Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to Get and Keep Parents on Your Side



I have observed many colleagues who are uncomfortable letting their hair down, so to speak, causing them to seem aloof and unapproachable. They feel as if they are above their students and parents. It shows in the way they deal with them. They will never admit that they’ve made a mistake, and if a child points something out to them, they become defensive, angry. and mean.  When this occurs, the kids and parents feel alienated  and you will have an uphill battle for the rest of the year.

One of the main things that I realized, after years of teaching is that parents need you to care about their child, they want you to make their learning experience interesting, challenging and fun. The best way to do this is to make sure their little one knows that you are there to listen, and support them with positive reinforcement and encouragement. It’s also important that they realize you are human, you  make mistakes, and you can laugh at yourself. Once you’ve established a good rapport with the kids, and they like you, the parents will like you as well. They will do just about anything for you and you will be able to maintain the optimal environment for learning.

When you meet parents, greet them with a sincere smile and make small talk. Express how much you enjoy working with the children, it is important to be upbeat, even if you have something negative to say. Begin with a positive comment about Johnny, especially if he is having issues, tell the parent in a supportive manner, For instance, suppose Johnny is talkative, he shouts out answers, talks to friends when you’re teaching a lesson, and is constantly fooling around. You know the type. You should NEVER begin with the negatives. If you begin the discussion of Johnny’s behavior on a negative note, you will turn the parents off and you will lose their support and quite possibly turn Johnny off to learning. End by saying something complimentary.

For example: "Hi  Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Johnny is such a good kid, he’s respectful, finishes his work, he has loads of friends, a good sense of humor and I really enjoy teaching him. As you know, he is all boy and full of energy. He can be a bit talkative and sometimes disruptive because he shouts out answers without raising his hand. I’ve talked about this with him, but he is still a having a tough time. Perhaps you could speak with him when you get a chance. I know that he will improve in this area with a bit of help from all of us.” 

Follow up by making yourself easily available with emails, phone calls, letters home to keep everyone informed of progress made or further difficulties. Remember that parents are sensitive where their child is concerned. So tread as lightly as you can. Be diplomatic and choose your words well.

 Of course, as we all know, there are some students and parents who are an added challenge. We have to try harder and have almost limitless patience. Tact is the word here.  If Elizabeth’s mom is defensive and becomes confrontational, it is up to you to diffuse this anger. Speak calmly,  DON’T raise your voice, REMEMBER, you are a  professional. 

I have had parents come in, very upset about a grade, or thinking that I was unfair, or that I hurt their child’s feelings. If something akin to this occurs, break the ice by saying something that lets them know you hear their complaint and are prepared to work with them in correcting it.

                      You could say:
“I am so sorry that Elizabeth believes I don’t like her, not my intention at all. As a matter of fact I like her a great deal, especially her jokes, she keeps me laughing. She received a low grade on her  test because"...Give your reasons for the negative grade. Make sure the parent understands your reasoning and reassure them that you are here for their child and want to see them succeed in this class.

The parent is satisfied, I’m feeling better about what has occurred and we’ve strengthened our relationship. As you can see, a bit of understanding, empathy and kindness goes a long way.

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