Mrs. James answers readers' questions about education. Send yours today: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Mrs. James,
My husband and I have literally tried everything for our 13-year-old son. He's getting in trouble, receiving all failing grades, and seems to have no desire whatsoever to change. We've done the charts, we've done rewards, we've even done punishments. We've talked to his teachers, we've just done everything that we know in our power to do. We're struggling.
Oh, Unique. I do understand. Although some may say that there's no magic trick or simple answer to your situation, I beg to differ. I have a solution for you that will most definitely work! I get questions like this all of the time from my students' parents and my friends, so I'll give you the same elixir that I'd prescribe to them. Here goes:
When you say that you've "tried everything" but nothing has worked, it reminds me of people who say that they've been on every diet but never lost any weight. You are missing the same thing that they're missing. That's consistency. That's follow through. That's diligence. How consistent have you been with the charts? Did you give up after a week or so of it not "working?" How much have you actually followed through on the rewards and punishments you promised to give?
My suggestion is for you and your husband to sit down with his teachers and find a method that everyone is comfortable trying and stick to it for at least 30 days. You will most definitely begin to see some results if you are consistent. I'm not promising you that everything will be fixed in those 30 days, but you will see progress. Stick to it! Don't give up on your methods because if you do, they definitely won't work. Stick it out, and be content with any progress that he shows, no matter how small it may be in your eyes. If you stick to it, you'll see more and more progress as the days go by. Just don't give up! Keep me posted. Until then ...
Keep up the good work!
Dear Mrs. James,
My son goes to a Columbus City Schools and he is not doing really well in one particular class. He doesn't get along with the teacher either and he gets 190s sometimes. (A 190 is a discipline referral form that teachers write up for the school administrators if a student is misbehaving. The administrators then deal with the problem.) Basically, he says that all they do in class is get worksheets. They answer questions and read the book while the teacher just does whatever she wants to do. So, I guess my question is, how do I handle this?
Thanks for your question. By the way, this advice might get me kicked out of every teacher's lounge in America and forced to eat cafeteria food for the rest of my career, but oh well. Here goes:
How do you handle it? You don't stand for it! I've seen this in teachers wayyyy too much! Your child deserves an education and he's certainly not getting it from doing a bunch of worksheets that his teacher has photocopied out of a book, while she sits at her desk and gets on Facebook or some other ridiculous site that has nothing to do with teaching. You go in there and you talk to his teacher and if she won't listen, you go to the principal. That is never okay. Students have a right to their education. My suggestion to you is to let your voice be heard. Keep calling, keep emailing, and keep doing whatever you need to do to be heard. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Teachers can have up to 180 students these days and you are going to have to make sure you are your son's advocate.
Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk a little about your son's behavior. It is never okay and there is never an excuse for a child to be disrespectful to his teacher to the point where they receive 190 discipline referrals to administration. You must talk to your son and let him know that his behavior is unacceptable regardless of hers. He has got to learn now that he should respect his elders, and you're the only one who can teach him that. E-mail me if you have more questions. I'd love to talk to you. Until then ...
Keep up the good work!