Next Gen: When does the teacher know best?

By Carol Ott | Aug 06, 2014

When it comes to knowing about your child's fear of certain kinds of dogs or whether she is particularly susceptible to a throat infection, Mom and Dad know best. But other behavioral and health-related issues often manifest themselves in school -- issues classroom teachers may understand better than anyone. After all, think of the time children spend in their care.

Seven or eight hours a day is a sizeable chunk of time for another set of eyes to observe children in a wide range of activities. And, unlike families who usually have only one child of a given age, teachers are experts on all students of that age. Behaviors that may seem merely annoying at home may send up red flags at school. In the case of a seasoned professional, the child is also "seen" in relation to a caseload of thousands of predecessors.

When does a teacher know best?

Aggressive Behavior
At home, the child who picks on a little sister may be seen as merely indulging in sibling rivalry. In the classroom, however, the child who cannot respect the possessions of others, who asserts himself physically, who lacks the skills to communicate his needs, and who may even feel that he is the "victim." stands out as a child in need of help. This child may feel especially vulnerable because of a change at home (illness, a new sibling, a recent move, bickering), may be intimidated by a situation in the classroom, or could be experiencing anxiety.

"When I was notified about my child's bullying and fighting, it took a conscious effort to stay calm and keep an open mind" recalls one father. "But I figured the teacher wouldn't take the time to communicate concern without sound reason." Contrast this with the parent who brushes off what the teacher is saying on the grounds of a "personality conflict" or some other defensive position. Can that really help the child? Excessive shyness, an inability to make friends, or unfounded fears may be other characteristics observed by the teacher that should be shared with parents.

Destructive Habits
As students climb the ladder to the middle school years, other behaviors, even more serious in implication, may be apparent. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, may also come to the teacher's attention. Students with these disorders often spend excessive time in the bathroom, and their behavior may cause concern among their classmates, who can confide in a trusted teacher or counselor. Many schools educate students about these unhealthy behaviors, and teachers and students often know more about them than parents. If you suspect that your child has an unhealthy relationship with food, don't overlook that valuable ally -- ask the teacher.

Other all-too-familiar school habits include smoking pot or cigarettes, drinking, "huffing", or sniffing glue. If you're suspicious that your son or daughter is flirting with dangerous behaviors, it is important to seek help at the school. Habits that may be controlling a child's life often become apparent in a school setting, away from the parent's observation.

Meet the Teacher Halfway
What's the best way to find out if a child is manifesting any behavior that you should be aware of? Ask!

Teachers can be reluctant to notify a parent if they are only suspicious and have little real evidence, other than a hunch. But parents can tap into these informed guesses by asking teachers if they have noticed anything troubling or unusual. When it comes to protecting young people from harm, teachers can be the best friends parents have.


Comments (4)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Aug 07, 2014 15:42

You know, only after you get out of the "social norm" of outsourcing the education of your child can you appreciate some issues this story tells.


If you homeschool, the PARENT knows the child best.  That was one of the deciding factors we used in deciding to homeschool our 2nd and 3rd children.  I didn't want to send my child off to be cared for and educated by people I don't know and my children knowing them more/better than me as their parent.


Another benefit I'm appreciating is my children are missing out on being exposed to "aggressive behavior" and "destructive habits" that most children are exposed to some extent in traditional schools.


If/When I do put my children back into schools, I have a new appreciation about just how keenly teachers get to know their students.  I wish every parent could formally teach their children for one year.  They would be better parents for life -- and they would have a much better understanding the challenges teachers have.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Aug 08, 2014 09:26

           I educated myself. My mother was too busy stuffing her fat face and fooling around with the preacher. Sire was incompetent. Suffered from attention deficit inherited from his mother. Was an extremely jealous person. he let it be known "whatever you own I own". he stole from me constantly. The first year we were in business formally he loaded-up the soybeans I had been storing and sold them claiming " he needed the money more". It was on from there. He would sell grain from the 85,000 bushel grain handling system I deseigned and would throw away the receipts or otherwise not record the sale and then show up at my house all hours of the night and claim "look how little I got"! I had to go around and have various elevators tally his sales. He began stealing my mail. Even after I got a post office box, he would go in and force the postman to give him my mail. One year he tried to cash my grain support checks amounting to $36,000.00 The teller refused. He pitched his usual fit and was escorted out of bank. He tried to cash the 7 checks at another bank but they called police. He held on to them for over a month. He began keeping my checks from trucking. Lost about $5,00.00. I had to get a post office box at another town. Banker and accountant both wrote me letters advising me I was being cheated. I had to work harder to make up for it. In the meantime checks were being cashed from the joint farm account. parents asked Barb to figure it out. She did. mother was writing $200.00 and $300.00 checks daily to feed her food addiction and to support my sister as her husband was having an affair and spending all their money on the "other woman". They claimed it was Barbara who was stealing. Account was closed. Thefts continued in sire's personal account until bank shut it down for daily overdrafts lasting for weeks. Never an apology. Sister was working three jobs to support the "other woman". he even borrowed money from his parents. She was older, ugly, and didn't even like him.

                 Mother refused to get her eating disorder in check and died as the result.

                 sire sold home farm to gravel pit negating the value of my grain handling system and my 9 tower with corner-catcher irrigation system as well as my use of the ground. fool did not need the money but he wanted it. I had personally organized my neighbors for 3 mile radius and had fought against gravel pit for over 25 years. After the last successful remonstrance a local large farmer who I did business with and was head of the county commishoners bought the farm ground to the south of sire's. Next spring the digging began. He claimed that since he was the head of the county commishoners he could sell it without notification of anyone. Gravel pit then bought sire's home farm.

               Because of my parents failings, us kids were on our own. If not for the public schools we'd had no formal education. Public libraries helped as my mother would just drop us off while she went to church to "practice". Seems she and preacher "practiced" a lot! While this indiscretion gained us nothing, being caught with the ice cream man got us free ice cream for a year!

                    Point is not all kids have good parents to teach them anything. Many kids have little social skills either. Public schools act as a melting pot to cause all to get along in an ordered fashion while learning accepted fact based truth's.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Aug 08, 2014 10:38

Point taken.  But I'm not sure this content is appropriate for public consumption and might not be in accordance with The Mountaineer opinion policy.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Aug 08, 2014 10:59

                 Its my story to document a particular point. I am quite sure there are others that have even greater examples of parental failures that many would be offended by the mere telling.



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