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Need quick help to answer parent email!
Old 09-29-2019, 01:33 PM
 
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I have a single parent in my classroom, "Tina", who has been rather difficult already this school year. She has a folder for her child with a "dad" side and a "mom" side, and has asked for duplicates of all paperwork. I've done this for families before, and it works out just fine. But early in the school year (like 3 days in), my aide forgot and only one paper went home, and it went to dad. Tina flipped out, and sent me a long email about how she is the primary caregiver, blah, blah, blah. I told her to take a deep breath, that it wasn't anything crucial, and we'll take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Well, wouldn't you know that both parents ordered from the book club, and the orders got mixed up. Dad's gf "Kate" had emailed me to send theirs home "tomorrow" because that's the dad the child goes to their house. She sent the email very late at night, and she didn't think I'd get it until the next day.

Tina is beyond upset. I emailed her that we would straighten it up, and all would be well.

Then she sent me this: "Just curious.....does Kate reach out to you often? She has no place doing so. How often are you communicating with her?"

How do I respond to that?!? I don't have to answer it at all, I know. But I don't want to be adversarial.


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Old 09-29-2019, 01:39 PM
 
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I would send to your principal and ask how to respond.
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Old 09-29-2019, 01:51 PM
 
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I agree itís probably best to get your principal involved but my response would be ďI canít discuss communication because of privacy concerns. If you have a concerns about who is contacting me please address it with them directly.Ē
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Old 09-29-2019, 01:52 PM
 
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This is one good reason why teachers shouldn't be in the middle of any of this two family crapola.

I have never even sent 2 papers home for those families. They can make the copies and do it themselves. I shouldn't be punished for their choices.

I think I would probably say that.

I agree with involving the principal. We don't get paid enough to deal with this kind of idiotic junk.

Last edited by kahluablast; 09-29-2019 at 02:10 PM..
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Old 09-29-2019, 02:57 PM
 
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I have a family this year that has a really contentious custody situation.

No matter what, I have to contact both parents with anything pertaining to the child. They do a week on/week off so it’s something simple (like homework) I can contact the parent that has the child that week. However, I am under no circumstances allowed to contact or discuss the child with the stepmother. I have had this situation many times previously as have many teachers at my school.

Stepparents do not have custody or rights, if the parent wants to share with their partner that is their choice. We actually have many court orders stating we are not to share information with the stepparents even if they reach out to us.
I have has grandparents contact me in the past as well regarding a child’s grades or schoolwork and we aren’t allowed to respond aside from telling them to please speak with the parent or guardian of the child as we can’t share information.

I have had situations where I had to send home double of things. Now, with 99% of what we do in class being digital it isn’t as much of an issue.


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Old 09-29-2019, 03:07 PM
 
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If you are looking to keep things from blowing up you should respond to her. I would just keep it short. I would say something like, other than just giving me the info on the book order, she hasnít contacted me.

For future book orders, send the whole thing home with the kid and let them sort it out.
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Old 09-29-2019, 03:09 PM
 
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Quote:
I have a family this year that has a really contentious custody situation.

No matter what, I have to contact both parents with anything pertaining to the child. They do a week on/week off so itís something simple (like homework) I can contact the parent that has the child that week. However, I am under no circumstances allowed to contact or discuss the child with the stepmother. I have had this situation many times previously as have many teachers at my school.

Stepparents do not have custody or rights, if the parent wants to share with their partner that is their choice. We actually have many court orders stating we are not to share information with the stepparents even if they reach out to us.
I have has grandparents contact me in the past as well regarding a childís grades or schoolwork and we arenít allowed to respond aside from telling them to please speak with the parent or guardian of the child as we canít share information.

I have had situations where I had to send home double of things. Now, with 99% of what we do in class being digital it isnít as much of an issue.
It's so difficult, isn't it? And the poor kids. So far, the father's girlfriend has only emailed to introduce herself to me, as a person in the child's life; and to ask a question about the book club. If she crossed a line, I would ask her to defer to her boyfriend or the child's mother. I hope it doesn't come to that.
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Old 09-29-2019, 03:19 PM
 
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I would definitely contact the principal and clarify what to do when Kate contacts you. Sometimes logistics just make it simpler for the step-parent to be a contact, but custody arrangements may specifically forbid it. Itís nice when a step-parent can act as a resource or co-parent...but often that role is off limits for them. Your principal can offer direction. Clearly the mom does not want the stepmom involved in this case...but a brief email about logistical issues such as a book order does not seem problematic to me. There are definitely times when step parents are the ones to pick kids up from school, deliver a forgotten lunch, or get a kid to sports practice. So getting clarification and having a mutual understanding about what is OK and what is not for the step parent is going to be important.

Some families will welcome step parents attending parent conferences, as another loving adult who may have useful input. Other families confine all school communication to parents only.
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Old 09-29-2019, 04:01 PM
 
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After discussing with principal, I would also include:

I communicate to you and dad as the primary caregivers for little Johnny.
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Old 09-29-2019, 04:20 PM
 
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If Iím understanding correctly, itís the fatherís girlfriend. I agree with previous posters, keep it to just the mom and the dad as contacts. I would try your best to send them both copies where itís practical and as a courtesy.

You need to involve the principal and get it crystal clear with him/her. Keep the principal in the loop because this could get volatile. IF you have a supportive principal, I would take it to them if the situation blows up in the future. And of course, document everything. Also, I donít email on my personal time. I have Bloomz quiet hours set so I answer during my work hours. Then I wonít check emails over the weekend. Iíve found thatís best for me. Otherwise it keeps nagging at me.

Good luck and try not to get sucked into the drama.


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Old 09-29-2019, 04:42 PM
 
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Good advice given. Also, do you have a school social worker? If you do, let that person handle this mess.
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I would not allow that.
Old 09-29-2019, 05:41 PM
 
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When I have a parent who asks for me to send duplicate copies, I tell them that I can't do that. Our policy is that parents will deal with their own copies if they need duplicates. We do one conference in the fall and one in the spring--no duplicates allowed. One can come in the fall, and the other can go in the spring. After all, it's not the school's fault that the parents are divorced. We do not need to take up the slack. We have enough to do without trying to run interference for divorced couples. They can make copies and send them just as easily as we can.
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Old 09-30-2019, 01:15 AM
 
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It's just different times. Families come in a variety of people who care about the kids. My daughter was recently the "girlfriend" and quite frankly she was the most stable at times in caring for the kids. So she was often putting in the book orders and making sure homework was done and in the right folder, etc.

I know legally sharing info with the girlfriend is not right, and it seems it's the mom who just wants the skinny. So I would also send your P. the circumstance and then a quick email to mom saying you send things to dad too. And leave it at that.
Good luck!
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Old 09-30-2019, 02:37 AM
 
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I don't have advice but am working with several families with similar contentious custody situations and appreciate the advice given. It will come in handy for me and my co-teachers this year. Mom even sent in a box of legal envelopes for me to put any and all information in and address it to her.

As others have said, it is so not the child's fault. I can't imagine the stress these kids feel.
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Old 09-30-2019, 02:42 AM
 
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You may be best off explaining to her that you know what is confidential information for Dad and Mom, and you will not divulge confidential information to people other than Dad or Mom. You avoid the information about contact of the Dad's significant other and let Mom know that you will keep confidentiality per policies and laws.

But in the future, make sure that you don't tell Dad's significant other any information, including book club. Let Dad handle all communications for his child.
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:43 AM
 
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Quote:
After all, it's not the school's fault that the parents are divorced. We do not need to take up the slack. We have enough to do without trying to run interference for divorced couples. They can make copies and send them just as easily as we can.
I agree. This is not your job.
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I agree with
Old 09-30-2019, 06:59 AM
 
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Kahlua and bGracie. Teachers shouldn't be in the middle of their marital problems.
Just a heads up...I taught with someone who refused to schedule two parent conferences because she felt the divorced parents could be civil for 15 minutes, focusing on their child. Nope. She came close to a formal reprimand because she dug in her heels for awhile. Finally she had to agree to two separate conferences.
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Old 10-01-2019, 03:16 AM
 
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I know I'm late to the party but these situations literally make me sick. Just wait until the grandparents get involved. I sometimes think that we are becoming enablers when we accommodate some of these "requests" from adults who are acting like children and using the "real" children as pawns. There are too many times I've been tempted to suggest, "How about your child comes to live with me until you grow up?"

I wish admin/districts would face these realities and develop some clear school policies that make it "easier" to deal with these issues. Maybe it is time to get "adversarial" because we can't put everybody's interest first nor can we serve as family court. We're supposed to be teaching the child not managing the parent's power and control issues. I think it's clear that "Tina" is going to drag everyone deeper and deeper into a no-win situation. I want to tell her that if she's primary caregiver as she claims, she needs to start acting like it. If she wants to discuss how the child is doing, great--everything else is off the table. And I would offer no assurances that things "won't happen again" because, frankly, Tina is going to make sure they do with her unrealistic expectations.

That's probably not advice unless the principal agrees. It's really just a vent.
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Old 10-05-2019, 11:03 AM
 
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I am surprised that so many teachers are dealing with parents through email and other electronic means on a daily basis. (Parents having your personal cellphone number is beyond the pale in my opinion).

Unless your principal is requiring you to communicate this way, I wouldn't do it. We send one set of papers home per child, no exceptions. We communicate in writing or on the phone. Some teachers choose to use Class Dojo. I think that's a great idea since everything is documented and it saves time. If a parent wants to discuss something, they can schedule a conference during business hours during our planning period. You have to make things are inconvenient for the parents as they do for you.

Parents are the primary people who are entitled and spoiled, that's why their kids are the way they are. The more you give, the more they will expect. There is no way a teacher should be involved in personal family and marriage issues unless it is to do with custody. Custody issues are documented in the appropriate system in the office. All the teacher needs to know is who is not allowed to communicate/pick up the child.

Since you have already opened the door to extreme parent involvement (or perhaps the door was opened for you), it is time to cut back slowly. Start answering emails less and less often, letting more time go by before the parents get a response. The first thing they will do is call or show up at the school asking why the teacher is unresponsive. Have an answer ready: "I will do my best to answer all emails but due to the nature of my work, it might take 24 to 48 hours to respond." If that answer is not something you can say in front of your principal, just assure the parent you will do your best but continue the pattern of less responsiveness. Eventually they will either get tired of complaining or they will get the reputation for being too demanding and as long as you promise to do your best each time and continue to have other parents who support you, you should be fine.
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