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Asking for extra help requires a delicate balance
by Jodie Lynn

Q: If I ask the teacher to spend extra time with my child on math problems, shouldn't she cooperate? If she does not, what would be my next step in getting help from the school without making her angry or causing conflict between her and my son?

Your child's teacher should most certainly cooperate. It is part of the role of the teacher to provide the tools for success. If the individual teacher is extremely busy, then the next step would be to locate extra help from a tutor or student mentor. Setting up a meeting with the teacher to discuss options for the student's needs is a definite first step. Or perhaps the school already has an extra help program in place? Worrying about the teacher's getting angry should not be your concern. You have your child's best interests at heart and so should the teacher. Teachers won't get angry over polite but concerned parental inquiries. - Emeli Reiart Warren in Zephyr, Ontario

As things stand, it is probably already embarrassing and frustrating to him. Keep in mind to not punish your child verbally or physically. Get him the help he needs even if it means giving up other activities. Try to help him yourself or find a tutor and expect him to succeed. - E.P. in Minneapolis

If the child doesn't show any effort in doing math problems during the school day, it would be hard to assess whether before - or after-school tutoring would be of any help. These issues would need to be discussed before hiring a tutor. - Dora Lee in Flushing, N.Y.

Teachers only have so much extra time to divide among all their students. If the teacher cannot give any assistance, ask whether the school has parent volunteers who assist students during the day. If not, ask the principal about any services or for suggestions that may help, such as workbooks. You can buy the workbook and do extra homework together. --Barbara O'Neill in Brantford, Ontario

From Jodie: A teacher from Rochester, N.Y., sent in a tip but did not include her name. She advised that you - as a parent - ask yourself what part you are doing to help your child. "Teachers are required by state education departments to teach subjects for a required amount of time. Due to time constraints, she does not have to comply with your demand, but she should point you in the right direction. Parents need to stop expecting schools to step in and handle their responsibilities."

With that said, does his teacher get angry over various challenges? It sounds as if you may have already created a rather strained relationship with your child's teacher.

If so, and if there is not a before - or after-school math class he can take at the school, just tell her you are getting outside help in math for your son. Stay positive toward the teacher, and ask her to offer feedback and updates on his performance.

In the meantime, try hiring a teenager from the neighborhood or a baby sitter who is good in math. The teenager could come over and try to help your child.

Sometimes children respond better to someone closer to their own age - especially in the beginning of the tutoring process. Who knows - maybe even an older child right there in school could help?

If you see an improvement and desire more in-depth assistance, you could hire an experienced math tutor. Above all else, stay calm and optimistic, and let him know everyone gets stumped now and then.

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