Child Caring

Teacher's comment upsets first grader

Dear Barbara,

Last Sunday, our family went to the zoo and, naturally, we took photos. My 1st grade daughter asked her teacher if she can bring some photos to school for "show and tell," but teacher's response was: "I don't care". My opinion [is] this is a somewhat rude response, especially to a 6 year old child in your classroom. Should I speak to the teacher about this?

How to explain my daughter, what "I don't care" means (she asked me) without hurting her feelings (in this particular situation)?

Or I'm just overreacting?

Best regards.

From: Elena

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Dear Elena,

I agree, that's not a comment I'd want my child's teacher making. What were the circumstances? How many kids were asking her a question at that very moment? Was she trying to get the class to settle down and it was an off-hand remark? You can't know these things. At the same time, first graders are not the most accurate reporters. Like all children, they may misinterpret what they hear and miss the non-verbal body language, or they can simply only report what they found most salient. So I wouldn't jump to conclusions.

To explain the "I don't care" comment, I would say it means that the teacher was not interested at that moment. Suggest that perhaps she was very busy and distracted, perhaps she wasn't thinking about what she was saying. Keep judgment out of your voice. Children this age have a hard time with nuance, they tend to see things as all black or all white, all good or all bad. A good lesson to teach is that adults -- even teachers! -- can moody moments, just like kids. It doesn't make her a bad person or a bad teacher.

But this is clearly bothering you, so I urge you to make an appointment with the teacher, You don't have to have a reason. You can ask for the appointment via email but don't have this conversation by email; do it face-to-face.

Just tell her that her your daughter came home with hurt feelings, and you thought that was something she, the teacher, might want to know. A caring teacher will thank you for telling her. Hopefully, there will be more to the conversation that can make you feel more comfortable. For instance, how would you describe your daughter's temperament? Are there other times when your daughter has reported back something negative about the teacher? Some kids are very sensitive to comments from peers and adults, and come kids are not. If your daughter is, that's something that will be helpful for the teacher to know, too.

Here's why I think this conversation is so important to have. Unless and until you open communication with the teacher, you are going to harbor bad feelings about her. Whether you realize it or not, those feelings will get communicated to your daughter and, at some level, will likely interfere with her ability to function to her best in this classroom.

I hope some teacher will weigh in with some comments!