Surviving Sudden Changes

My daughter has been loving Middle School.  Her father and I love going to Back-to-school night and hearing how much her teachers enjoy having her in their class.  She especially loves her Pre-Algebra/Science teacher.  Having Mrs. Jones as her teacher had been building up in her since the open house in Spring where incoming 6th graders were invited to visit and one of the classes we visited happened to be Mrs. Jones’ class. From then on, she was hoping to get Mrs. Jones for her teacher. We kept telling her that it doesn’t always work out that way and assured her that any teacher she got would be a good teacher.  When she got her schedule and found she had Mrs. Jones, she was extremely thrilled like she had won a big prize.

On Back-to-School night, last week, the parents were informed, as the students has already been informed, that due to an unexpected influx of students qualifying for Pre-Algebra this year, there were too many students (over 50) in the class and they were getting another teacher to get the classroom size back down to district standards. Half of the students would be transferred to the new teacher. When we talked to our daughter about this, she wasn’t worried. She said that because she was in Cadet Band, and couldn’t have her schedule moved around, she wouldn’t have to go. She was wrong. They didn’t need to move the schedule around because the new teacher would be teaching Pre-Algebra and Science during the same period as Mrs. Jones. Her prize was ripped away.

When she came home Monday and told us she got moved, she seemed very upset and on the verge of tears. She told us she wanted to switch back. When I said that I didn’t think they would let her, she said that she was told that if their parents went to the office, they could get them switched back. She said that one of her friend’s mom is doing this.

She said there were other kids in her class who specifically said they did not care if they got switched or not, but she feels like she is the only one who actually cared about staying with Mrs. Jones who got switched and many of the students who did not have a preference got to stay with Mrs. Jones.  She burst into sobbing for awhile. I almost cried, but managed to hold it together. I never had any intention of letting her switch back to her previous teacher, at least not until she gave the new one a fair shake. We told her that if she didn’t like her new teacher after the first week, then I would meet with the teacher, and if I felt she should be switched back, we would talk about that possibility.  She began sobbing harder. This wasn’t good enough. She didn’t even want to meet her new teacher. I told her it was okay to be sad and reminded her that she could still visit Mrs. Jones anytime before and after school and during lunch. She gradually quieted down when she realized we were not going to budge on the issue.

The next morning, she begged me to not make her go to school. I calmly told her, she was going to school. She asked me to give her a ride (even though she has walked the ten-minute walk every day since the first day of school). I agreed. She managed to get through the day. When she came home, I asked her how her new teacher was. She rolled her eyes and said, “Fine.” She didn’t want to discuss it beyond that. It was as though she was disappointed that her new teacher was just fine.

Now let me tell you some of the “behind the scenes” action. As I may have mentioned in earlier posts, our daughter had been diagnosed in the past with an anxiety disorder.  This made me second guess how we should handle the situation. We had this dilemma, Are we doing her a disservice if we let her change back (assuming that is possible)? Or are we doing her a disservice and provoking her anxiety issues by making her go with new teacher? We want her realize that sometimes things change and are out of our control, but we can get through it, the world doesn’t implode and sometimes it can even end up being a very positive experience in the long run. On the other hand, we also want her to realize that if she feels she is in an untenable situation, she does have the power to make changes and doesn’t have to just sit back and let things “happen” to her.

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8 thoughts on “Surviving Sudden Changes

  1. Sounds like the inside of my brain sometimes.
    I put my kid in a really awesome social skills class at UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica though, and it helped. They talked about emotional volcanoes and tsunamis.
    I like metaphors.

  2. Wow…sounds like life with my eldest., but it almost sounds as if she’s consoled herself. Play it by ear. You know if she’s going to melt down repeatedly or not. My eldest was very concerned in 1st grade with the noise level in the Cafetorium and the gym, Turns out she has -5 hearing superpower :D. We homeschooled her for a few years gr7-12. She’s in College now, as a freshman. :D. Good luck to you both, you’re going to do fine. :D
    Sincerely, Anna

  3. I’m so incredibly grateful for the posts on this blog as they help me to feel less alone on our journey.

    Robin’s comment ‘Sounds like the inside of my brain sometimes’ perfectly sums out how I felt reading this.

    I’m grateful too for Anna’s comment about her daughter’s sensitivity to sound – our daughter is too which is why we’re homeschooling her (I suspect she and I both have auditory superpowers!). Great to know your daughter is able to manage that so well now with age. It gives me hope for the future!

  4. @Robin & Rachelle –which part sounded like the inside of your brain? The part about how my daughter felt about the change, or the part about how conflicted I felt in how to handle the situation? :-)

    @Anna –thank you for your encouragement!

    Part of why I post some of my experiences, is to help and encourage other parents going through the same thing, but I also look forward to getting encouragement, and feedback from other parents –It helps! Thank you for the support! :)

  5. Hi Donna – sorry, I wasn’t very clear. I meant that I often feel conflicted (and anxious) when deciding what to do for the best for our daughter. I’m very much a ‘shades of grey’ thinker (as opposed to a ‘black and white’ thinker) which results in me seeing many potential outcomes in any given situation. Sometimes this is incredibly helpful… other times, not so much!

    I know (of course!) that the world is an imperfect place and there’s no one, ‘correct’ answer, though still I seek to find the best fit for her – which is when the inside of my brain becomes its busiest and most turbulent!

    • Yes! That is me exactly! This frustrates my husband because while he can see the gray area, he tends to not drift as far in there as I do. We’re told to be consistent and stick our decisions, but then what if our child comes up with an argue that I hadn’t thought of that really makes a lot of sense –this will cause me to sometimes reverse or revise a previous decision –for instance: as long as she continues to get straight A’s on her report cards, she is allowed to have the TV on while she does homework.

  6. My 8yo has been anxious every bedtime for the first month of school. His teacher (who his brother liked just fine) is “evil” “cruel” and school is “miserable.” I wanted to wait a while to see if he could make the adjustment. She’s a bit old-school strict unlike his 2nd grade teacher, but I couldn’t believe she was doing anything mean.

    A month passed and he still was falling apart every night. I talked to the counselor and discussed changing his teacher. I scheduled a conference with the teacher. I debated whether I should do much at all or if this was something he needed to work out himself. (I was already convinced that “cruel” means “said my name aloud to get my attention when she didn’t have it.”)

    I decided I’d start by telling her about his intensities and sensitivities. I’d hoped those descriptions would surprise her, she could start treating him differently and all would change. Instead, she was right there with me, agreeing about everything I mentioned and already aware of his issues.

    I came home deciding that I’d give it about a week longer and then go to the principal to discuss a teacher change. But, starting the day of the conference, he’s done better. I think our insistence that we cared about his happiness and our proof, demonstrated by meeting with her, may have been what it took. He declared this past week his “best ever” and I’m optimistic now that we’ve made the turn.

    I still wish he had a more interesting, inspired teacher to encourage his own spirited nature. But he doesn’t. And I know that he’ll have other teachers he doesn’t like -or I don’t like- down the road. Knowing how involved to get is tough.

    • I was lucky to be able to help out in the classroom every year of elementary school for my daughter so I could at least get an idea of how each of her teachers operated. I was able to see when one of her teachers tended to have certain kids who would just get on her last nerve and she didn’t do as good of a job at hiding it than other teachers might have. Sometimes she’d come home and say they had a “mean” substitute teacher that day. The teacher was never mean to her, but my daughter observed her being “mean” to other students –of course her definition of “mean” varies in accuracy. We are “mean” if we make her clean her room before watching TV. ;-)

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