In September first day of school pictures were popping up all over my Facebook feed. Optimism was high for a great school year and parents everywhere were hoping their children would get teachers who truly care, were good at teaching, and would communicate well and often.
Most of the time that’s exactly what happens. However, some of the time things don’t go quite as well as we would hope.
The classroom honeymoon is over.
After the first few weeks of school reality sets in and some kids may come home with comments like this:
- School is boring.
- My teacher isn’t nice.
- I don’t have any friends.
When that happens parents start wondering (and worrying):
- Does Mrs. Jones like my son?
- Is Susan bored? Will she be challenged in this class?
- Here we go again – another school year with friendship problems.
During my 12 years as an elementary school principal I heard lots of parents’ complaints. I’m a natural problem solver and wanted to know if something wasn’t right. But, there were some ways parents approached the situation that made it easier for me to hear them — and other ways that made it tough.
I’ve also raised two sons and am uncomfortable admitting that I’ve been one of “those” parents. I knew it was so when my sons’ principal actually ducked into a classroom one day when he saw me walking down the hall—just to avoid another demanding and questioning conversation.
So, I’d like to pass along a few lessons from the book of, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”
Here are 5 tips for how to not be one of “those” parents:
- Email is not for venting: Getting your frustrations out is a good thing. Sending those frustrations in an uncensored email is a bad thing. So, use email to give a short overview of the issue and to schedule a time to talk with the teacher—not to vent.
- Resist telling other parents: As tempting as it is to want to tap into other parents’ experiences I encourage you to manage the issue yourself or find a trusted friend outside of your school circle. When parents vent to other parents issues often snowball out of control and become contagious. Avoid building an army of support. You certainly wouldn’t want someone to handle an issue with you that way.
- Consider Possibilities: Ask yourself, “Is my child’s complaint or problem related to something outside of the classroom?” In other words, could there be more going on here? Could it be a transition issue, an attention issue, or something else?
- Respond don’t React: Be thoughtful in how you approach the situation, not reactive. Unless it’s a highly urgent safety issue, most concerns can simmer for a day or two while you craft your best approach. Give the concern a “tomorrow test.” Will this feel as important tomorrow or next month as it does right now? That will help you know whether to raise the issue at all.
- Speak on behalf of your child only: When you do raise your concern keep it focused on your child’s experience and how the issue is impacting him or her. Resist throwing in, “Well, all the other parents are noticing this too.” The teacher will be much more welcoming of input when you stay focused on your child only.
If you would like specifics on how to talk with the teacher check out my previous post on the topic for my 8 tips for a great conversation and a great relationship.
So, I’d say when a concern surfaces you should consider talking with your child’s teacher in your best way so you don’t become one of “those” parents. What would you say?