My son is in year 10 and used to be good at English, but now he has had a change of teacher who seems to grade his work down compared to his friends' grades. There is a bit of a personality clash, he has lost interest and I worry he is going to fail the subject. What can I do?
I understand how worrying this is - especially with a subject such as English which is essential for employment and further study. Your son must be very unhappy.
It can be very unsettling to have a change of teacher, especially if your son got on well with his former teacher. A teacher's personality can have a huge influence on a pupil's motivation, so it's vital that you and your son find a way forward with this.
First, are you sure that your son is being "marked down"? There are a few possibilities to consider. The first is that his previous teacher was too generous with grades. It can sometimes happen - grading work is not always an exact science and teachers are human.
Is it possible that his previous teacher was using some motivational psychology and marking up in order to motivate your son? On the other hand, is it possible that his new teacher is marking him down in order to try to make him work harder?
If you think back to his grades from previous teachers then you can put this into perspective. If he has always been an A grade pupil and is now a C or D grade then yes, something is going wrong. But if there is just one grade difference then it may not be as serious as you both think.
How would he feel about you talking to his form tutor or his English teacher? I ask this because teenagers can be very sensitive about parents interfering, which is how they can perceive it. You want to help - but your son could see you as a pushy mum and the cause of excruciating embarrassment. So have that conversation. He may prefer to meet his teachers himself.
If he wants some support from you, why not make an appointment to talk to his form tutor first? Teachers can be very sensitive about their work, especially if their grading comes into question, so it could be better to use the form tutor as a mediator.
This could open up the chance for you to meet the subject teacher if necessary - with or without your son being there too.
Now, the personality clash - tricky. Teenagers need to understand that they won't get on equally with everyone in life, and sometimes have to grin and bear it.
I spoke to education consultant and behaviour expert Dr Sabine Little, who advised, "It is important to understand how the personality clash originated. I once told a student off for being late, which was not her fault, and she hated me from that day on. I found out how she felt about me on a social networking site. For me, it was a trivial incident - for her it changed our relationship forever."
Have you asked your son why he feels there is clash? If he feels his teacher has turned against him for no reason, then it's worth bringing this up in discussion with his form tutor or his English teacher.
If the situation does not improve after you have talked to his teachers, the next step would be to meet the Head of Department and see if a change of set is an option.
Finally, you can do lot to make him feel better by praising him for the subjects he is succeeding in - and being positive about his English. Could you be up-beat and remind him that he used to get good grades - so it's only a matter of time before he achieves good grades again?
Sometimes just a few words of positive encouragement can really make a difference, so try to keep upbeat as well as communicating with the school - as long as he is happy for you to do that.
Got a teen parenting problem? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that we cannot enter into personal correspondence and we reserve the right to edit your questions where appropriate.