3 Ways to Get to the Heart of a School Problem

Kindergarten teacher and children, happy, looking at globeTwenty-one smiling faces greeted me that morning. They eagerly waited to see what the new teacher would do. Would she make their world a good place the seven hours a day she spent with them in the sixth grade? From that classroom of twenty one would come a banker, an engineer, two farmers, a nurse, a business woman, a teacher. One little boy would spend time in the juvenile justice system a few years later. Another child listened to his father beat his mother nearly every night. And one little eleven-year-old girl was already carrying the seed of the rape she’d endured by her grandfather and two uncles. As I stood there the first day of school, I had no idea of their needs, but I was eager to teach them.

In a Classroom Full of Kids, It’s Hard to See All Needs

I have the greatest admiration for teachers. They are responsible for our children seven hours a day.  I found it difficult to keep up with what was going on in the lives of my own two children, yet teachers need to pick up on which child is being bullied, feeling like a failure, or not understanding a lesson when there are twenty-plus other children with their own needs. And that’s in addition to abuse, rape, and other problems outside of school.

Unhappy Children Often Rebel

When children are unhappy at school, they try to find ways to feel better. One option is to rebel. If you have a child who is rebelling at home or school, and you have not yet found the cause, it would be wise to see how things are going at school.

How to Be a Detective about Your Child

  • Begin by asking some open-ended questions: “What is the hardest part of the school day?” “If you could change one thing about school what would it be?” “Who do you wish were in a different class from yours?” Throw in some positive questions such as “What is your favorite part of the day?” Encourage your child to elaborate his or her answers to include reasons.
  • Grab your child right after school which is the best time to get to the core of any school problem while it’s fresh. I found that a trip to the local drive-in for an after-school snack was a great way to get insight into the day.
  • Schedule a parent-teacher conference. Phrase your need something like this: “We’re having some problems with Ellie, and I just want to get your ideas into what might be going on, so we can help her.” You do not want to put the teacher on the defensive. For some guidelines on parent-teacher conferences, see  From 2 Sides of the Desk – Making a Parent Conference Work.

Some School Problems Only Need Understanding 

The good news is that many school problems are not nearly as big as the child’s perception of the problem. Often, all that’s needed is for the child to understand what’s happening. A perfect example is the first grader who thought his teacher was mad because he was unaccustomed to loud voices. (See What Causes Rebelllion?)

That’s why it’s so important for parents to stay connected to what is going on at school.


Questions for you: What has been your experience with children acting up at home because of something going on at school? How did you resolve the problem?

In my next post, I will write about disciplining a rebellious child.


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