Take my 14-year-old son, who insisted that his teacher did not like him and that it was not fair that he got a D.
I had to sit down for this one. He has A’s and B’s in all his other classes and can’t wait to get out of that class and go to ninth grade. I asked him exactly why he thought this teacher didn’t like him, and to this question he said, “I don’t know.”
I asked how he could say she doesn’t like him, then. After some probing, he gave me a piece of information that appeared to have a kernel of truth that could explain his thinking.
Regardless of what I thought — let me say that I didn’t believe his teacher didn’t like him — I know that a D means you are not doing the work. I believed that he believed his teacher didn’t like him, but as a parent my job was to acknowledge his position and then work together with his teacher to create a win-win situation.
And so I made an appointment with his teacher and talked. I gave her what I thought was my best motherly interpretation of his perceptions and shared with her the kernel of truth he had shared with me.
She gave me the teacher interpretation of his perceptions and shared with me that he had been missing assignments. After some back and forth — both of us pushing back on our separate experiences — we agreed that he is a great kid and that I, as parent, would check his work and make sure that he did it.
I told her what I told my son and that regardless of whether he thought it was fair or that his teacher didn’t like him, it was his job to get good grades and do the work.
After meeting with the teacher, I thought she was kind, warm, attentive and professional and she happened to like my son.
That evening, I told my son I met with his teacher, and we talked about his work — or lack thereof. It was apparent to me that there were some things that had been missed and some things that he didn’t understand.
I told him his assignment from me was to show his teacher his work and to ask questions, so he could properly understand. I told him that I shared with the teacher his kernel of truth and that I saw with my own eyes that he had a point.
I told him to get his chip off his shoulder, man up, walk into class, be respectful and talk to his teacher. He did that. In turn, his teacher corrected what she was thought was missing and validated him as I did — and she continued to expect him to do his work in excellent fashion.
I told my son that my job is to handle situations with honesty and forthrightness, and it is his job to go to school, get good grades and have fun.
I corresponded with the teacher some time later, and she said that my son has made a turnaround in his organizational efforts. We had achieved the win-win.
The teacher and I worked together to validate him, and he, in turn, validated himself.
• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mom. Her column appears every so often in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.