IT'S USEFUL AT TIMES TO HAVE A FRESH PERSPECTIVE TO “MAKE THE GRADE.” WITH THIS
IN MIND WE HERE AT OUTLOOK-12 HAVE CREATED A SPECIAL COLUMN WHERE YOU, OUR
READERS, CAN WRITE TO US WITH YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS AND
GET PERSPECTIVE AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR RESIDENT AWARD-WINNING EDUCATION
VETERAN AND CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST GARY COOPER. AN EDUCATOR FOR MORE THAN
45 YEARS, GARY HAS TAUGHT STUDENTS FROM NURSERY SCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND IS
ALSO A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR. IN ADDITION, GARY HAS WORKED AS AN ADMINISTRATOR,
GRANT WRITER, CHANGE AGENT AND READING SPECIALIST.
Q: My daughter is 10 years old. Although she is a capable student, she can be very headstrong.
The fifth grade teacher in our district school can be quite overbearing. My husband and I are considering moving rather than have our child have a damaging year. Can you help us?
A: Please, don’t move. First, explain to your daughter that she needs to avoid getting into a war of wills with her teacher. However, if a confrontation does occur, your daughter, as best as she can, has to remain as calm as she can. Second, create a positive dialogue with her teacher, encouraging her instructor to remain in contact with you regardless of circumstances. Third, listen to what your daughter has to say and advise her calmly. However, the most important aspect of your daughter’s learning experience is to make sure she does all of her work, prepares for all of her tests and puts forth her best efforts on all of her projects. No matter what happens in the relationship with her teacher, if your daughter’s educational gains are at grade level or better, everything will eventually fall into place.
Q: I am a seven-year veteran teacher of the third grade. This year has been extremely rough.
At this point, I want to quit but cannot afford to stop teaching. My friends have offered much
advice. I feel overwhelmed and confused. I hope you can offer some insight.
A: Before leaving teaching try if possible either changing grades or transferring to a different school. In addition, try changing your style of teaching. I used a group learning method and found when other teachers adopted my methods, their plight improved. I wrote an article with further information about my group work methods entitled “Hope Dictates Effort in Classroom,” which ran in the April 1 issue of OutlooK-12. If you still feel overwhelmed, you could take a leave of absence either going to a new school district or taking employment outside of education. Most school systems will allow up to two years of unpaid leave. At
the end of the second year, you could return to your previous position or move on with your life.
Q: Our eight-year-old son is a bully. He does not understand what he is doing is wrong. We
have continuously punished him (as has his teachers at school) with no real impact. Is there a
way to get him to have more appropriate behavior?
A: Your son needs to understand how uncomfortable his schoolmates feel around him. This surge of power that he feels from his actions can be achieved with some simple modifications. If you can redirect his thoughts to one of leadership, then you can encourage your son to seek a position of knowledge instead of physical and emotional dominance. Invite a friend or two of his over for a play date. Observe (from a distance) your son’s conduct. Unless he is completely overbearing, allow him to learn by trial and effect. Only offer advice after his friends have departed. Keep in contact with the school and together arrive at a plan to direct your child down a path of leadership and harmony.