Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you with tears in my eyes as I cannot believe that this has happened to my beautiful daughter. I send my daughter to a good school, but this year has been very difficult. My daughter has a teacher who is known to be a “star teacher.” My daughter has a mixed class and some of the kids don’t behave very well. Most years, the teachers come up with all sorts of contests that generally work, but this year, the teacher has been losing it. She often berates the kids in front of the class and will put them down. My daughter misbehaves at times (many times she behaves, but she likes to talk in class, which gets her in trouble).
All year, this teacher has been passive aggressive and sometimes aggressively hurting my child. She didn’t seem to take it too hard, so she didn’t tell me the extent to what was going on. I knew the teacher would yell a lot and I tried to call the teacher and figure out incentive plans for my daughter. But my daughter wasn’t improving. I decided to meet with the principal to see what was best for my daughter. After hearing what was going on, they suggested we switch teachers as obviously it wasn’t a “good match.” Before the switch could happen, my daughter had a horrible experience. The teacher sent her out of class for talking and then berated her behavior in front of the whole class. The class was told to stay away from kids who were immature and had low self esteem, insinuating that they should stay away from my daughter. My daughter was mortified!
Yes maybe she shouldn’t have been talking, but she didn’t deserve that embarrassment. I won’t send my daughter back to school until her class is changed, but she is crushed and doesn’t want to go back to school ever. She is so embarrassed and I don’t know how to handle this situation and help her get back to school.
A Desperate Mother
Dear Desperate Mother,
First of all, I’m so sorry your daughter had to endure such embarrassment and this situation is not acceptable! You must call the school immediately and arrange a meeting with the principals to make this change. You also need to help build your daughter back up as she seemed to have suffered many months of feeling put down and embarrassed.
It is important to validate your daughter’s feelings and tell her that this behavior was unacceptable. Tell her you will not allow this teacher to continue to hurt her and that you will protect her as much as you can. Also make sure you compliment her and make her feel special. It’s important to take the time to go out with her for lunch or do something special with her so she feels good about herself. Let her tell you all that happened and validate her. Sometimes talking about what happened is cathartic, but it also may bring back the trauma, so be prepared for some raw emotion and try to stay strong and help her feel strong again.
What your daughter endured was bullying from a teacher. This is the worst kind of bullying because her teacher is an adult and kids are supposed to be able to trust the adults around them to not tear them down. Bullying makes a child feel very insecure and being bullied by a teacher can be very confusing. Look into your child’s eyes, hold her closely, and validate her. Tell her that “hurt people tend to hurt others” Teach her that people who need to put others down are usually insecure people who do so to feel better about themselves. Please give her extra love. You, as a parent, must make a strong effort to show your child unconditional love, positive feelings and that you believe in her. If you can get the school to also do this, it will be very helpful. Hopefully your child will emerge with a stronger sense of self and an ability to stay away from bullies in the future.
With a positive change in school and you working hard to build your daughter’s self esteem, you will, G-d willing, see a significant positive change in your daughter. If you feel you need help, please reach out to a competent professional. Hatzlocha!