One of my goals this year is to be more assertive with parents. I just am not sure how to because last year was my first year teaching, and I let the parents that were loud and vocal really get under my skin and take some knocks at my self-esteem, and I DO NOT want to do that this year.
So here is my question:
I had a parent come in before school even started to tell me that no one respects me, I have no control of my classroom, and a variety of other things. Her son was frequently out of control in my classroom, and he frequently drove me a little nuts to be quite frank. The issue with this particular person is that she has come in before in front of students and yelled at me. She always feels that I am being unfair to her son, and she likes to tell me so, and tell me she is going to go to my administrators.
She is not the only helicoptor parent that I have because there are some other peachy people, but I won't go into past stuff because I genuinely want to forget about it.
I just want to know what to say in these types of situations where people are making generalizations because they have talked with many parents and students, and it is the same consensus, and I'm just like what? I'm fine discussing the student, but I don't understand why people feel the need to attack me as a person/teacher, and I don't know how to handle it.
I am not very good with confrontation, so I try to communicate with parents via email as frequently as possible. I am a much better written communicator than oral. However, that's not always possible. I have gained a lot more backbone over the years, though. If anyone came to my classroom to yell at me in front of students, I think I would have to call them out on it. I think I'd say, "I'm sorry you feel that way, and I feel we need to meet to discuss this. I think you should be respectful in front of the children, and I cannot continue this conversation at this time. My obligation is to the students during this time, but please set up an appointment with the office and we will meet." Then, I'd be sure my administrator was present for any further communications.
Also, how did this person get into your classroom? In our school, parents have to enter through the office and can't go to the rooms during school hours. Maybe your admin would be supportive of a policy like that.
you might go to your administrator and ask for guidance in dealing with this parent. That gives a heads up that she (the parent) is gunning for you and lets you work through some possibilities with the P.
You might ask her how she conducted her poll to determine that no one respects you. She seems like she may be one of those people who had trouble in school and now has/wants a bit of power to make things difficult for a teacher. I've had parents go after me as a way of defending their misbehaving child rather than addressing the problem of the child's behavior that we might work on together.
Aggressive parents are difficult, especially for those early in their careers. Your skin with thicken up with time. Not that it will help much now.
Is there a chance you can take the "let's see how we can help xx together" route?
Will the child be in your room next year? If not, she'll be attacking a new person over the son's behaviors and give you a break. Some parents need to hear the message about a child's problems from several people before they can believe it. Denial is a very broad river.
Also some students do mature over the summer, home settles down, whatever caused problems resolves and the kid turns around. this may happen and she'll know it was you for the rest of her life. I've experience this first hand. And there is no way to handle it but to say how wonderful that he has grown so much. (And to think that you had some part in that growth even if it isn't acknowledged).
I think if someone starts attacking you like that you should tell them just what you told us....you'd be happy to discuss the child, and if it is something more, you'd like an administrator present.
Is this person that is attacking you going to have a child on your room this year? If not, they certainly have no business having any conversation like this with you.
I think you need to tell an administrator and they should make sure you do t have to face her alone in the future. You are not a punching bag and just venting gossip this way isn't going to help anyone.
But I would 1. Mention these bullies of parents to my administrators, let them kno what are some of the things they say and do.
2. When approach by a bully parent only discuss issues about their child
3. Don't allow them to spill whatever they feel like out of their mouth to you, ( in a professional you can walk away or pretend to occupied)
4. They are not worth you having self esteem issues over!!!
I dispise parents like this, especially when they don't realize the damage they are doing to their own kids.
I am horrible about confrontation, and take criticism very personally. I have learned that the best thing for me to do is a little preventive maintenance. As far as handling parents in general, her is what I have learned works for me...
1. Get them on your side. During the first few days of school, call the parents of every single child, just to say how glad you are that their child is in your class. Have some funny or sweet anecdote to tell. That is the ONLY purpose of this call. No matter how badly you want to tell mom that Junior has already started a spitball fight, doesn't have his supplies, and curses like a sailor, do NOT do it at this time. Believe me, they already know he's bad, and when they see the school name on the caller I.D., they are debating about whether to screen your call or not. You want to shock the parents with the idea that their bad boy has finally found a teacher that can find his sweet side.
2. Keep them on your side. When you do have to call about a behavior issue, you do all the talking. Assume the attitude that you and mom are going to be in complete agreement. Act shocked that their angel would even think of doing something crazy. "You aren't going to believe this, but Precious was actually involved in a food fight. I was so surprised because she usually makes such good choices." Do not say Precious started the food fight. Parent will figure that out. Then tell mom what you did discipline-wise and ask what else she thinks you need to do. Hopefully, mom will say, "Don't you worry Mrs. Teacher, I will take care of Precious as soon as she gets home!"
3. Whenever you can, give the parent what they want. Or at least part of what they want. Know where you draw the line and what is negotiable. For example, I do not allow a test re-do at parents' request. I don't do last minute extra credit. (I also try to tell parents this up front at the parent meeting, so there are no surprises later.) But if Junior needs one more day on an assignment, I can deal with that. Or if he forgot his homework, and wants to call home for it, well if he can talk his dad into bringing it to school, more power to him. Not a hill worth dying on.
4. Continue to call home from time to time just to give information or praise the child for something. Just touching base lets parents and kids know that you expect and assume a cooperative, open relationship.
5. Never, ever say anything negative about any kid or parent in the teacher's lounge or hallway. If the actual words don't get back to the parent, your attitude will. Make up your mind that this kid is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and treat her that way - even if it kills you.
I'm so sorry you have to go through this! I, too, would be at a loss for words if this happened to me!
I would definitely let your principal know. Hopefully your principal is their to support you! I frequent stop by and ask my principal for his advice, what he would do in a certain situation, tell him what I'm trying to improve upon, etc. Your principal might have some great advice.
I would also let your principal know about situations that arise. If this parent says, "I'm going to contact the administrators" beat her to the punch. Send an e-mail to your principal or stop by his or her office and explain the situation. It gives them a head's up. This year, I had a girl whose parents were determined to get her out of my class for whatever reason. Any little thing I did, they came and request a classroom change and even a SCHOOL change. When incidences happened, I'd send an e-mail to my principal: "I'm sorry to bother you, but I had an incident with _______ today and I wanted to keep you in the loop in case her parents talk to you again. Today, XYZ (I explained the situation that happened)." I ended the e-mail with thanks for your support. If I questioned what I did (like maybe I didn't handle this situation correctly), I also included in the e-mail that I hope I didn't do anything wrong, but that if I did handle the situation wrong to please let me know!
-One of the things my principal and I were talking about this year when it came to parents is that yes, you definitely want to be assertive with things; however, at the same time, sometimes it's just not worth it and "giving in" is better. Obviously you don't give in on the big things, but if it is something small that's not worth your fight, do it! It is so relieving!
-Are there other teachers at your school who have dealt with these parents? Even if they dealt with other parents, they have experience with parents. These co-teachers can be a source of support. You could even let the teacher next door know about the one parent, and if he or she sees that parent, they could walk into your room pretending to look for something...maybe then the parent wouldn't yell. It's always good to have a plan of attack in case this happens again!
Agree with other poster's advice. I would also suggest never getting into a one on one conversation without someone else present. In the room have a folder handy that you can grab so you can get to your meeting. Suggest she email or call you to set up a time to discuss. Same thing outside the classroom. "Sorry, I am late for a meeting. Call me to set up a time to discuss."
She comes into your room to start yelling at you, get your door open and step outside. Push your intercom button on the way. Discuss with office staff a plan for if that happens. I would try heading her off at the door so she didn't even get in my classroom. Then the same comment - call me/I will call you to set up a time to discuss.
Parents who make generalized comments about what you do - (I would try Apple Annie's methods first - it is always better to work together, but if that doesn't work...) I would simply respond by telling them they are welcome to go the administration and discuss their points. Let them listen to it. I tried the "I hope we can work together for the benefit of the student" comment with a pushy dad one year. His response was to get pissy with me because I was inferring he wasn't putting his child's needs first. Well, duh! I had to be very forceful after that to not get in a situation where we could verbally spar and to keep him out of the class until he could work with me instead of against me. Was uncomfortable for a while, but by Christmas he was on my ship. Stayed out of my way and his wife did any conversations with me. We were able to get through all conferences together.
I understand. I've had such a parent as you describe, but parents can't wander into our rooms as yours apparently has.
I've had to grow a thicker skin, too. It's hard.
At our recent clean up day for parents, one particular mom told me I had to not give in to her DS, then 15 min later was complaining about one of my lunch time rules. She wanted me to give in to her. At first I said okay, just to shut her up, but after thinking about it, I told all the parents at Orientation night that my original rule stands. Mom wasn't happy, but too bad. In the office, I mentioned a mom asking to have rules bent and the secretary said, "I know which mom is was!" and she was right!
You've been given great advice.
It does get easier.
I wanted to add one thing. When a parent catches you off guard with a comment, the first thing you can say is, "Thank you! I'm so glad you've come to me!" Then launch into the PPs ideas. Immediately diffusing them in this way will catch THEM off guard and might buy you some time.
I am mad just reading this post! I promise that it really does get easier, not necessarily easy, but you learn to handle it. I was ultra meek and mild when I first started teaching and learned the hard way that if some parents think they can run over you, they will definitely try to intimidate you and push you around. I think the best thing for me was to build my confidence that I was a good teacher and all of my decisions were based on what I thought was best for the child. I have parents mad at me frequently, but I'm not constantly second guessing myself anymore. I highly recommend the book Dealing with Difficult Parents. It is a short read with a lot of good ideas.
Bully parents say "all the parents" or something similar when in reality it's just THEM that think that way. It gives the illusion that they are in charge when in reality they are just bullies.
Very true! My first thought is that parents should NOT be walking into your classroom unannounced. You should talk to your administrator and give her the heads-up that parents are walking in while you're teaching. That's not allowed in our school. Then when she shows up, mention that you're in the middle of teaching and you'd be glad to make an appointment for a conference later. Period. Don't let her get to you. If she won't leave without a scene, call the office and get an administrator to intervene. Then, make sure an administrator is present for the conference later. Have a notepad ready to make notes, and stick to what her issues are - don't let her bully you. When she mentions nobody likes you (or whatever), just calmly say something like, "Who is nobody?" to hold her accountable. Then simple say, "What is it that you'd like to discuss about your child?"
You can't let any parent get to you. Some of them would run the school if we let them. I've had rough ones in the past, and once the P found out, she backed me up totally. The parent never spoke an unkind word again when she realized she couldn't push her way around.
To help me deal, I have started keeping a notebook of PITA parent stories and copies of notes they send. It helps me see what I have dealt with and how I handled it. I think I will print out this thread too, because being prepared for anything helps too.
When dealing with people there are the amazing times and the ugly times...I've seen both. I have been yelled at (after class and in front of students), given guilt trips, followed when I chose to end a conversation, falsely accused. The gossip mill is one of the hardest. If people came to the source and dealt with truth it would be easier, but sometimes it seems as if they prefer the shocking and emotional.
"I am happy to speak with you about you child during my conference time. How about at ___?"
"I need to be in class now. Please schedule an appointment for my conference time in the office."
"I will listen to the concerns you have, but I will not speak to you about someone else's child. In the same manner I won't speak about your child to someone else."
I try to be proactive: 1. I have a handbook of how the classroom operates. The parents/guardians are required to read it, and sign and return a form saying they have read it and will uphold its policies. Then when a question/issue arises I can go back to the handbook and say "this is the way we do things..." It has the proper procedure for addressing questions and concerns. 2. I document, document, document. If a child is having academic or behavior issues I keep a record. I keep a record of conversations I've had with parents regarding the academic and behavior issues. I keep a record of other conversations the parents have brought to me. When I have a parent who looks for problems I make sure to keep the director in the loop (in case you get a phone call or email, this is what happened today and this is what I did about it). 3. If I have parents who have difficulty maintaining appropriate conduct during conferences, I require an administrator or co-teacher be present. 4. Personal preference--I do not have a behavior chart/card system. I don't want to give classroom visitors information about another student's behavior, which they may use against him/her. 5. I keep a file of positive comments parents, co-workers, and administrators have made. It's easy to have the negative messages replaying in your mind, so it's important to have some positive messages to replace them.
Great advice so far! I had a difficult parent one year, and the school social worker, principal, secretary, and myself came up with a plan. If she came into school, the secretary would kind of stall her and contact the social worker or principal. That way I had some back-up in case she came down to the classroom. This was an extreme case, but it's good to have the support of others (and not to be alone with the parent) in these extreme cases.
I think that some parents whose children are like the boy you described are looking for someone else to blame for their child's inappropriate behavior. He's probably a little terror at home and mom knows it, but you are the easiest person to blame. That was like the parent I wrote about above.
Definitely get your P involved. Go to him/her before the parent (and many parents don't even go to the P). If the parent does end up going to the P, then he or she has your side of the story and doesn't have to think and act quickly.
Thank you all for the great advice!! I appreciate it a lot! I'll use this if it ever happens again.
The lady I mentioned is a peach, and over the summer, she felt like being gossipy and turned a couple parents that loved me last year into her little cronies, but honestly, whatever to them. I love my co-workers because when these parents have tried to tell them their issues with me, they tell them to talk to me instead, which is really helpful.
I have read the Dealing With Difficult Parents book and I liked it. I have used Love and Logic, and I generally like it.
As far as the student, I'm not sure how to treat him like the best things since sliced bread because he is still defiant and tries to find ways to undermine me/my ideas in front of the class. However, when the student does that, I just give him one sentence, and move on. There are more students who respect and listen to me, that I would rather give my time and energy to them than a student who wants to try to create trouble in my class, and I'm hoping that the student will see that acting that way isn't really going to get him anywhere, and I am determined not to let his parents make me feel like garbage anymore.