With the care of children being entrusted to teachers, education is perhaps the noblest profession in the world. Despite teachers having the best of intentions, disagreements with parents are inevitable. As an educator with 20 years of experience, I can attest to the fact that most issues with parents are handled with professionalism and the outcomes usually work out for the best for everyone involved. Take a closer look at five things parents can do to mitigate potential problems with teachers.
Don’t show up unannounced
Barring the obvious case of a child’s health or safety being in danger, parents should never show up at school unannounced to confront a teacher. Usually, this is an immediate reaction to something as simple as a low grade, getting punishwork, or receiving a detention. These situations need a cooling-off period and teachers will get defensive if parents show up at school unannounced for a confrontation. Parents should contact the teacher first.
Some may disagree with this recommendation for parent-teacher disputes. The prevailing wisdom is not to use email because it is easy to misinterpret someone’s tone in the written word. However, phone calls are difficult to return without playing phone tag, which only aggravates both parties. Today, I believe most people have learned how to use email effectively and it gives parents and teachers a chance to choose their words carefully before clicking send.
Admit your child may not be blameless
In the email, parents should admit that their child’s version of the events might not be completely accurate. Not leaving any possibility for the teacher to be correct is disrespectful and it’s not the best way to start a conversation. In my experience, I have always felt positive after reading any parent email that admits their child has misbehaved in the past and is not perfect. It always makes me willing to admit I could be wrong and I’m not perfect as a teacher either.
Don’t gang up
Although most disagreements with teachers can be handled via email or a phone conversation, some will eventually lead to a conference. Of course, both parents and perhaps even the child have a right to be present. However, other relatives and friends should not attend. Obviously, if a grandparent or other relative is the primary caregiver, that’s different. However, having too many moral supporters at a parent-teacher conference can be counterproductive.
Thank the teacher when it’s over
Once the disagreement is resolved, a quick thank you note to the teacher will help smooth over any lingering rough edges. Unless the disagreement is resolved on the last day of school, the student will still need to spend some time in that teacher’s class. I have received actual thank you cards from parents after disagreements, but I am just as happy to get an email from a parent thanking me for my time and concern. Teachers are more than happy to receive either.