Teacher Myth #2

Teacher Myth 2:

Teachers have the right to keep parents at a distance.  Since the parents aren’t experts, it’s best they leave it up to professionals.

Teachers, over the course of their careers, will frequently confront angry and difficult parents.  It comes with the territory.  Then there are those parents that are overly anxious and extremely insecure (the ones that provide you with a 100 page dossier on their child before taking them on an overnight camp).  As much as it is tempting to want to shut the door on some parents in particular, and demand that they stay out of the affairs of the classroom, this is not wise.

Teachers have the responsibility to work with all types of parents and to ensure that the parents are well-informed and updated.

Think of it this way.  You have a person who invested most of his savings in shares through a stockbroker.  The person is nervous, and worried that perhaps one day his shares will crash drastically, causing him to lose his nest egg.  So he calls his stockbroker regularly, seeking updates, assurances and reassurances, sometimes more than once weekly.  The stockbroker isn’t a fan of the constant phone calls but sees this as part of his job.  After all, his client is making a big investment.

Now compare that to a parent.  They have entrusted to the teacher the greatest investment any person can make – their own flesh and blood.  Of course, being bugged and badgered by a parent is not much fun, but it is part of the job.  It makes any financial investment drift into irrelevance.

I am certainly not advocating hostile or abusive parents and I believe there are times when teachers must assert themselves against disrespectful and insensitive parents.  But teachers must also be mindful of the rights of parents.  After all, the data is pretty clear – the experiences a child has at school are a great indicator of how they will grow up.  Negative experiences at school can offset all the good work parents do at home.  You can have a tremendously loving home, but if it isn’t complimented by a supportive and nurturing school, the child could grow up with self-esteem issues.

The following are some methods I incorporate in my own teaching to keep parents informed:

1.  I write a newsletter every week which is low on gloss and high on content.  I write about what we covered in class in Maths and English and some of the activities that proved particularly popular or useful.

2.  Together with my newsletter (which I print in hard copy to ensure that the parents read it) I attach a personal student report for each child.  The mini-report features different boxes to either tick or cross off depending on whether or not the child has performed in that area.  The indicators include: behaviour, respecting others, homework, understanding concepts etc.  As well as that, it has room for a comment so I can elaborate and explain why I marked the child the way I did.

This mini-report distributed with the newsletter every Friday allows me to deal with social disagreements, homework not handed in and behavioural issues straight away.  The students know it’s coming and the parents know that they wont have to hear about an incident months later.  My students get very disappointed when (and it happens very seldom) I don’t have the time to include the student report, because they know that their reports usually feature compliments and words of encouragement which they are very proud to share with their parents.

3.  I include parents over the course of the year in selected classroom activities so they feel part of the goings on in their child’s class.

Does this take a lot of my time?  It sure does.  But it’s worth it because the parents trust that I know what I’m doing and they are properly informed about the progress of their child and the skills and concepts being taught in class.  It works brilliantly at cubing the amount of complaints and enquiries I get.  By saturating (and perhaps even boring) parents with information, they stopped feeling the need to ask questions.  Because some teachers don’t disclose such information, it leaves it to the parents to guess.  Guesswork can often lead to negative conclusions.

Again, no teacher should tolerate abuse from parents.  However, teaching involves interaction with a diverse range of students and parents who have their own unique personalities and character traits.  And the key is to function in a way that’s going to benefit all stakeholders.

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6 Responses to “Teacher Myth #2”

  1. bizemom Says:

    Good advice. I like the comparison between your children and stocks!

  2. kloppenmum Says:

    I used to do regular newsletters home too…including a fairly detailed one on day one of each term. And you’re right it does stop a lot of anxiety. Qudos to you doing one each week and a mini-report for each child…do you sleep?

  3. kloppenmum Says:

    Good for you!

  4. kadja2 Says:

    My first year as a teacher was in a district where parents were used to getting BAD reports on their children–especially at the grade level I taught which was 8-12. It was a small town with not much incentive for the kids to want to see the world and such because they had a negative view of it.

    For my group, it changed because I always stressed to them the world outside of their small town was theirs to learn about and enjoy. I also had one tool I used which is a “Kudo Call”. When students do outstanding work, I’ll make random Kudo calls once or twice a month. The parents loved it because my focus was on the students’ strengths and potential. Some parents who were difficult with the principal would bypass the office and come to my room to see what they were doing and/or take a look at their work after getting the call–and it would be the parents calling for a conference after the first two months just to check on the kids! I got a kick out of that!

  5. Ron Byrnes Says:

    I agree with Bizemon, great analogy. And you’re a great example for teachers just getting going. You’re students (and their families) are lucky.

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