When my youngest was in second grade, we had a tough year. He was constantly getting notes sent home, I was regularly getting calls from his teacher about his behavior, and he wasn’t focused at all.
My son has always been a bit “extra” — previous teachers said he’d get really excited and would have trouble focusing during transitions. But usually after a reminder, he was able to refocus.
Although he was silly and liked making his classmates laugh, he was a joy to have in class and a good student according to his teachers. There was never talk that he may have ADHD or other learning disabilities from teachers, doctors, and I didn’t see any red flags at home so I was pretty confident that wasn’t an issue.
I took the calls, notes, and the fact his teacher said his behavior was “unacceptable” very seriously. My son would have consequences, such as losing screen time, every time I got a note or call home. I made him write an apology note to his teacher and always reassure her I was following up with such consequences at home.
I also made changes to his eating habits, making sure he didn’t have anything sweet before school and was eating something protein-based instead as I’d read this would help with focus and concentration.
I would check in with his teacher to make sure he was on task. Every conversation was met with sighs and moans and complaints about my son. I knew she was frustrated, but it almost felt as if my efforts weren’t appreciated at all– she was always so annoyed with me son and with me.
One day, he’d be having a side conversation. Another day, he spoke without raising his hand. Another, he ran instead of walked in the hall. It was always something.
She was beyond frustrated, and so was I. But so was my son, especially when I lost it on him one day after she’d called me saying he’d had an extra wild day and wouldn’t hold still during class.
Allowing him to sit on the bouncy ball wasn’t absorbing the amount of energy we’d hoped. I had a talk with him, a firm talk that resulted in huge crocodile tears and ending in him telling me his teacher didn’t like him and he got in trouble for doing the same things the other kids did, but they didn’t get in trouble. He often felt singled out and embarrassed and mentioned she was really nice “to all the kids who played sports and got good grades.”
And I believed him.
I knew my child could be a handful at times. Her complaints seemed like small things to me, yes, but she also had 16 kids in her class so I didn’t feel I could chime in with my opinion and ask her to be more firm and handle it in the classroom instead of calling or emailing me multiple times per week. She even suggested he get new friends and said he should hang out with different kids in the class. But my son loved his friends.
The next day he brought home a notice that had to be signed by me to make me aware he had tipped back in his chair that day. He was petrified to show me the letter, but knew he had to because it needed to be signed and returned the next day or he’d lose a recess.
Rules are rules and there should be consequences if they are broken, I get it. But my child was visibly shaken because he tipped back in his chair one time, and the consequences felt a little excessive to me. Especially considering this was the 2nd grade.
The year continued in that way, and over time, my son began to hate school, which had never been the case in the past. I started to suspect the teacher really just didn’t like my son. Her complaints seemed minimal, she contacted me about seemingly little things I thought could have been handled easily at school, like the time he was singing in the bathroom “too loudly” after lunch.
We all want to support teachers — they have a huge job and are in charge of so many kids. I know teachers work hard, and I respect their profession. But I felt these calls home and emails were a waste of both of our time, and they were further alienating my son. I knew she just didn’t like my son. And since that experience I’ve talked to other parents whose kids have been through the same thing with various teachers over the years.
When the teacher just doesn’t like your kid, you know. So does your child, and mine was no different. It affected his whole year. On the last day of school when I picked him up, his teacher said, “I don’t know what was wrong with him today; he kept jumping up and down and was too excited for my classroom towards the end of the day.”
She was talking about him as if he wasn’t even there and I watched him shrink like a wilted rose. It was the last day of school and I’m pretty sure the entire classroom was excited, not just my son.
I got a glimpse of how he spent his entire year and I now understood his frustration.
I put my arm around him and explained it was the last day of school and he was just really excited.
And I know exactly why. I would have been too.