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Teacher Fear Can Be Real For Youth
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When a child does not want to go to school, parents should take note because it could signal something more serious than simply not wanting to study.
Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said problems on the first day of school are common for young children, but consistent episodes could mean trouble.
"Some children cry every morning, claim to have stomach aches, suck their thumb or say they don't like their teacher," Davis said. "Once the parents leave, if the child gets settled and takes part in class, they're fine. Parents should get involved when the problem persists and is more severe, such as serious behavior changes or reverting to earlier childhood actions."
Some problems are personality conflicts, but other children have real reasons for not liking the teacher. One Mississippi parent had an extreme situation that started the first week of school. Her 5-year-old went from being excited about kindergarten to regularly soiling his clothes over problems with the teacher.
"His teacher somewhat restricted movement within her room and very seldom altered from the schedule she had planned," the mother said.
The trouble started with set bathroom breaks and the teacher's reluctance to break this schedule. Often the son would claim to need to use the restroom shortly after a bathroom break and the teacher did not want to let him leave, the mother said.
The son was embarrassed when he had an accident and would not tell his teacher or change his clothes, fearing he would be scorned, she said.
"That teacher made him very uncomfortable," his mother said.
Seven weeks and parent-teacher meetings did not solve the problem. After a meeting between the teacher, counselor, principal and mother, the child was transferred to another class.
"He left class on Friday and went to his new class Monday," the mother said. "He never, ever had another accident in his pants."
To avoid such problems, the mother advised parents to learn as much as possible about a teacher before school starts. Quickly notice any problems the child has with the teacher, and discuss with the teacher any special needs or concerns the child may have.
The boy who feared his kindergarten teacher is now 11-years-old, doing well academically and enjoying both his school and his teachers.
Davis said children develop at different rates, and each handles change and stress in different ways. Teachers should have a good understanding of child development to know what behavior is normal.
When problems persist, Davis advised parents to visit their child's classroom and observe the child and teacher interacting. If the teacher is reluctant to have a classroom visitor, this may indicate a problem.
"Go to the teacher and find out what's going on," Davis said. "Inform the teacher that there really is a problem and ask what can be done to resolve it. If this doesn't get results, go to the principal and the three of you talk. Switching classes is a last resort."
If the child fears the teacher because of this person's inappropriate words or actions, removing the child from this classroom may be the solution.
"Anything the teacher can do to make the child feel comfortable and welcome will help ease the stress," Davis said. "The child needs to have such a good relationship with the teacher that they feel comfortable and secure in telling them if they have a problem."
Students who are not fond of the teacher can learn valuable lessons from the experience.
"You're not going to like everybody and you're going to have to learn to deal with all kinds of people throughout your life," Davis said. "Each person has to learn to adjust, and parents can help their children learn to get along with difficult people."
Sometimes parents find their reaction to a teacher influences their child's reaction.
"If the parent has a personality conflict with the teacher, the child may be responding to this tension," Davis said. "Children can pick up on nonverbal cues or may overhear negative remarks about the teacher or program, and dislike the teacher for these reasons. Parents should remain as positive as possible in front of the child."
Davis said each case should be handled individually.
"You can have a child playing the game, and you can have a child who really has a personality conflict," Davis said. "You have to proceed with caution and carefully observe the situation before you can make a decision."