What Happens When Your Child Doesn't like His Teacher?

Around about Thursday last week, we started to observe some reservations from Gavin about going to school again.  For reasons unknown (although I have my own suspicions which I will write about later), he was a little more teary when I went to pick him up.  The principal explained that Gavin wasn’t keen to join class.  Whenever he was made to sit with the class, he would cry, but if you let him sit on the outskirts and leave him to do his own thing, he would be fine.

One thing I’ve observed about Gavin is that he often behaves as if he isn’t paying any attention to you when he’s listening.  I discovered this when he started repeating to me things that the teacher said to him even though he had been “ignoring” her.  This trait isn’t uncommon among kids.  I know a few friends whose children behave in the same manner.  So whether he is actively engaged in class or not, I’m not too worried.  However, I realise that this lone-ranger behaviour can be a little difficult for the teacher to handle.

On Friday morning, Gavin was a little more apprehensive about going to school.  He still went in, but he didn’t seem as keen as he had been earlier in the week.  Just as hubby and I were leaving, he ran out crying.  He didn’t see us but the teacher suggested it would be better if we didn’t turn around and go in.  She assured us that he would calm down more quickly if we didn’t stay.

Later when I came to pick him up, he was in relatively good spirits but eager to leave school.  When I asked him to say “goodbye” to the teachers, I noticed he was very reluctant to say “goodbye” to his own teacher, but he hugged and kissed another teacher.  I was relieved to see that he was opening up to another teacher aside from the school principal, since, as the principal, I’m sure there is only so much time she can accommodate him with before she had to attend to other duties.

After his nap that afternoon, he woke up with a lot of misgivings about school.  Remembering that he hugged and kissed one of the teachers, I asked him, “Do you like teacher R?”  He nodded and then said he didn’t like teacher – although he wasn’t specific about her name.  Eventually I got it out of him and discovered that he didn’t like his class teacher.

I have met his teacher and observed her handling of the class.  She’s pretty capable and I don’t really have any issues with her.  However, I can see where she and Gavin could clash due to personality differences.  If Gavin were older, I would expect him to learn how to deal with a teacher he didn’t like.  But since he’s only two and half, I felt the better thing would be to see if I could get him transfered to the class with the teacher he had developed a fondness for.

Although I’m not entirely sure what it is about teacher R that he likes, I do suspect it could partly be due to the fact that she is familiar with Thomas and Friends and often brings Thomas books and toys to school with her.  Regardless of the reasons why he likes her, I still felt it would be better for him to be with a teacher he identifies with than to force him to be with one he feels strongly against.

Let’s be really honest here.  Although this is a playschool for children in preparation for preschool and kindergarten, it is effectively nothing more than creche with some sort of “formal” education attached to it.  And one of the recommendations about sending a child to creche is to make sure that child feels secure and is happy in the company of his caregivers.

Given that Gavin is only two and half years old and this is the first time he is being exposed to an environment away from the comfort and security of home, I think our primary focus should be about making the transition as easy as possible for him.  Although it is true that he will eventually have to learn to deal with teachers he doesn’t like at school, I think there is plenty of time for that to come later. Expecting him to accept too many new things – especially things he has trouble accepting – would be like throwing him into the deep end of the pool and expecting him to learn how to swim on his own.

One of the objections for moving him to the class with the teacher he likes is that it is technically a class that is slightly below him in terms of development and learning.  Personally, I would feel more comfortable knowing he was happier in a class that was below his level of development than for him to be unhappy in a class progressing at his pace.

Although I am pro-early childhood education, I still think it is more important for a young child to be happy in the environment he is in.  Besides, how much will he learn if he’s distressed all the time?


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

6 thoughts on “What Happens When Your Child Doesn't like His Teacher?

  1. It is a good call. Play school is supposed to be fun. If he isn’t enjoying himself then better he goes to a class that he does. And I’m proud he moved over himself. 😀


  2. When Em first went to her preschool in July 2009, according to d teachers’ comment, she is juz exactly like what you said about Gavin, Whenever she was made to sit with the class, she would cry, but if you leave her to do her own thing, she would be fine. But my hubby said to me, this isn’t good to be letting her like that, the teacher should be encourage her rather than juz please her because she didn’t crying if is leave her doing her own thing.


  3. I think different children need to be handled differently. In Gavin’s case, he eventually did warm up and now he’s interacting with the rest of the class. It just took a bit of time. The teachers didn’t force him or push him to do it. They just let him come on his own.

    Part of the reason he didn’t like his first teacher, in my opinion, was because she was too pushy in getting him to “join in” with the rest of the group. Gavin is very resistant to being “forced” to do things. That’s just his personality. You have to let him want to do it.


  4. Em’s situation – she also found someone she like in the school…it was e vice principal…not e teachers, luckily took her several weeks for her & her class teacher and other teachers to break the ice. 🙂


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