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“My Teacher Hates Me!” An exploration of behavior and perception By Hope Blosser.

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1 “My Teacher Hates Me!” An exploration of behavior and perception By Hope Blosser

2 Workshop Goals To explore the developmental, societal and cultural forces which shape the belief that a middle school student’s performance is based more on the relationship between her and her teacher rather than effort or aptitude. To explore the developmental, societal and cultural forces which shape the belief that a middle school student’s performance is based more on the relationship between her and her teacher rather than effort or aptitude. To identify the unintended consequences that can come into play when the ideology behind the “You like/don’t like me” concept becomes acted out in the classroom. To identify the unintended consequences that can come into play when the ideology behind the “You like/don’t like me” concept becomes acted out in the classroom. To brainstorm pragmatic language which could be used during interactions with students, parents to calm fears of interpersonal discord and to refocus on students’ behavior and academic goals. To brainstorm pragmatic language which could be used during interactions with students, parents to calm fears of interpersonal discord and to refocus on students’ behavior and academic goals.

3 Beginning with myself… Over the years, I have faced a most uncomfortable experience of hearing from a parent that his or her daughter reports at home that I hate her. This usually comes up in parent-teacher conferences and changes the tone and the course of the conversation. Conferences are precious minutes with parents to explore students’ behavior and, I found that when this comment comes up, the focus switches to my behavior and the information I prepared about the student’s successes and challenges gets shelved. Over the years, I have faced a most uncomfortable experience of hearing from a parent that his or her daughter reports at home that I hate her. This usually comes up in parent-teacher conferences and changes the tone and the course of the conversation. Conferences are precious minutes with parents to explore students’ behavior and, I found that when this comment comes up, the focus switches to my behavior and the information I prepared about the student’s successes and challenges gets shelved. I wanted to explore the complex dynamic behind this statement and find ways to respond in such a way that would build trust, resilience and a sense of community for students, parents and teacher alike. I wanted to explore the complex dynamic behind this statement and find ways to respond in such a way that would build trust, resilience and a sense of community for students, parents and teacher alike.

4 So I asked around…. This is what my peers shared with me about their own experiences… “This is timely for me. Last week I had a student call out that I hate her. Leading up to this outburst the student had called out multiple times and in the previous class I had specifically not called on her because while she had her hand raised, she was calling out and other students were respectfully raising their hands. In the next class I had to send the child out of the room because She was being so disrespectful.” “When I called her parents to inform them of this situation I told the father that I was also concerned because the daughter had called out, "Why do you hate me?" His first response was to question what my answer was to his daughter's question. That he questioned my "hatred" of his daughter made me feel like he also thought that I hated his daughter and I felt like he was accusing me of hatred toward students. ”

5 Peer Experiences Continued… “I have felt that it is crucial to make sure students feel liked by me early on. This is essentially a defense strategy because the better relationship I have early on with the students, the less hurdles I usually have with students and parents throughout the year. That said, I think it is very confusing for an adolescent girl to receive constructive criticism from a teacher and not take it personally. I wonder what role their development plays in this.” “This year I had a very disturbing experience when I had to speak to a student about paraphrasing. She had cut and paste sections of a homework assignment and I told her that I expected her to make revisions on the assignment, but that I had to call home and inform her parents. I did not think that this was a big deal - simply a redo on homework. But a week or two later the parents asked for a meeting where I was screamed at for 30 minutes about how I dared to insult their daughter's academic integrity. My feeling is that this resulted because the student went home from school and framed the situation as "My teacher is out to get me" to avoid accountability for her actions. “

6 These anecdotes lead me to cast a wider net and create a survey, which was completed by twenty-one of my peers… Here are some of the results… 95% of my peers have heard the comment “My teacher hates me…” about themselves or another teacher. 95% of my peers have heard the comment “My teacher hates me…” about themselves or another teacher. 95% of my peer group have heard this comment from a student; 45% have heard it from a parent. 95% of my peer group have heard this comment from a student; 45% have heard it from a parent. Being disruptive in class, calling out in class, and achieving poor performance on an assessment were the identified behaviors preceding this comment. Being disruptive in class, calling out in class, and achieving poor performance on an assessment were the identified behaviors preceding this comment. 48% of my peer group have heard this comment during a parent-teacher conference. 48% of my peer group have heard this comment during a parent-teacher conference.

7 Results Continued… 33% reported this comment leading to a defensive posture during parent conferences. 33% reported this comment leading to a defensive posture during parent conferences. When asked how the conference changed once this comment was made, my peers reported… When asked how the conference changed once this comment was made, my peers reported… “I think the teacher automatically goes into defense mode, and the conversation switches from the talking about the student’s performance to the teacher trying to justify herself to the parent. It’s not helpful, nor is it the appropriate time to have the conversation.” “I think the teacher automatically goes into defense mode, and the conversation switches from the talking about the student’s performance to the teacher trying to justify herself to the parent. It’s not helpful, nor is it the appropriate time to have the conversation.” “I end up reassuring the parent about the child’s likability instead of talking about her performance.” “I end up reassuring the parent about the child’s likability instead of talking about her performance.” “Once the comment is made I feel I am no longer able to say anything negative about the student. I will still talk about the behavior that leads to the comment in the first place but other topics are then off the table.” “Once the comment is made I feel I am no longer able to say anything negative about the student. I will still talk about the behavior that leads to the comment in the first place but other topics are then off the table.”

8 Comments Continued… “The conference ends up becoming a discussion on why you like this student, rather than on what’s actually happening academically with this child.” “The conference ends up becoming a discussion on why you like this student, rather than on what’s actually happening academically with this child.” “The comment somehow indicates that the teacher has failed since she is the adult in the relationship and, therefore, the one in charge. However, there is also the idea of faulty thinking on the student’s part that needs to be addressed. “The comment somehow indicates that the teacher has failed since she is the adult in the relationship and, therefore, the one in charge. However, there is also the idea of faulty thinking on the student’s part that needs to be addressed. “Parents sometimes don’t want to hear about what their daughter can change to make the situation better in the future – instead, they just want to place the blame on the teacher and ask what we will change about our interactions with their daughter.” “Parents sometimes don’t want to hear about what their daughter can change to make the situation better in the future – instead, they just want to place the blame on the teacher and ask what we will change about our interactions with their daughter.”

9 Post-Conference Impact… 43% of my peers responded that their classroom behavior or management style was modified after a student or parent made the comment. 43% of my peers responded that their classroom behavior or management style was modified after a student or parent made the comment. Patterns showed a fear on teacher’s part about providing unfair treatment to students after such a conference. Conversely, some teachers claimed to distance themselves from students, especially if the conference conversation was particularly heated. Patterns showed a fear on teacher’s part about providing unfair treatment to students after such a conference. Conversely, some teachers claimed to distance themselves from students, especially if the conference conversation was particularly heated. The earlier interaction style is altered. The earlier interaction style is altered.

10 Developmental Aspects Middle School Girls – They’re Not Quite Like the Rest of Us A growing quest for independence A growing quest for independence A developing sense of identity can lead to rebellious behavior, or a need to “be right” on an issue. A developing sense of identity can lead to rebellious behavior, or a need to “be right” on an issue. A developing sense to think through consequences of actions A developing sense to think through consequences of actions An overriding preoccupation with fairness An overriding preoccupation with fairness A developing sense of self processed through the lens of interpersonal relationships A developing sense of self processed through the lens of interpersonal relationships An emerging ability to self-monitor behavior An emerging ability to self-monitor behavior A tenuous understanding of “state vs. trait” A tenuous understanding of “state vs. trait”

11 What about the prefrontal cortex? The almighty PC takes a long time to develop fully. It controls the following: Focusing attention Focusing attention Organizing thoughts and problem solving Organizing thoughts and problem solving Foreseeing and weighing possible consequences of behavior Foreseeing and weighing possible consequences of behavior Considering the future and making predictions Considering the future and making predictions Forming strategies and planning Forming strategies and planning Ability to balance short-term rewards with long term goals Ability to balance short-term rewards with long term goals Shifting/adjusting behavior when situations change Shifting/adjusting behavior when situations change Impulse control and delaying gratification Impulse control and delaying gratification Modulation of intense emotions Modulation of intense emotions Inhibiting inappropriate behavior and initiating appropriate behavior Inhibiting inappropriate behavior and initiating appropriate behavior Simultaneously considering multiple streams of information when faced with complex and challenging information Simultaneously considering multiple streams of information when faced with complex and challenging information Source: Walsh D. Why do they act that way? A survival guide to the adolescent brain for you and your teen. New York: Free Press Source: Walsh D. Why do they act that way? A survival guide to the adolescent brain for you and your teen. New York: Free Press

12 Cultural Aspects of All- Girls Schools Upper East Side All-Girls School are a unique environment where, at times, the mission statement can contrast with daily life. Upper East Side All-Girls School are a unique environment where, at times, the mission statement can contrast with daily life. Incredibly-high tuitions lead to a sense of entitlement of a certain product rather than a process of challenges and successes. Incredibly-high tuitions lead to a sense of entitlement of a certain product rather than a process of challenges and successes. Female teachers, in particular, can take on a mother-figure role of carer rather than mentor or instructor. Female teachers, in particular, can take on a mother-figure role of carer rather than mentor or instructor. High-pressure environments where success is based on excelling at a wide range of academic and social areas. Can unintentionally reinforce a perfectionistic tendency in these girls. High-pressure environments where success is based on excelling at a wide range of academic and social areas. Can unintentionally reinforce a perfectionistic tendency in these girls. Intensive admissions procedures engender a sense of superiority which is a hard place to be a learner Intensive admissions procedures engender a sense of superiority which is a hard place to be a learner

13 Societal Aspects of New York City Many of our girls have nannies and highly-structured environments. Many of our girls have nannies and highly-structured environments. Many of our parents are in positions of power, prestige. Many of our parents are in positions of power, prestige. Rebellion against parents can be deflected onto teachers. Triangulation can occur. Rebellion against parents can be deflected onto teachers. Triangulation can occur. Many of our families employ tutors not out of academic need but more as a time saver and to preempt feelings of frustration for homework completion. Many of our families employ tutors not out of academic need but more as a time saver and to preempt feelings of frustration for homework completion. Aspects of upper vs. working/middle class can come into play in our schools. Aspects of upper vs. working/middle class can come into play in our schools. NYC is a place of ambitious, competitive doers rather than process- oriented philosophers or dreamers. NYC is a place of ambitious, competitive doers rather than process- oriented philosophers or dreamers.

14 Consequences for Students This type of thinking can lead to harmful unintended consequences for all students, which may include: Rivalry for teacher’s attention/affection Rivalry for teacher’s attention/affection Diminished sense of self Diminished sense of self A lack of resilience and flexibility A lack of resilience and flexibility A lack of ownership of positive and negative behaviors alike, sacrificed for one’s relationship to the teacher. A lack of ownership of positive and negative behaviors alike, sacrificed for one’s relationship to the teacher. A sense of not ever being good enough. A sense of not ever being good enough. Depression Depression Reduced effort on schoolwork Reduced effort on schoolwork Can reinforce a need to be seen as “perfect” Can reinforce a need to be seen as “perfect” Valuing relationship over academic endeavor Valuing relationship over academic endeavor A passive stance to learning A passive stance to learning

15 Consequences for Families Can lead to a front-loading approach to learning. Can lead to a front-loading approach to learning. If this belief is not questioned/unpacked, can easily lead to an antagonistic “Us versus Them” dynamic with teachers. If this belief is not questioned/unpacked, can easily lead to an antagonistic “Us versus Them” dynamic with teachers. Clouds the actual needs of the student. Clouds the actual needs of the student.

16 Other faces of the same perception… “Thank you so much for my grade!” (student) “Thank you so much for my grade!” (student) “I don’t think you understand my daughter.” (parent) “I don’t think you understand my daughter.” (parent) “… but she worked so hard on this assignment.” (parent) “… but she worked so hard on this assignment.” (parent) “You’re such a ______________ teacher.” (peer) “You’re such a ______________ teacher.” (peer)

17 Consequences for Faculty This type of thinking has negative implications for faculty, including:  A perception that being “nice” and “friendly” are more important than creating a challenging and rigorous classroom environment, which may in turn lead to a lack of authentic self within the classroom.  A distrust of family relationships and a fracturing of feedback, which may exacerbate an underlying learning issue.  A sense of professional confusion, failure, insecurity or anxiety, which may interfere with teaching duties  Can lead to feelings of competition within faculty  A breakdown of teacher morale

18 Strategies for Changing the Lens Remind yourself of the student’s positive behaviors and lead a discussion – either with parents or students – by focusing on her positive attributes before bringing up the frustrating behaviors that may be gaining negative responses from you, the teacher. Remind yourself of the student’s positive behaviors and lead a discussion – either with parents or students – by focusing on her positive attributes before bringing up the frustrating behaviors that may be gaining negative responses from you, the teacher. Engage the student, when possible, in a discussion which focuses on the behavior which may be creating negative attention from you and brainstorm ways to get the same needs met by the child through different behavior. Engage the student, when possible, in a discussion which focuses on the behavior which may be creating negative attention from you and brainstorm ways to get the same needs met by the child through different behavior. Take the lead as the adult to frame the student’s attention-getting behavior within a developmental framework. This may help the students and families understand their own behavior better and alleviate their stress, as well as your own! Take the lead as the adult to frame the student’s attention-getting behavior within a developmental framework. This may help the students and families understand their own behavior better and alleviate their stress, as well as your own! Do not be afraid to stop a conference that becomes confrontational, bullying or unnecessarily protracted. Do not be afraid to stop a conference that becomes confrontational, bullying or unnecessarily protracted. Remind yourself that making mistakes is essential to learning. Make this your mantra. Help others around you to make this their mantra, too. Remind yourself that making mistakes is essential to learning. Make this your mantra. Help others around you to make this their mantra, too. As Sara Mosle wrote in her recent NY Times article, “The Parent-Teacher Trap,” “…Encourage students to take the lead… When parents intervene on their children’s behalf, it’s robbing them of their own voice.” As Sara Mosle wrote in her recent NY Times article, “The Parent-Teacher Trap,” “…Encourage students to take the lead… When parents intervene on their children’s behalf, it’s robbing them of their own voice.”


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