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Ifrustrated_teachert was with a heavy heart that I had to dismiss a student from my school this week.  Owning your own school comes with many rewards, but also with a handful of hurt. This was the third year that this child had been with us. The third year that we have had problems with this child.  Each year I gave the family and child the benefit of the doubt and thought that things were going to get better. But they didn’t.

This experience reminded me again how important relationships are: relationships with your students, relationships with your colleagues, relationships with your community and relationships with your parents.
The relationships you create as a classroom teacher will determine the success or failure of your year. The key here is that you must develop working relationships across the board. There is no picking and choosing which relationships you are going to build. Having a relationship with everyone except your colleagues will be as disastrous as having a relationship with everyone except your students.

But what happens when the other person doesn’t want to develop a working relationship with you?
This is the problem that I experienced with this specific family. The dad, who was the main caregiver, had full custody of his son. I very rarely saw or heard from the mom. He had no interest in developing a working relationship with me or with his son’s previous teacher. He had other things going on in his life, and allowed those things to take priority over his child.  No matter how much I tried to develop that relationship with him, he would have no part of it. I texted him about things that needed to be worked on at home along with successes that I saw his child accomplishing. I emailed pictures of activities, invited him on field trips, reminded him of school parties. All to no avail.

And no matter how I tried to develop a relationship with the child, he knew that a piece was missing and it was very difficult to create and maintain a relationship even with him. Children know. Don’t kid yourself.
Now I’m sure (positive) that some (a lot) of negative (VERY negative) things were said about me as a teacher and school in general over the course of the three years, which helped the child form toxic opinions about all of the above. Given that, and all of the ‘stuff’ going on behind the scenes in this particular child’s life, well you get the picture of how confused, not to mention angry, this child was.

All of this reminds me of the children’s book When You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The book starts out with giving a mouse a cookie, which causes larger things to happen in the life of the mouse, all because of something as simple as a cookie.

The same happened with this child. Something as simple as the father demonstrating respect for me as his son’s teacher by getting off of his cell phone when dropping off and picking up his child at school was missing which the child picked up on. This led to the child not completing homework, not behaving in class, not showing respect to other students. The little things continued to add up over the years and finally came to head when on Thursday, the father stepped out of line and usurped my authority in the classroom by confronting another child, blaming his son’s behavior on this child. He just walked in and took it upon himself to be hateful and disrespectful to another child, his son smirking all the while.

As I reflect on the past three years, I have to wonder what, if anything, I could have done to change the outcome. I honestly cannot think of a thing. I wish I had an answer to these kinds of situations. As teachers we should always have answers and solutions.

I also know that I am in a special situation where when my resources are exhausted I can just remove the student. Most teachers do not have it this easy. I also know that not all administrators are supportive of their staff when these types of situations happen in the classroom. I’ve been there too.

How do you, as a teacher, build those necessary relationships with your students, families and school community? What happens when a relationship can’t be built successfully?

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior....

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