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Ages & Stages

Dealing with Problems at School

At one time or another, nearly every child does poorly on a particular test or has difficulty with a subject or two in school. These situations can often be dealt with successfully by working one-on-one with your child, or through a three-way interaction involving you, your child, and her teacher.

On occasion, a concern persists despite your best efforts to resolve it. Per­haps you are unhappy with certain aspects of the learning environment in your child's classroom. Maybe you feel she is not receiving the proper help with a particular subject. Or perhaps your child has complained that the teacher has humiliated her in front of her classmates.

In situations like these, approach the teacher first with your concern. Ex­plain the problem without being accusatory or insulting. (Avoid statements like "You're not doing your job!" or "I cannot believe you said that to my child!") Give the teacher a chance to explain what is taking place, to share an­other perspective, and to suggest a solution. If you are dissatisfied with that encounter or if you feel that sufficient progress is not being made after trying the teacher's plan, then bring your problem to the attention of the principal. The principal may suggest a meeting with you and the teacher. In many in­stances the difficulty can be resolved with input from the principal.

The principal can become your ally in other situations too. Approach him or her for problems unrelated to the classroom—for example, difficulties with a bus driver or a playground aide. At times, other school personnel—such as guidance counselors or psychologists—may be helpful.

If the principal and teacher, or others, have initiated a specific plan to improve the situation, give things a reasonable chance to improve. (It will not change in a couple of days.) However, if the problem still remains unre­solved, then continue up the educational hierarchy, which may lead you to the superintendent's office. For an issue involving school district policy, the superintendent and his or her associates will be the decision makers. If you still remain dissatisfied, approach the school board members. They may be able to get action on your problem, or put you in touch with the person who can.

As you move up the administrative ladder, gather, organize, and stay fo­cused on the facts; save your emotional reactions for someone else who can acknowledge them. Be persistent and remain as pleasant and objective as pos­sible. You will not make progress by losing your temper and by alienating the people who might help solve the difficulty.

At some point along this path of seeking help, consult your child's pediatrician for advice or for a referral to another professional outside the school system.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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