Wow! It was a long week. We had state testing all week. I got pink eye, had to have a tough conversation with one of my students’ parents, and this parent pretty much told me I had no business in any classroom!!! OUCH!!
It was a tense situation. I would like to tell you some wild story about how I told her off too, but I didn’t. I was professional, respectful even though I was mad as hell!!! This week is the inspiration for this post:
3 Things You MUST do when a Student’s Parents are Pissed!
(pardon the language!)
I know I am not the only one who has these weeks. Am I? 😉 I know everybody has these weeks so when I was thinking about what to write for this post, I thought, all teachers have ways of dealing with parents. Why not post what my mentor teachers taught me about altercations with parents? So here is what I have learned:
- When a parents are sharing their concerns with you about a situation, listen intently. Listen, and make sure you are listening to understand, not to respond. I think we all suffer from listening for the wrong reason. Which does impede on communication. When you listen to respond, you aren’t really listening for the purpose of coming to an agreement or to feel empathy or to understand that person better. You are listening with the intent of responding. I have caught myself, in the past, not even REALLY paying full attention to the speaker’s point of views. Actually, I was too busy thinking about my response to their words. This can cause many, many miscommunications. Now when I catch myself wandering off, while someone is speaking to me, I switch back to listening with the intent of REALLY hearing their words and feelings.
- After they are finished telling you their concerns, repeat their words back to them and give your interpretation of how they are feeling about the topic you are discussing. I wrote a blog post on this style of listening with students a few weeks ago, click here to read it. If your first response to them isn’t to offer a solution or give YOUR opinion, it shows the speaker that you are more interested in how they felt, and that makes them see your concern and that your priority is an understanding or solution. It also makes people feel “heard” and isn’t that what we all want when we are trying to communicate? Very often, when people are speaking about a subject they are passionate about, or a problem that upsets them, they have thought about it before the present communication with you ever happened.
Have you ever gotten upset with someone or something so you call them to discuss it, but an hour and half before you made the phone call or arrived to speak with them, it was all you could think about. You ran a million different arguments they might give you through your head and then thought about your response to these “imaginary arguments.” (Hey, we have ALL done it! )
So by the time, you pick up the phone to call them or arrive to meet with them, you are PUMPED UP and READY for a heated debate!! Even when an argument was never REALLY your intent, you arrive like this (ready for battle), and unload all these feelings right at them!! I think a lot of people do this without even realizing it, and are amazed when the person they are communicating with responds angrily because they feel attacked! Once again, no one ever intended to have a fight but — here you both are speaking and acting out self created emotions, not your true feelings!
- Always, Always, Always be respectful, even when you are being disrespected! Honestly, I think most teachers know this one and have it down pat but I thought I should include it just for clarity. I mean, you are speaking on a professional level about an incident that occurred while you were working. Most teachers know that acting confrontational and rude to parents can cost you your job if this is your usual demeanor when confronted negatively about situations in your classroom. However, we all make mistakes and respond with negative emotions when we are upset especially when it has something to do with our kids!
A parent’s rude actions/reactions towards you may have nothing to do with you. They may be a product of her emotions due to her surroundings before she ever came into contact with you.
Think about it from this perspective. You have had a long day, you come home starving and all you want is to take your work clothes off, stuff your face and chill. But the phone rings. It’s Ms. Telemarketer wanting to sell you magazine subscriptions and she is talking so fast, she won’t yet you interrupt her to tell her you don’t want her magazines unless they can be delivered immediately with a pot roast and gravy!!!!
There is a slight chance, you may sound a little rude and confrontational. Hell, if you stub your toe on the way to answer your phone, you may even release your flying monkeys on her ( I have been accused of this many times at home!), and tell Ms. Magazine Telemarketer that she was poor judgement and a lack of character for calling you at this exact time in your day!!!
I know. I know. The poor lady on the phone is now in a very bad mood because your response reflected the occurrences of YOUR surroundings BEFORE the conversation, and had NOTHING to do with her.
- Which brings me to what I feel is the MOST important reason to keep your cool when you are speaking with a rude parent. Because, most of the time, when confronted by a student’s parent, it will happen at school. I mean, 9 times out of ten, a school has kids in it, right?? 😉
So there is a good chance that there will always be “Little eyes” observing you and watching the way you respond.
For this VERY reason, situations like these are MAJOR TEACHABLE moments!! No matter how badly you want to tell Little Johnny’s Dad to go to hell, you ARE a crucial role model for your students. Therefore, you must show your students what appropriate behavior looks like & sounds like even when involved in a heated conversation with an idiot!!!!
Think back to the last time you saw two people yelling and calling each other names in a PUBLIC place. It is not a very good look for either party involved. But, what if, one of those people spoke calmly and tried to deescalate the situation? Your opinion would be different about the peacemaker in the couple, and you would think even more negatively about the aggressor involved.
Our students need to watch our reactions under pressure so we can show them that we practice what we preach about staying calm and staying in control even when it is difficult.
How Can we expect them to follow our rules and requests, if we SHOW them that we talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk???