How to be the kind of parent teachers like – Nigel Latta
From: Politically Incorrect Parenting – Nigel Latta
It’s really easy to be the kind of parent teachers like. And it’s really important. Imagine, for example, just before first class two mums come to drop off their kids for school. The first mum smiles at the teacher, says hello, and then exits. The second mum smiles, says hello, and then traps the teacher in a long, tedious, and accusatory discussion about why her daughter isn’t in the top reading group when she is clearly reading at a level that is far above that of her classmates. Which kid do you think is going to get the broken crayons in art classes?
Teachers have to put up with a lot of crazy stuff from parents these days, and they mostly do it with great patience and grace. I think that it would be fair to say, though, that there isn’t a teacher in the western world who isn’t at least a bit fed up with some of the nonsense they have to endure at the hands of generally well-meaning, but often ridiculously over-involved parents. Here are just a few examples of the mad stuff teachers have told me they have to deal with now:
• A mother in tears because her six-year-old daughter didn’t get into the ‘advanced’ art class.
• A parent who approached a principal wanting the next term’s syllabus so they could get a jump-start on it during the holidays.
• A father who was outraged because his son was made to sit outside the staff room at lunchtime when ‘all’ the boy had done was tell the teacher to shut up.
• A parent whose response to repeated angry/disrespectful outbursts from their child in class was that the boy ‘wasn’t being stimulated enough’ by the classroom teacher.
• A principal had to endure an outraged blast from a parent whose daughter had lost a game of tennis at lunchtime after the other children changed the rules mid-game.
• A parent complained that their child was being unfairly disadvantaged by having to sit at the back of the class, furthest away from the board.
• A parent who engaged a lawyer to appeal the decision of a school talent quest which went against his daughter.
• Complaints from several parents after a teacher told off some boys for yelling. The teacher allegedly ‘raised her voice’ which the parents thought was inappropriate.
• A parent complained after being ‘told off’ by their child’s teacher for getting to school an hour late every day. The parent didn’t think the teacher had any right to tell them what time their child should be at school.
Now, I could go on, but you probably get the point from even this brief list of examples. For some reason some parents of today believe that children always tell the truth and teachers always lie, and if anything goes wrong at school it’s the school’s fault.
Teachers don’t like whiney, anxious parents. They just don’t. They may well act as if they are listening to Sarah’s mother as she angrily points out that Sarah never behaves that way at home because she is always stimulated appropriately, but inside they will simply be thinking unkind thoughts about Sarah’s mum, and making a mental note to give the girl the broken crayons next time.
Apart from the whole crayons thing, the other reason it’s good to have a strong relationship with your child’s teacher is that if there is a problem they will often be your best ally. You don’t want them to roll their eyes when they see you coming — you want them to look up and smile.
So how do you be the kind of parent teachers like?
• Don’t make a fuss about every little thing
It’s simple thing, but important. Teachers are busy people, and schools can be a bit chaotic at the best of times. Sometimes stuff doesn’t get done, and sometimes things are less than perfect. Be forgiving and understanding and don’t complain about very last little thing. If you don’t, they will be much more likely to take you seriously when you do need to talk to them about something important.
• Take responsibility for problems with your child
If your little one has got into trouble for something, make sure you get the message across loud and clear that you are taking the matter seriously, and want to get sorted. It isn’t the school’s problem, after all — it’s yours. We all want our kids to blend in with the school community and get about the business of getting educated. If there are problems, we need to make sure we’re onto it as soon as we can.
• Work with the school, not against it
You’d be surprised how many parents end up in fights with their school over things which shouldn’t have been fights at all. If you’re practising the previous step, you’ll find this one much easier as well. Basically, you need to sit down with the teacher if there’s a problem and work with them to get it solved. If you approach any problems with the philosophy that you’re part of a team, and the teacher gets the fact you aren’t out to blame them, then most of the time most problems can be resolved.
It really is that simple. From time to time there might be things you disagree with, but my advice is pick the big ones and don’t worry about the little stuff. Obviously, if you’re really concerned or upset about something that you feel is important, you absolutely should go in and talk with the school about whatever it is you’re worried about. If, on the other hand, you constantly feel like everything is important and everything necessitates a sit-down meeting with the teacher and/or principal, the odds are you’re probably getting a bit too worked up about things, and should take a breath and a step back.
After all, who wants their kid to be the one with the broken crayons? Where’s the dignity in that?