Author Topic: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words  (Read 8476 times)

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Yvaine

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #30 on: October 18, 2012, 03:36:11 PM »
That being said, I really appreciate all the advice about the face-slapping (truly!), but I'd prefer to focus more on the gym teacher's language and how to politely discuss his choice of words if I decide to address it.   :)

Well, it's tough to separate them out, because I think what the teacher was reacting to was the unwise horsing around with gym equipment. This piece of equipment may be light and plastic, but other items used in class won't be, and it's not a good idea for anyone to be in the habit of hitting themselves or other kids with gym equipment. It's just not safe. And while "stupid" isn't the kindest word to use, (a) it was applied to the act of hitting and not the child-as-a-person, which I do think makes a difference, and (b) I don't think it's offensive on the same level as, say, a swear word or a slur. My guess is that either she panicked and used an undiplomatic word impulsively, or that she was using a dramatic word to convey how important it is to not hit people with gym equipment.

I think there is some confusion about the chain of events.  Don't know if it is mine or not.  My understanding is that:

1) Son messes with equipment
2) Son is reprimanded for that
3) Son reacts to that reprimand by slapping himself in the face (behavior some people want to evaluate and OP would rather not discuss any more)
4) Teacher responds to the face slapping by calling the behavior stupid

I do think that's the order, but I was thinking the "stupid" applied to the whole sequence of hitting.

JeanFromBNA

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #31 on: October 18, 2012, 03:55:43 PM »
I think you're being overprotective.  Kid won't be permanently damaged by hearing his behavior called "stupid," which it was (both misusing the gym equipment and the other thing).  If calling the kids stupid becomes a pattern, then say something. 

ettiquit

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #32 on: October 18, 2012, 03:58:32 PM »
That being said, I really appreciate all the advice about the face-slapping (truly!), but I'd prefer to focus more on the gym teacher's language and how to politely discuss his choice of words if I decide to address it.   :)

Well, it's tough to separate them out, because I think what the teacher was reacting to was the unwise horsing around with gym equipment. This piece of equipment may be light and plastic, but other items used in class won't be, and it's not a good idea for anyone to be in the habit of hitting themselves or other kids with gym equipment. It's just not safe. And while "stupid" isn't the kindest word to use, (a) it was applied to the act of hitting and not the child-as-a-person, which I do think makes a difference, and (b) I don't think it's offensive on the same level as, say, a swear word or a slur. My guess is that either she panicked and used an undiplomatic word impulsively, or that she was using a dramatic word to convey how important it is to not hit people with gym equipment.

I think there is some confusion about the chain of events.  Don't know if it is mine or not.  My understanding is that:

1) Son messes with equipment
2) Son is reprimanded for that
3) Son reacts to that reprimand by slapping himself in the face (behavior some people want to evaluate and OP would rather not discuss any more)
4) Teacher responds to the face slapping by calling the behavior stupid

I do think that's the order, but I was thinking the "stupid" applied to the whole sequence of hitting.

Right.  DS said that the stupid comment was for both the hitting the kid and himself. 

sweetonsno

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #33 on: October 18, 2012, 04:02:42 PM »
Hi all,

I'm trying to decide what to do (if anything) about an episode that occurred in my DS's (he is 9) gym class yesterday.  He got in trouble because he was walking around swinging a piece of gym equipment around (light and plastic) and accidentally hit another kid in the hand.  Kid was totally fine, and DS apologized, but when the gym teacher addressed the issue, DS started slapping himself in the face.  He does this when he feels really stupid, and I really hate it.  It doesn't happen often anymore though, so I was a little surprised that he did this.

DS told me that the teacher told him that what he was doing was "ridiculous" and "stupid".  I made sure to clarify that the teacher called the action stupid, not DS. 

So, DS ended up being written up and has to sit out at the next gym class. 

DH and I agree that the teacher shouldn't have used the word "stupid", but DH is perfectly fine with letting it go.  I'm having a harder time being ok with this, but I also don't want to make a huge deal about it.  If I do decide to address it, does anyone have any suggestions on how to politely ask the gym teacher to drop the word "stupid" from his vocabulary when addressing his students?

I can see why you are unhappy with his phrasing, but if DS isn't upset by it, then I wouldn't bring it up. If it becomes a habit and DS starts telling you that the gym teacher actually calls him (or other students) stupid, I do think it you can mention it to the gym teacher. However, for a one-off, I vote for chalking it up to stress.

The thing is, when dealing with behavior that is inappropriate, it's very difficult to address it without using a word that could be hurtful, even if you specifically address the behavior or the choice. For sensitive kids, the negative descriptors will stand out rather than the message (don't do whatever action prompted this).
"That was a bad decision."
"You are behaving immaturely."
"Don't like the garbage can, it's gross."
"It is unacceptable to come in to class ten minutes late."

They'll hear bad, immature, gross, and unacceptable.

If something like this happens again, then I think you should focus on the solution rather than the problem. You and the gym teacher presumably have a common goal: you want DS to behave well in class and to handle the stress of making a mistake without smacking himself. If you notice DS hitting himself more, other teachers bring it up, or he does it again in gym class, then shoot the teacher an email. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Start by summarizing the action that prompted you contacting him, then explain what caused it, then offer a solution that works for you. For instance:

Dear GymTeacher,

I've noticed that DS has been hitting himself at home lately. I know he's done it in your class before as well. It's his way of dealing with frustration with himself when he makes a mistake. We're working on it at home, so please do let me know if he starts doing it in class again. I know it must be frustrating/stressful to see that happen in class and I imagine it must be disruptive. We find that it's helpful to remind him that everyone makes mistakes/he's already being punished by us and doesn't need to punish himself/ignore it unless it goes on for more than a few seconds/gently tell him to stop/whatever does work. Maybe the same technique will work for you.

Best,
Ettiquit

doodlemor

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #34 on: October 18, 2012, 04:27:50 PM »
 I taught for 30 years, and have two grown children.  I would let the comment go.  If DS starts telling you that the teacher is calling him or other children *stupid* on a regular basis it might be time to act.  Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it.

Even the most patient and dedicated teachers have bad days, and things slip out.  I suspect that the teacher felt badly once the word was out of his mouth, and I bet that it won't be repeated.

Viscountess

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #35 on: October 18, 2012, 04:44:00 PM »
Since it was the first time it happened and more importantly, your DS is not upset by it I wouldn't contact the school about it.  However, if it occurs again then I'd address it. 
"If you don't like something, then change it.  If you can't change it, then change your attitude towards it."

ncmom22

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #36 on: October 18, 2012, 04:58:21 PM »
I have two sons and could be in your very shoes.  If your son and your husband wants to let it go and it's not a common behavior for him, I would let it go.  But definitely don't ever forget.  I would keep a close eye on it and ask him more details on his school day.  Good luck with your son, 9 years old is a hard age to be.  Not quite a kid but not quite an older kid either.

bonyk

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #37 on: October 18, 2012, 05:37:58 PM »
Another teacher here.  If I was the teacher in this situation, I'd prefer that you request a meeting with me in person before going to the principal.  If this happened in my district, and a parent complained to the principal first, it'd be an automatic verbal abuse investigation.

If you choose to let it go, I'd just jot down a few notes about what happened in case more happens in the future.

Mental Magpie

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #38 on: October 19, 2012, 03:34:08 AM »
I would be more upset with DS for thinking that it was appropriate to swing anything around, especially a piece of gym equipment.

I agree.  That's very dangerous behavior and someone could end up getting hurt quite badly.

I'd have a talk with son about the importance of behaving appropriately in gym class and then (since he's not upset) let it go.

I do like Twik's suggestion of finding someone who can help him figure out less damaging ways of reacting to stress.

I have a feeling the OP is concerned about her child swinging something but knows how to address that and thus isn't seeking advice about that particular matter.  What she doesn't know how to address is the gym teacher using the word stupid and that is why she has come here.  I guess what I'm saying is that on a list of:

1) DS don't swing things in class
2) DS don't hit yourself when you're upset
3) Gym teacher said something I don't like

OP has or knows how to address 1 and 2, so she's moved onto 3, if that makes sense.

That being said, OP, I think addressing 1 and 2 with the gym teacher may help, but only if this becomes a repeat behavior.  If this keeps happening, I would talk to the gym teacher about a solution, not about the problems.  If it doesn't keep happening, I would let this instance go; it seems like an overreaction to a one off.
The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that you're still choosing evil.

kherbert05

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #39 on: October 19, 2012, 06:10:31 AM »
Have you gotten any professional help with the slapping habit? I had something very similar, and looking back I think it would have been better to be taught how to deal more productively with the stress of not being perfect, rather than simply be told "don't do those actions".

I agree that "stupid" is a loaded word from a teacher. Does your son really grasp that it's the actions that the teacher was talking about?

DS has seen a counselor a few times, although not specifically for the face-slapping.  What we're struggling with right now is that DS is in the gifted math program at school, and his teacher says that he's definitely exhibiting "gifted quirks".  Obviously that includes not wanting to make mistakes and getting pretty upset when he doesn't immediately grasp a new concept/idea. 

Your post is actually making me see the bigger picture here in terms of how my son reacts to things in general, so I've got some thinking to do now.  :)

DS does understand that the teacher wasn't calling him stupid, and he's not really devastated by the incident.  He gets over things pretty easily, thankfully.


Your son is at an age that many gifted kids start having this type of problem. Until now they just knew the answer to many math problem because of a very strong math sense. They don't know how they know the answer. Now math is getting more complicated and they can't see the answer.


Last year I had a 2nd grader that I was seriously concerned about self harming. She wouldn't just slap herself, she pulled out hairs, tried to pull out chunks of hairs, would scratch herself, claw her arm.


I tried to encourage her Mom to get her to see someone. We are limited in what we can say because the school can be force to pay for services.


I came across this article over winter break. [size=78%]http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html[/size] It helped not just her, but other kids in the class who were obsessed with the right answers over learning. I'm using with this years class. Basic theme - making mistakes is how we learn. We celebrate making a mistake and figuring out how to fix it.
Don't Teach Them For Your Past. Teach Them For Their Future

SiotehCat

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #40 on: October 19, 2012, 07:37:04 AM »
I would be more upset with DS for thinking that it was appropriate to swing anything around, especially a piece of gym equipment.

I agree.  That's very dangerous behavior and someone could end up getting hurt quite badly.

I'd have a talk with son about the importance of behaving appropriately in gym class and then (since he's not upset) let it go.

I do like Twik's suggestion of finding someone who can help him figure out less damaging ways of reacting to stress.

I have a feeling the OP is concerned about her child swinging something but knows how to address that and thus isn't seeking advice about that particular matter.  What she doesn't know how to address is the gym teacher using the word stupid and that is why she has come here.  I guess what I'm saying is that on a list of:

1) DS don't swing things in class
2) DS don't hit yourself when you're upset
3) Gym teacher said something I don't like

OP has or knows how to address 1 and 2, so she's moved onto 3, if that makes sense.

That being said, OP, I think addressing 1 and 2 with the gym teacher may help, but only if this becomes a repeat behavior.  If this keeps happening, I would talk to the gym teacher about a solution, not about the problems.  If it doesn't keep happening, I would let this instance go; it seems like an overreaction to a one off.

But 3 happened because of 1 and 2. Without 1 and 2, there would be no 3. That seems like a good way to stop it from happening again.

MorgnsGrl

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #41 on: October 19, 2012, 07:54:52 AM »
I would be more upset with DS for thinking that it was appropriate to swing anything around, especially a piece of gym equipment.

I agree.  That's very dangerous behavior and someone could end up getting hurt quite badly.

I'd have a talk with son about the importance of behaving appropriately in gym class and then (since he's not upset) let it go.

I do like Twik's suggestion of finding someone who can help him figure out less damaging ways of reacting to stress.

I have a feeling the OP is concerned about her child swinging something but knows how to address that and thus isn't seeking advice about that particular matter.  What she doesn't know how to address is the gym teacher using the word stupid and that is why she has come here.  I guess what I'm saying is that on a list of:

1) DS don't swing things in class
2) DS don't hit yourself when you're upset
3) Gym teacher said something I don't like

OP has or knows how to address 1 and 2, so she's moved onto 3, if that makes sense.

That being said, OP, I think addressing 1 and 2 with the gym teacher may help, but only if this becomes a repeat behavior.  If this keeps happening, I would talk to the gym teacher about a solution, not about the problems.  If it doesn't keep happening, I would let this instance go; it seems like an overreaction to a one off.

But 3 happened because of 1 and 2. Without 1 and 2, there would be no 3. That seems like a good way to stop it from happening again.

But 1 will probably happen again -- not swinging things specifically, but doing something thoughtless, because kids are like that. When a child has a particular challenge that's somewhat atypical (the OP's DS self-harming to express frustration) it's beneficial for adults who interact with that child to get some feedback about what is helpful vs. harmful when dealing with that child.

secretrebel

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #42 on: October 19, 2012, 08:57:18 AM »
DS told me that the teacher told him that what he was doing was "ridiculous" and "stupid".  I made sure to clarify that the teacher called the action stupid, not DS. 

...If I do decide to address it, does anyone have any suggestions on how to politely ask the gym teacher to drop the word "stupid" from his vocabulary when addressing his students?

I think you have to consider situation and intent.

The gym teacher didn't tell your child he was stupid for horseplay or even for the self abuse. He said that the self abuse was "ridiculous and stupid". Now I agree that better words would have been "inappropriate" or "dangerous". But it's clear that the intent is to inform you son that the self abuse is not a healthy or sensible response to being rebuked. And the teacher is right.

So I would let it go. While language is important you have correctly identified that there's an important distinction between criticism of a person and an act.

Any teacher might say "running with scissors is stupid because it could so easily cause an accident" and I think that's the kind of situation you have here. Your son is not stupid, but in this particular behaviour he is not behaving sensibly either. So don't get too hung up on vocabulary which isn't ideal but also isn't wrong.

grannyclampettjr

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #43 on: October 19, 2012, 10:55:22 AM »
Not a teacher, but come from a family of teachers. 

Gym teachers are a different breed.   Part of their job *is* to try to toughen you up.  Your son will eventually have a boss, correct?  And said bosses will not coddle "quirks".   They will say mean things.  And you have to take it in order to keep your job.  So this is a prime opportunity to help your son develop a thicker skin.   

Also please keep in mind that *all* kids are mainstreamed now in many districts, causing a huge amount of distress and disruption to the teacher and classes in general. My sister is on an extended leave from teaching because she was given a 4/5 split with Learning Disabled, ESL, and children with behavioral problems.  Catering to the special needs kids and monitoring her parapros meant that nothing got done for the majority of the class (35 kids iirc).   And please keep in mind that  what your son was doing is alarming and disturbing to not only the teacher but the other kids.   What would you have thought if you saw a kid hitting himself at that age? 

Finally, as a former gifted kid (and my mom created the gifted program in her school district),  this is beyond a gifted quirk.  I have never heard of or seen this.   The majority of gifted kids range from perfectly normal to more mature than their peers.  I am in contact with many of my friends from those years and we are all responsible and levelheaded.  There were only a couple of disturbed kids that I remember...one was a kid that I keep execting to show up on a s@x offender registry.  So for the love of Pete, please don't cast this as a gifted thing.  And please let the principal know that the teacher is painting this as a gifted thing.   Gifted kids don't need any more stereotypes piled upon them.   

ettiquit

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Re: Unhappy with gym teacher's choice of words
« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2012, 11:33:53 AM »
I'm going to let it go this time.  Thanks to all for their perspectives, and to sweetonsno for the ideas on the wording if I ever need to address this.