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When I tell people I’m a teacher, I often get a response along the lines of “I don’t know how you deal with those kids all day” or “You must have a lot of patience.” My response: “The kids aren’t the problem. It’s the parents.”
While teaching a rigorous curriculum to 25 children is indeed demanding, it is not the most draining part of my day. Often the most frustrating and overwhelming duty of teaching is communicating with parents.
Interactions with parents can leave teachers weary and jaded. Some of my personal experiences with parents have been so negative that I have had to take a mental health day to recuperate from the incident. Other times, I have even considered leaving the profession.
This year alone, I have been yelled at, accused of unfair treatment and bias, and told that I am the reason for a child’s bad behavior. I have even had parents demand that I change the curriculum, which I have absolutely no control over. Eventually, these incidents were all resolved, and the parents and administrators were happy. But I wasn’t. I was left hurt and defensive, because I knew the conflicts could have been avoided or de-escalated before the confrontation, arose if the parents had simply talked to me as an educated professional or even just a fellow human being.
Why Are Parent-Teacher Relationships Deteriorating?
After speaking with many experienced and retired teachers, I have come to the conclusion that the relationship between parents and teachers has deteriorated for several reasons.
- In today’s fast-paced world, it is becoming increasingly difficult as a parent to juggle duties including work, children, marriage, and household, among others. Something is falling by the wayside, and it is often education. As parents step away from their duty to help educate their children, more educational topics fall on teachers, including social-emotional learning, life skills, and morality and values. Often, parents do not notice or mind this shift until values clash, and that is when the drama ensues.
- Remember the Burger King slogan, “Have it your way?” That is becoming the slogan for the education system as well. This is detrimental to student success and parent-teacher relationships. Yes, parents should absolutely have a say in their child’s education, but those choices should be made during elections and school board meetings. Parents should not place daily demands on teachers for every lesson and activity. This position would force teachers to amend five lessons a day for 25 different students. That is 625 differentiated plans a week. It sounds ridiculous, but that is where our “have it your way” school system is heading.
- Monkey see, monkey do. This idiom warns adults against participating in certain behaviors around children because children will copy what they see. In terms of parent-teacher relationships, however, I argue that parents will copy what administrators do. It is no secret that many teachers feel underappreciated and micromanaged under constantly changing regulations. Overly rigid lesson planning expectations, among others, show the lack of support and trust that administrators put in our highly educated and trained teachers. Parents see this and follow suit. After all, if administrators don’t trust teachers to do their jobs, why would parents?
5 Easy Ways To Support a Teacher
These factors are combined to worsen parent-teacher relationships, but they can be addressed. Here are five easy ways families can support educators today:
- Use the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. We still teach this to kids, but it’s time to review this with many adults. Before every interaction you have, ask yourself if this is how you would want to be treated. If not, then do not treat teachers or anyone else that way.
- Remember that miscommunications happen and are the root of many unnecessary arguments. Before becoming angry, yelling, or calling the principal, allow teachers to explain possible miscommunications. After all, what you heard from your five-year-old may not be the most accurate description of the situation. This is what I like to tell parents during open house: “I’ll make a deal with you: I’ll believe half of what your kids say about you if you do the same about me.” And, yes, my kindergarteners tell me a lot of strange things about their parents.
- Root for your child’s teacher every day. Encouraging notes, positive calls or emails to administration, a simple thank you, or a smile goes a long way. While we are grateful for a mug or candy during Teacher Appreciation Week, we would honestly rather have your respect each and every day.
- Give us grace. Teachers are role models but remember we’re humans too. We get sick, make mistakes, become overwhelmed, and have personal issues too. We are trying our best to support our families, your families, and so much more.
- Get more involved in your child’s education, and that means more than helping with math homework. Make time to teach your children the values that are important to your family so that teachers do not overstep by teaching those lessons themselves.
Furthermore, remember that teachers are employees. We have bosses that tell us what to teach when to teach, and how to teach. If you have an issue with the curriculum, schedule, or testing mandates, odds are, we do too. We have no power over those decisions, so approach the administrators or district office with your concerns. Also, remember to research candidates and issues and make your voice heard during elections and school board meetings.
Positive Impact of Parental Support
The more support teachers receive and feel, the more support they will be able to offer in return. As the lines of communication with parents open and improve, teachers will be able to better understand a student’s home life, culture, and academic ability. Teachers can use this insight to differentiate and scaffold lessons to help students thrive.
More positive changes may include more invitations to participate in classroom activities and an overall happier, healthier school atmosphere for teachers, parents, and students. Watch your child and your child’s teacher thrive as you take steps to support teachers and become their partners in education.
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