Teacher to Parent: Consider child’s behavior before blaming the teacher Opinion

My daughter has been doing terribly in one of her classes. After weeks of failing, I asked the teacher where she was sitting. She said, “On the back row.” I demanded that the teacher move her to the front and now she’s doing fine. I shouldn’t have to point this out to the teacher. Shouldn’t she be able to figure this out for herself?

There is no harm in asking the teacher to make a seat switch if you think it will help, but “demanding” it and then blaming the teacher for not thinking of it herself strikes me as tactless and inconsiderate. It might have marginally helped your child (might), but it did not take into account other children and undoubtedly discouraged the teacher.

But first, I think you are scrambling the lede. In my house, when such things occurred, the headline was “Smart child fails class,” not “Dumb teacher fails student.”

As a parent, your focus should be on helping the child overcome obstacles. In the grand scheme of things, sitting six or so feet behind the closest possible desk hardly constitutes a speed bump, much less a major impediment.

I’m skeptical, therefore, that the true problem has really been solved. Sure, a band-aid has been applied, but somewhere there’s still a hemorrhage. Have you asked yourself exactly why sitting six feet away caused your child to fail?

Is it because she can’t see or hear clearly? If that’s the case, moving her is just hiding the problem. A vision and hearing screening would better strike at the root.

Is it because she was sitting near friends who distracted her? If so, any move would have been effective. But a stronger solution, at least initially, would be giving her strategies to stay focused.

It’s also important to think about the solution’s impact on others. Teaching can be a zero-sum game. You can’t move a student to the front without moving one to the back. It’s not like classrooms have a plethora of empty seats (and if this one does, please tell us: where may we find such a paradise?). So you’re not just demanding that your child gets what you feel is a better seat. You’re also demanding that an innocent child gets, in your view, a worse one.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea and should never be done, just that it warrants close consideration.

So does your treatment of the teacher. You criticize her for not moving your child earlier, but sometimes it’s not possible. IEPs and 504 plans are proliferating in education. I would estimate that up to 90% of those plans call for the students to be seated close to the teacher.

I’ve taught classes that have as many as 10 such students. Inclusion teachers may have 20 or more. There aren’t that many front-row seats, so a teacher could not possibly have made the switch without technically breaking the law.

That may not have been the case here because the teacher readily made the move, but, then again, maybe it was, and she did it anyway to appease your “demands.”

You might find satisfaction in that outcome. I would not. Demanding to have your way (and getting it) may be worn as a badge of honor by the self-seeking, but those who have to live and work with you view it like a scarlet letter. Tread carefully lest the trait rub off on your child and you sentence her to a life where she’s neither liked nor respected but merely tolerated.

Of course, all this assumes that the real reason for the child’s reversal of fortune is solely due to that six-foot change. My experience is that while it certainly benefits some students, it rarely results in the transformation that has occurred here.

What does make a massive difference, however, is parental attention. It’s likely that the simple act of expressing your unhappiness with your child’s failure and doing something about it is all the inducement she needed to turn things around.

For that, at least, you may go to the head of the class.

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