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"Parent" Interview Question
Old 03-24-2012, 05:47 AM
 
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I had my first job interview yesterday and thought it went rather well - BUT I did get a trick question:

"How would you handle a difficult parents"

I did talk my way through it but what would you have said?


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Old 03-24-2012, 05:53 AM
 
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I would ask them to define difficult. Are they helicopter-parent difficult or are they the type that you can't get in touch and they won't help with their child's work?

Generally, I would ask the parent to come in to conference face-to-face. I would document every phone conversation, photo copy every piece of correspondence and if necessary, invite prinicpal or asst. principal to the meetings.
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Old 03-24-2012, 05:53 AM
 
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This is actually a very important question because sadly, dealing with this type of parent has become a big part of our job.

"Seek first to understand before making yourself understood" - I stole this quote from another teacher I used to work with, but basically it means listen before trying to defend yourself or make the parent understand where you're coming from. As long as they're speaking to you appropriately, let them get all their frustration out and make them feel heard, then you can talk/explain.

Clear and frequent communication

Be proactive rather than reactive to prevent problems from starting
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Old 03-24-2012, 06:01 AM
 
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I don't think it was a trick question. It is hard to find a job in teaching these days without having to deal with difficult parents. I deal with them ALL of the time.

I would have said that when I knew I would be dealing with a difficult parent, I would go into the meeting prepared and with evidence to support whatever I was trying to tell them. Documentation is key. I keep my academic records, discipline records, and RTI records very handy so that I can grab them in a pinch. If a difficult parent took me by surprise, I would stay clam, listen to them, and be reasonable. If it was a bigger issue that I needed to prepare for, I would try to schedule a meeting with them. The most important thing is to stay calm. Never get into an argument or back and forth with a parent. If you just can't possibly see eye to eye on an issue, it is fine to say "we will just have to agree to disagree". If you have a meeting scheduled with a parent you know will be particularly difficult or adversarial, make sure that you have a witness at the meeting. I have done this before. I have a pretty good relationship with parents because I am upfront and informative about my discipline and academic policies from the start. I also frequently make contact with parents to build a rapper with those whose student I am concerned about. We have an online grading system and I keep my grades up to date, so there is never a question about wether an assignment is missing or what the child received on it. I also post all homework assignments and due dates on my classroom website. I think that there are lots of preventative measures that can be put in place to try to avoid a difficult parent. However, at times it is unavoidable. I always try to show them my documentation, explain my expectations, and be firm but respectful. So far, for the most part, it has worked.

****
Then again, I have also hung up on a parent who would not stop screaming at me about why his 7th grade son should be able to be disrespectful to the substitute in class. (He told her she smelled after talking out and being rude all period.) I told him I would hang up if he didn't stop yelling twice, then I told him I was hanging up. My admin backed me up, the discipline stood, and nobody in our building is allowed to call the father anymore - only the admin can. He is a real pill. He actually ha his son removed from Spanish class because, "That thir Mexican is for them Hispanic kids! My boy shouldna haf to learn no Mexican!" Are you freaking kidding me? We certainly know why the kid acts out! **This just came to mind. I would never talk about this in an interview.***
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Old 03-24-2012, 06:03 AM
 
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I would say:
I do my best to maintain frequent contact with parents and to make sure they get positive contact from me whenever possible. When faced with an angry or frustrated parent, I immediately seek to understand what their problem or frustration is, identify it back to them, then work to solve it. My years in customer service and retail through high school and college prepped me well for working with parents.

I hope you rocked your interview, NJ!


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One thing I will do if I get
Old 03-24-2012, 06:23 AM
 
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a question that I'm not 100% prepared for is to ask for clarification, something like Miller said.

That at least gives you a little time to think.
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Old 03-24-2012, 06:26 AM
 
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That is not a trick question. It is something that admin wants to know about. They want to be confident you will do your best to handle the situation so it doesn't end up in their office!
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Agree with teachnkids.
Old 03-24-2012, 07:04 AM
 
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This is a reality of the job, not a trick question. While we like to think everyone likes us and agrees with what we do in the classroom, that is not real life. There are nearly always two viewpoints on any topic and being prepared with documentation the way that the rest mention as well as writing a weekly parent newsletter and keeping copies of them too. This way if a parent has a question about spelling words, homework or practice topics you can simply send another copy of the weekly newsletter and highlight portions which answer their question. I always included on my newsletter a box for parents to jot a question and return it to me if needed. I always gave a copy to the principal as well so he/she could be informed as to what was going on in my classroom should parents call the office.
Another suggestion is to make personal contact by phone at the beginning of the year with each parent it is possible to phone. Most really appreciate getting to tell you something important about their child and you will be able to tell right away who does not appreciate your effort, so you will be forewarned in future dealings. Occasionally this will not work, but at least you will have given your best shot at starting off on a positive note.
Good luck with the job search!
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Not a trick question
Old 03-24-2012, 07:10 AM
 
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That is definitely not a trick question. It is a reality of our jobs that we have to deal with difficult parents. Just as other PPs have said, they range from the ones who are too overbearing, to the ones who try and intimidate you, to the ones who never show up or care about their kid.

I would have said that I would handle them by listening to their problem first. I would also have my documentation in place, especially if dealing with the parent of a child who is struggling academically. I also have strategies and materials they can use with their child at home.

You may have some years when no parent seems difficult and other years where they just come out of the woodwork! The posters have given you good advice.
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Old 03-24-2012, 07:14 AM
 
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At first I thought you meant tricky not trick, as in it was kind of difficult because you didnot have enough information. But if you are young and have never had your own classroom, I can see where this might seem like a trick question. If indeed this is your first pursuit of a classroom, I'd get a list of some potentional interview questions and practice. It can really help. There are some PT members that have been on interview committees that will be able to help if you ask.


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Old 03-24-2012, 08:47 AM
 
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I meant "trick" because it was a first interview at a college interview day - I expected to be asked my strengths, weaknesses, etc. . .

I do currently have a difficult parent in my ST, a parent who if their kid doesn't get A on an assignment TELLS US that he re-doing it.

I answered the way many of you wrote (thanks for all the responses!) the only thing I didn't say was the P becuase I didn't want to sound like I was brining my problems to the principal as a first year teacher but did mention constant communication and let them have their say but lay my foot down kindly, etc. . .

Thanks!
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Old 03-25-2012, 10:51 PM
 
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Sounds like you did fine on it. I have been asked that question before, and have a similar take to I love Cats. Proactive, good communication, etc. I always try to figure out what the real concern is. How parents act, and what they choose to address situations says more about their actual concerns than their words do, so I always try to figure out the underlying concern/fear, because when parents are really upset, there is usually something.
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Not a trick
Old 04-11-2012, 10:39 AM
 
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question. As a teacher, you WILL have to deal with difficult parents. Call them into a conference. Have all documentation possible, graded papers, RTI, behavior notes, etc. Stay calm and if they get loud, angry, etc. say calmly, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I will take what you have shared and get back with you." Focus and practice saying this in a convincing way.
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Does "trick" really matter?
Old 04-14-2012, 09:18 AM
 
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Really, is it necessary to focus on the word trick in this request for ideas? I think the OP meant she was not really prepared for that question, knew it was a question that was important, and wanted to answer in a way that reflected on her as a responsible teacher ready to handle a class. As a beginnig teacher, she was smart enough to realize certain responses ( relying on the principal) could be seen as being incompetent by some interviewers while seen as the perfect solution to others.
I applaud the OP for asking what others would have answered. She just wanted to be prepared in the future. Sounds to me like she is ready to tackle the job!
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