM on March 6 [10 favorites]


I am not trying to pick on you, but for the sake of your kid: this is emotional abuse. Adults are taking out their frustrations on a child, and you’ve validated and aided them in that.
...
Your last update has me almost teary at how hard this must be for her.
...
It’s not okay and I get that the school has normalized this for you but it’s time to stand up for your daughter. Six year olds are so little!

I hear you and thank you all for your frank comments. When I posted my original question I was looking for answers like the ones chr1sb0y and Ostara gave, and was bracing for perspectives like fshgrl's. The responses from your own childhood perspectives were so surprising and I've been feeling quiet and sad these past few days, absorbing your stories.

I was a rule following kid and have continued to be a rule following adult, and additionally I know basically squat about child development. This makes me very easy to shame, unfortunately, and that's been the principal result of my interactions with the school. When they speak with us, I feel like they are telling me, "you are a bad parent, and your child is bad," and so in the interest of trying to comply with what they want to see, I think I have become an actually bad parent. But we're going to turn it around. The number of people I have spoken to about this who think the school is out of line is basically all of them, and as I gain confidence that what is wrong here is not actually my child and my horribly permissive parenting style, I'm speaking to more people. As luck would have it, one of my colleagues has a very long history with the specific hippie school I mentioned above, and she let me bend her ear today about the problems we've been having and whether Little eirias might be a fit. Surprise! we are not the first family to consider leaving this school for that one, for basically the same reason. Calling them to set up a campus visit is now on my to-do list.

You guys have really made a difference to me this week, and hopefully to Little eirias too. God bless the internet.
posted by eirias at 12:30 PM on March 6 [21 favorites]


Your child is not bad! Your child needs a welcoming environment where she can be herself and I hope for the best out of your visit to the other school.
posted by azalea_chant at 12:36 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


You are not a bad parent. You should have been able to trust that educators would treat your child in a developmentally appropriate way. Discipline at this age is so hard because they seem so much like little savvy, smart people but they are still really young. I think every parent has a story about overdisciplining at this age.

I’m sorry that your family is going through this but I’m confident that you’re taking the right steps. Best of luck to you and yours.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:56 PM on March 6 [8 favorites]


You are not a bad parent. This is how we learn. She is learning you try your best in a situation and if it still doesn’t work, make a change.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:42 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


You're showing up for your kid, and you're the kind of parent who looks for solutions and is open to learning things that are very hard to hear. It's difficult to convey how important that is, but...very.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:08 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


eirias - your update has me seriously teary in a really positive way. I wish my parents had asked people and corrected course like you are doing. It feels so genuinely healing to read about you taking care of little eirias this way. You are doing what a good parent does - make mistakes, ask for help, correct course. Thank you for your update.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:10 PM on March 6 [9 favorites]


nthing "You are not a bad parent." It's easy for bad authority figures to make a parent feel like they are raising their kid wrong, but it helps to remember that WE ARE THE 2nd BEST EXPERTS ON OUR CHILD (child is #1). It's hard for most of us to think of ourselves as the experts on anything, we feel it's wise to defer to the expertise of those who see thousands of children. But really, nobody outside of our kid knows our kid like we do. Trust yourself. You are exactly the parent that your child needs, especially given how thoughtful and responsive you are in this thread.
posted by MiraK at 11:06 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


You're doing exactly what you need to do. I look back on our bad school experience, and I can't believe how long it took me to really accept that IT WAS THE SCHOOL and not me. When you have an institution that's trying to push you into a specific corner, it can really be hard to resist that (especially if you're a rules follower!)
posted by schwinggg! at 2:18 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


if we don’t succeed as a family, that’s 100% on me

Just wanted to say that, if I'm reading your comments correctly, you have a partner, and I hope neither of you thinks it is not just as much on them.
posted by trig at 9:06 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


Hugs, this sounds so difficult.

Quick thoughts:

Walbridge School, local to you, has a good reputation for supporting “twice exceptional” kids.

Also, I wonder if she’d do well at the nearby public Montessori ? Self-directed activities and all that.
posted by ElisaOS at 7:27 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Thanks again for all your thoughts. An update:

At one point a couple weeks ago, Mr. eirias pointed out that we've been hearing stuff filtered through (1) the guidance counselor and (2) the ineptly used behavior sheets, so we should make sure we go to the conferences with an open heart and get a sense of who on the staff still has patience for positive reinforcement. Some good news: contra our earlier impressions, that actually seems to be most of the teachers. In fact, just one teacher we spoke with clearly has been drinking deeply from the well of the Fundamental Attribution Error; and happily that person teaches a subject that Mr. eirias and I are in a really good position to supplement at home. I believe Little eirias will get where she needs to be in this subject eventually even if things continue to go poorly with this teacher.

That leaves the guidance counselor. It's still not great that there's tension there, but a wrinkle I didn't get into above is that I have reason to believe there is some daylight between her approach and the principal's. I also suspect, based on the reception we got from most teachers today -- who clearly went out of their way to emphasize that they do see Little eirias' strengths, and that the problems she has, though important to address, are not deal-breakers for them -- that the principal's view is going to carry the day. We're doing our part by following up with an OT for ideas in how to address the behavior challenges in a gentler, more appropriate way. I'm also taking off early one day a week to make sure Little eirias gets some extra emotional support from me, and some extra time in a more relaxed environment.

Regarding the peer stuff: from the conferences, I have the sense that there's one subject Little eirias is enough of an outlier in that she probably wouldn't get adequate support at most of the other schools around here, but in this environment she has one peer who's similarly strong, and that could be critical as she grows. She also does have some friends at the school, including a best friend (which is no small thing when you are six and kind of an odd duck). We invited a couple of these friends over for playdates at our house so we could develop our own sense of how worried we should be about the things we've heard about rejection, and again -- I think some of this has to have been overblown. The kids who visited appear to genuinely like her, and to be thrilled to see her and sad to leave, and also to accept that she is sometimes weird and just kind of roll with it. Three friends is more than I had in elementary school, frankly, and I think it's enough to build on. We will keep an eye on this (and how best to support social skills development will be another thing we ask the OT about).

We're still touring the hippie school tomorrow, though. There is no sense in not looking around. I think I will feel more relaxed if I understand what the alternatives actually are.
posted by eirias at 7:32 PM on March 21 [3 favorites]


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