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Angelo Angelo is offline
 
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Parents are Exhausting
Old 11-09-2019, 01:24 PM
 
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I like being a guidance counselor. I like working with kids. But my oh my... why must the parents be so exhausting to deal with?

I really don't get it. Most parents went to American high schools. So most parents had guidance counselors of their own. So shouldn't they remember what a guidance counselor does? As the name implies... we "guide" and we "counsel." When did so many parents get the idea that a guidance counselor is meant to be a "concierge" and a "fixer" of all school problems?

If a student comes to me with a problem, and if it makes sense for me to hear about it in the context of my role, I'm going to "counsel" the student to find reasonable solutions. I'm not going to leap into action and spend my morning running around the building on the student's behalf and fixing the issue for them, which seems to be what (a significant number of) parents want and expect.

Parent: Hello Mr. Angelo. I have a concern. My son's Chemistry teacher is refusing the let him re-write a test he failed.

Me: I see. So you'd like me to talk to your son?

Parent: Talk to my son? What good would that do?

Me: You'd like me to speak to him about how he's feeling? I could give him some resources for studying more efficiently. Some of those strategies might help going forward.

Parent: Uh... that's not going to help.

Me: Apologies. Maybe I'm misunderstanding. How can I help?

Parent: You can help by resolving this issue with the Chemistry teacher.

Me: By resolving it how?

Parent: I already told you. My son failed his test. He can't have a failure on his record or it will bring down his GPA.

Me: So... how can I help?

Parent: *sounding irritated* I want the issue resolved. That's why I'm calling you. It's your job to figure out a solution.

Me: I'd say it's your son's job to figure all this out. I'm here to help him do that and provide guidance.

Parent: The solution is for him to be allowed to re-test on the unit he failed.

Me: But you said he asked about that and was told no. I don't believe the science department permits re-writes on unit tests.

Parent: That's unacceptable.

Me: Well, I'd say your son needs to sit down with the teacher and work out a plan for how to improve his performance going forward. I'll be pleased to suggest that to him.

Parent: That doesn't solve the problem. My son is shy. He won't ask the teacher for help.

Me: Okay, well, I'm pleased to counsel him on how to be a stronger self-advocate.

Parent: Talk, talk, talk. He's a teenage boy. You can't expect him to resolve these issues on his own.

Me: So... again... how can I help?

Parent: What's so hard to understand? I want him to re-write that test!

Me: That's not my decision.

Parent: Then you need to go and deal with the teacher.

Me: I counsel students, not teachers. It's not my role to interfere in teachers' classrooms or tell them how to do their job.

Parent: Actually, that's exactly your job if what they're doing is hurting the student.

Me: I'm sorry to sound difficult, but I think you have a misunderstanding of my role.

Parent: Your role is to help students. My son needs help. I need you to provide it. Do your job.

Me: Let's keep this professional. As I say, I'm happy to counsel your son if he wishes it. I'm happy to provide resources. I do not have veto power over the teachers' decisions nor standing to tell them how to run their classes.

Parent: I'm telling you my son needs help. I'm asking you to help him. He doesn't need advice. He needs an advocate to step in and resolve this for him. Are you going to do your job or not?


Where along the line did parents get the idea that a counselor's role is to be a "fixer"? I suppose it was around the same time parents decided kids were too fragile to make their own friends or play outside or find solutions to their own challenges. I've said it before. The problem with helicopter and lawnmower parents isn't just the damage they are doing to their own kids' development. It's the way in which they project their demands outward to demand that everyone else (and especially school staff) act like helicopters and/or lawnmowers themselves.



Last edited by Angelo; 11-10-2019 at 10:23 AM..
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:41 PM
 
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I don't know how you can keep your cool with a parent like that. I wonder why she isn't wanting to talk to the teacher herself? I'll repeat what others have said, you need to write a book.
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Angelo
Old 11-09-2019, 03:54 PM
 
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Do you have any hair left on your head? I don't see how you have not pulled it all out. You have more than your fair share of entitled/helicopter parents. Stay strong, my friend. As always, I enjoy the story.
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Old 11-09-2019, 05:23 PM
 
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I liked her line, “That’s unacceptable.” I think you should steal it.
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Wow... parents!
Old 11-10-2019, 07:45 AM
 
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I always enjoy your stories!

I can see some of my students’ parents morphing into yours easily. I teach 6th grade, so my students are still young, but the way their parents see them sometimes is as if they are still five years old.

“But he’s just a little boy!” I’m told, when the student has been expected to take responsibility for something entirely reasonable and appropriate.

“This is Middle School,” I remind parents. “They need to practice being independent, with appropriate support.”

“But, but... he’s shy.”

Me, thinking, um... I’m a 55 year old grandmother. I’m one of the safest people your child could spend time with or talk to. “I’m a good person to practice talking to,” I say.

“But, but... we’re concerned about his grade...we want to get him into a good college...can’t you give him extra credit?”

Me: “He has a B-. And I never give extra credit. Besides, I assure you that no college anywhere looks at an applicant’s 6th grade report card.”

A few parents still practically walk their child to the classroom door in the mornings.


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So,
Old 11-10-2019, 08:44 AM
 
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You can't tell the parents that you can not give advice, let alone tell teachers what to do and then tell the parents that it is not possible for you to help, that only the administrator can do that and send that call to the school's headmaster/principal or the Science/Math supervisor?
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Old 11-10-2019, 01:53 PM
 
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The parent said, "You can't expect him to resolve these issues on his own."

That was your cue to respond with, "He will NEVER learn the skills he needs to stand on his own if HE doesn't start practicing NOW. I look forward to helping your son explore how he can improve his study skills so he can be more successful going forward. I can't fix his test scores for him, only HE can do that. I'm sure you'll understand. Tell him to contact me for an appointment. Good-bye!"
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:59 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chipmunky
You can't tell the parents that you can not give advice, let alone tell teachers what to do and then tell the parents that it is not possible for you to help, that only the administrator can do that and send that call to the school's headmaster/principal or the Science/Math supervisor?
Well, I suppose I could do that, but what purpose would it serve? When an unreasonable parent complains to me about a colleague, I don't go out of my way to steer the parent toward administration, since that feels a bit like throwing the colleague under the bus. "Well... I don't have authority over the teacher, but guess who does? Why don't you take your complaint to the Head of School?" Now, in addition to having to deal with a nutjob parent, my colleague potentially has to respond to a complaint lodged with admin. If a parent chooses to take his or her temper tantrum to administration, I can't stop them, but I don't encourage it either. Moreover, no admin worth his or her salt would undermine a member of his or her staff by overruling the teacher's discretion. Of course, I realize a lot of admins AREN'T worth their salt out there, but our admin usually has our backs. As much as I find some of these parents difficult to deal with, passing them all up to admin feels a bit like passing the buck.

The problem with some of these parents is that they assume the strength of their feelings in a matter and their persistence and volume will somehow get them the result they want. I'd love to say this is solely because I work in a private school and the parents are rich and entitled, but the fact is that I have a lot of friends who are counselors in the public system, and they say many parents are exactly the same in their schools.

It all puts me in mind of something that happened to one of the other counselors on Friday. She had an appointment with a parent. However, a student in her office had an unexpected crisis, and she didn't want to boot the student out immediately. So the parent had to wait 15 minutes past his scheduled appointment time. My colleague apologized for the delay and explained that there was a bit of a crisis that delayed her. The parent was furious, complained bitterly about being made to wait, and threatened to complain to administration.When she asked what he did for a living, he said he was a doctor. She said, "Are you saying you never get behind in your office and keep a patient waiting beyond their scheduled appointment time?" The parent got red in the face, claimed this was an unfair comparison ("apples to oranges"), and said there was no way a lowly guidance counselor should be comparing her situation to that of a respected physician, a specialist in his field. His basic claim was that, yes, sometimes his receptionist had to double book patients and keep people waiting, but that wasn't even remotely the same, because doctors are better, smarter, more essential people than guidance counselors or, for that matter, educators in general. Honestly... some of these people need to read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" because they suck at both.

Last edited by Angelo; 11-11-2019 at 03:18 AM..
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Well,
Old 11-11-2019, 01:56 PM
 
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talk about apples/oranges. I see my experience is nothing like what you are facing. OMG!

Yes, I know it is very different with students and parents in a private school facing the tense reality of trying to get their child into a well respected college or university compared to an early childhood primary teacher in public school. Yes, sometime I am the first person to tell a parent that although everyone in their family is amazed at how quickly their own child acquired goals and skills, the other children are doing those things even earlier and at a faster rate. However, I have the ability to slowly walk them through the process and kind of hold their hand and reassure them that all will be fine.
Our school has administrators who, on a regular basis, remind us that our job is to implement the curriculum and give feedback to parents and other staff members on how each child is progressing. They say their job is to handle all questions and complaints about the curriculum and to get the difficult parents out of our way so we can focus on the student and not outside negativity and ridiculous complaints by parents. My situation was never throwing a staff member under the bus. The administrators, supervisors and guidance counselors jokingly said, "that's why we get the big bucks."

BTW- I think there are easier and less dangerous ways for you to earn a living. Have you considered becoming a Navy Seal? At least you have 9 others who have your back and you can shoot at the enemy.

As for the doctor, so I guess when he shared that "no way a lowly guidance counselor should be comparing her situation to that of a respected physician," he is admitting that the "crisis" that his son has isn't really and emergency-right? (as if!)
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:32 PM
 
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Quote:
A few parents still practically walk their child to the classroom door in the mornings.
I have watched parents spoon feed their third graders. I wish I was kidding, and I wish it was just one parent. Unfortunately I'm not joking and I have seen 4 different parents in 3 years spoon feed their 8-9 year old lunch while at school.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to sit by a student when he is taking Accelerated Reader reading comprehension quizzes (5-10 multiple choice questions about a book the student just read-not deep thinking questions just simple ones about what happened in the plot), stop him from impulsively rushing through, read him the questions and answer choices and force him to take his time thinking about the question before letting him chose an answer because, and I quote, "He is just too impulsive for quizzes and does terrible on them so I guess that's what we need to do help him do better on them". "We" is me of course. My response, "Well it seems like he would benefit from more practice and self monitoring since I cant just sit next to and prompt 1 student for 20 minutes for every book he reads. He will get the practice if he reads more and I can write the "slow down, reread the questions, and take time to think" prompts and remind him to use it each day but he really needs to start being more independent since he has state testing this year and I am not allowed to prompt students then. She looked at me like I just sprouted a second head and hasnt responded to me since.


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Parent Meeting
Old 11-12-2019, 09:17 AM
 
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I'm sorry to sound difficult, but I think you have a misunderstanding of my role.
I stopped using the phrase “I’m sorry...” decades ago because I WASN’T sorry and parents expected me to be. It also intimates that one will make some kind of amends for the action.

I started using, “I’m disappointed you feel this way.” (Or a variation of, but leaving in “disappointed” in some form.) I feel it allows me to respond (for, obviously, the parents are expecting a response), yet does not place any problem-solving action on my shoulders, as I feel “sorry” does.

Worked well every time.
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Have you ever considered...
Old 11-15-2019, 05:16 AM
 
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...starting your own blog? I really enjoy your posts. I should rephrase: I don't enjoy that you are frustrated. But I do enjoy the way that you write, your insight, your honesty, and the way that you detail the realities of this job. I really think more people need to be exposed to the realities of working in public education.

Of course, the blog would have to be anonymous, but I know of other teacher-bloggers who have disguised their identities quite well. Just a suggestion.

On another note, I would have had a hard time not hanging up on that parent. I guess that’s why I’m not a guidance counselor.🙃
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