This is the parent side of the desk separation issue. I created this page because most of the comments I got on this article were from parents, not teachers. If you are a parent whose child has been separated unfairly or punitively, this is the article for you.
Desk separation is not intrinsically bad
Let me get this straight:
It is entirely reasonable that a child may need separation if she or he is making learning too challenging for other nearby children.
So be thoughtful and honest when you consider your own child's actions, and understand that they may (or may not) be acting in a disruptive way at school that impacts the learning of other students.
Kids aren't perfect… even mine! I had a son who struggled with peer interactions, so I get it.
However, it is never OK to “separate and forget.” It is a teacher's obligation to NEVER give up on ANY child ever. A professional educator must continue to work with each student to help them be successful both socially and academically even if it takes the entire school year.
I hold teachers up to a very high standard!
How desk separation should look
As you can tell from reading the teacher-oriented article, if a child is separated they should be pulled closer to the teacher and not pushed farther away AND there must be a plan for rejoining the other kids.
Notice that this child is not stuck at the back of the class at a “naughty” table. He's right up there with me. This is how it should be done.
What parents worry about
So I'm going to assume that you've taken a deep breath, considered all the facts, and know that your child's needs are not being met. You are ready to move forward in a calm, thoughtful manner to intercede with the teacher.
Here's what you are worried about:
Teachers are authority figures and you don't really want to be one of “those parents” who are pushy and demanding, but you feel you might have to be that way to get anything accomplished. Things could get ugly, and no one wants that. Not only because it's stressful, but because you might end up…
Branding your child
It's quite likely that your son or daughter will still be in the same classroom when the dust settles, and you don't want anyone – teacher, principal or other kids – to hold a grudge. No one likes to stand out, especially elementary-age children.
Being branded yourself
You have to attend conferences in the future. You may be a volunteer. Conflict creates awkwardness in relationships.
Solution? Well, I'm not a magician with sure-fire tricks you can use. You are still going to have to get your courage up and address the issue. But the steps below will help you keep the stressful stuff you're afraid of to a minimum, while still getting your point across.
The biggest mistake parents make
The worst thing you can do is get so worked up that you storm into the school and demand that something be done RIGHT NOW. Sometimes people have to get themselves to that stage before they can overcome their fear and act, but it's never productive. Ever. And it's totally unnecessary.
Be OK with this process taking a week or two and work at it in stages. That's how professionals (including professional parents) handle things. That's how you are going to handle this situation.
If you follow the process below, you are going to be the polite but firm parent who will not be ignored and will be respected. It may be uncomfortable, but you've got many more years of fighting for the best education for your child, so you may as well get used to it now!
What do parents have a right to expect from teachers?
Through all of this, remember: The teacher is a college-educated professional who is certified to handle everything that occurs in an elementary classroom, especially common misbehaviors like talking out of turn or messing with other kids' supplies.
Therefore, it is NEVER okay for a teacher to wash their hands of a child who they deem to be too much work. Parents – even the best of them – cannot control everything their child does at school. That is the teacher's job.
As noted above, I hold teachers to a high standard. The problem is that your child's teacher may not be meeting a high standard, but you are going to help her. Politely.
Ask for a meeting
I recommend asking for a meeting as soon as possible, to occur right after school and include your child. Just say that you noticed your daughter's desk was separated and you want to talk about the plan for her rejoining the class. Call or email, whatever works, just be pleasant.
But notice what you are doing: you are setting the expectation that there IS a plan. You didn't say you wanted to know why it's happening. You said that you want to discuss the plan moving forward. You are not asking the teacher to justify her past actions, but you are expecting her to have future actions in mind.
That will forewarn the teacher about how the conversation is going to go.
Important: An in-person meeting is best for getting results and making a parent-teacher connection.
Make the meeting professional and effective
At the meeting, the teacher may be defensive. That's OK, just act like you don't even notice and keep smiling. Assume that the separation was part of a plan and ask how your daughter has been doing back there and what strategies the teacher has been employing to help her out.
No matter what, keep acting like you are assuming the teacher is doing her job properly. You are essentially inviting her to live up to your expectations. You are not being accusatory or demanding.
Ask your daughter to verbalize her understanding of what she needs to do. This helps show the teacher that you are doing your part.
Then ask what will decide when your daughter can begin rejoining table groups, which is of course the goal. The teacher will have to have a response to that, but if she says something along the lines of “never,” then just say:
“Well, that's not going to work. She needs to learn to work with groups and she can't learn that unless she's with them. I think we can come up with a plan for this over the next few days.”
Again, not angry, just stating facts. Keep it pleasant… you have the long-term relationship to consider.
Then set a follow-up date within one week to meet again. Believe me, the teacher will have gotten the message – no raised voices needed – that you aren't going anywhere and a plan needs to be progressing.
Try to observe in the classroom
If you have the time, it would be ideal for you to observe in the classroom for a couple of hours. Any teacher should be open to having their teaching observed. You need to find an out-of-the-way spot not near your son where you can just soak up the classroom procedures and environment.
This will really show the teacher that you are a parent who will not be ignored.
Build relationships with the principal and office staff
Another task for you: make sure you know the entire office staff, especially the principal. When you go in for your teacher visit or any volunteering, stop by the office.
“I'm going to see Ms. Smith and thought I'd stop by and say hi.”
Let the principal know that you are seeing the teacher about a desk separation issue. Again, just matter of fact, but now it's on his radar in case you need to see him again when the teacher doesn't hold up her end of the bargain.
It's much easier to talk to the principal about options if you already know him or her a little.
Being the respected and influential parent
So that's how it's done. Within a week a two, you can become known by many of the staff that you are one of those parents who's not afraid to be an advocate for his child. Pleasant, always respectful of the difficult job that is teaching, but not one to be dismissed.
This will have a huge impact on your child's school experiences over the years.
I can't give personalized advice
This is everything I know about this subject. I understand that your situation might be a little different, but I can't provide personalized advice. Please consider that before you comment.