My son does not like his new P5 teacher. Last year he idolised his teacher, who had a good sense of humour and often played his guitar with the pupils in class. He loved going to school but this year he says his teacher is a lot more serious and very strict. I am worried that his enthusiasm for school will deteriorate.
Teacher Julie McGuire replies:
The transition from one teacher to another in primary school can initially be a tricky one. A year is a long time to spend with a teacher and a strong relationship can be built over that time. This is magnified if the pupil feels a particular bond with the teacher. However, most students are fairly adaptable and are able to move on once they get used to the routines and quirks of their new teacher. This is not to say that they will necessarily like them as much.
It is still early in the school year. Try to help your son feel positive about this situation. Encourage him to be patient, get to know his new teacher and give her a chance, despite his initial disappointment. Remind him that teachers are invariably stricter at the start of a new class in order to gain respect and set high expectations.
Of course children will bond with some teachers more than others due to personality traits and their response to differing teaching approaches. Teachers have different strengths, interests and personal talents, which will appeal to different students, such as the musical ability you mentioned with your son's last teacher and these can be a great addition to the learning environment.
Although teachers in the same school should cover the same curriculum it will be delivered in a variety of ways. Certain teaching styles will suit some pupils more than others. It is widely accepted that children learn in different ways and teachers should be trained to use the range of teaching strategies including visual, aural or kinaesthetic so all children are catered for.
Part of the richness of primary education is the time available, providing an opportunity for teachers and children to get to know each other well. Through this process the teacher will hopefully help to bring out the best in the child, challenging them to reach their full potential and supporting them in weaker areas of the curriculum. The level of social and emotional support they can offer is also crucial.
Another factor in your son's current negative feelings may have been his enjoyment of being taught by a male teacher. There tend to fewer men in primary education and some boys respond very well to a strong male role model, particularly if they see little of their fathers due to long working hours.
If children like and admire their teachers and are inspired by them, they are more likely to want to work hard for them. But children also need to become more independent and learn to work for themselves. At secondary school your son will come in contact with many different teachers and he needs to be able to motivate himself whether he likes the teacher or not. Self-discipline is the key to becoming an independent learner.
Tell your son some anecdotes about your own school days - teachers you particularly liked (or disliked) and how you survived and learned from these situations. Explain that we gain different things from different people and that it's natural to get on with some better than others.
It is possible that your son is taught by other teachers in the school for certain subjects such as music, PE or Putonghua so he may have some variety in addition to his main class teacher. Whether this is the case or not, hopefully he will grow with time to like his new teacher and appreciate the qualities she has to offer. Even if the bond is not as strong as with his previous one it does not mean he won't have a successful and happy year.