teachin' school

teaching tip 53. prepare for battle.

sometimes, my friends, kids are manipulative liars who tell their parents stories about things that you do or say.  then the parents will write you a long, nasty email or attack you on the phone without knowing your side of the story (aka the truth).  they may even come to you in person. eek!

so this post is inspired by an experience i had last week. as usual, i won’t go into any details, but it definitely left an impression. believe it or not, it’s only happened to me a couple of times and never this bad. i work with at-risk students with only a small portion with parental involvement. in a lot of ways, this is very freeing. i’m appreciative of it most of the time. it’s not the norm though.

this issue is probably the most frustrating thing about teaching these days.  there are some really amazing parents out there!  like a LOT of amazing parents. but there are also some that don’t give a crap.  you’ll never hear from them.  and then there are some that will defend their spawn to the death.  these parents are rare, but they’re the ones to watch out for.

parents 1960 and 2010

so here’s my advice:

  • protect yourself – contact your principal immediately and let him know your side of the story.  hopefully, he understands and backs you up.  copy him on any emails you find suspicious.
  • document, document, document – write down and date anything that the kid does, especially if you know he/she is going to go whine to their mommy about “mistreatment” or make something up and go directly to the principal.  (you’ll learn pretty quick who the tattle tales and liars are.)
  • prepare for battle – be ready with your documentation, support from other teachers or your principal, and notes to guide the conversation so that you can stay on topic.  especially if you’re meeting in person, preparation will help you feel more confident.
  • admit you’re wrongbut only if you actually are. if you know you should have handled it differently then say that. cop up to your mistakes and explain how you will do better in the future to your principal and the parents.
  • keep your cool – do not get angry.  this is going to be very difficult because some parents are the worst.  just present the facts and be calm.  i’m speaking from this recent experience because i did get defensive and then embarrassed by the parents’ actions in front of my supervisors.  here’s the thing though…if you seem defensive (which you naturally will be), it will come across to the parents that you have something to hide or are at fault even if you’re not. it’s better to stay “all business” and try keep your personal feelings at bay at least with the parents.
  • cut your losses – if you see that it’s going to be a long, drawn-out fight, sometimes it’s better to just make concessions, let it go, and move on.  this will be an incredibly difficult decision to make when you feel you are in the right. but sometimes it’s necessary not to waste your energy on a fight you know you’re going to lose.
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