Combative Parents?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by babyraptor, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. babyraptor

    babyraptor Rookie

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    Nov 25, 2009

    Good morning! How can you tell if you're a teacher? By still waking up at the crack of dawn even when you're on vacation. Heh.

    I am a fourth year teacher at a public school, teaching world history and I am encountering combative parents for the first time in my career. The last email that I got honestly reduced me to a crying mess yesterday and I am honestly starting to get so depressed that quitting has crossed my mind.

    Here's the situation, I teach tenth grade World History and send home progress reports every two weeks. This past month, I forgot to send one on November fourth for my 4th period class. My students have a new grade report posted outside my classroom every Friday, and get their papers back within a week. Typically, if my parents want more frequent updates, they email me and ask for a report. No
    problem!

    I emailed home grades on Monday and was horrified discover my mistake when I got an email from a parent tearing me apart as a teacher, blaming me and my teaching methods for his daughter's eight point drop in the class - she went from an 88 to an 80.

    If they were so concerned about their student's grade, why did they wait two weeks after my last progress report was due to speak with me? Which is, three weeks before term ends!! Doesn't their daughter have more responsibility than I for her grade? She knows her scores, class policies and opportunities - she's never asked me for help, come in for tutoring or even raised her hand to speak up in class. Students can retake tests and she hasn't retaken a single one!

    I know that I should have realized my mistake sooner, and it's a totally newbie mistake. I just don't know what to do - they felt like I should be pursuing them and monitoring their child's grade personally.

    I have a meeting with them the Monday after break and I have no
    idea how to handle these parents, I've never had someone be so accusatory, rude and frankly mean to me since becoming a teacher.


    Ignore the ranting in between my pleas for help, I am in need of guidance and support! And patience... Lots of patience.
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 25, 2009

    Hi and welcome!

    First stop is with your department chair; you'll want him or her in on this meeting.

    Second: is it school policy or your own policy that you'll notify parents every 2 weeks? If it's your own, then don't sweat it-- you're really going above and beyond for 15-16 year olds. If it's school policy, all the more reason to have your dept. chair there-- then it's a larger error and you'll need backup.

    Do you have the kids sign in to extra help? Any list of the number of kids who have retaken tests? You'll be able to use these to illustrate the number of kids who have taken you up on your very generous opportunities to bring grades up.

    She's a teenager now, and the responsibility must be hers-- not yours, not dad's. I think that needs to be part of the conversation as well.

    Just curious: How did she drop so very much in just 2 weeks? For an average to drop 8 points, she must have really tanked a test or something. Did she get the test back? Could she possibly have some responsibility for showing her parents her test grade?

    And of course, the bigger issue is NOT the lack of notification, it's the actual drop in grades. You might want to consider having the little darling at the conference as well, so she can explain exactly what happened.

    All this sounds like there's something much bigger going on, and dad was lashing out at the first availiable victim. Hang in there!

    Gotta run. We all have school :)
     
  4. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2009

    Good morning and welcome, too. Yes, I'm up at the crack of dawn and have no school today either, must be a teacher...

    Your job isn't on the line, and don't THINK about quitting. You're not always going to make everyone happy and you will make some mistakes along the way.

    Sounds like Dad is using you for a scapegoat for his daughter's failure. The easiest thing in the world for parents to do is to blame all their inept parenting skills on a teacher.

    Alice gives superb advice, I'd follow it. Go into the conference with your head held high and don't back down.
     
  5. babyraptor

    babyraptor Rookie

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    Nov 25, 2009


    She failed all of her daily quizzes for two weeks, failed a unit test, did poorly on the district midterm AND bombed an essay. I would think she'd know something was up, seeing all the failing marks come in and get some help. Students can come in and see any teacher in my team for help and there's a team policy of emailing other teachers when someone comes in. Kiddo hasn't been in once.

    I'm definitely going to insist on an administrator for this meeting, but should I also insist on the student being there as well? I think since we're talking about her performance, that she should be there to account for her actions, or in this case, lack thereof.



    @Hoot Owl - Thank you. I just feel like an utter failure when I get these emails.




    My follow up question to everyone - how do you not take these sort of emails/criticism to heart?

    Every time I get an email like this (which is like three times a week with this year's group of kids) I turn into a crying, depressed mess who feels like a total failure as a professional.
     
  6. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Nov 25, 2009

    I'm sorry. I've had to deal with this too in the past, and it does take a lot to not turn into a crying, depressed blob. :) It does get better over time. I just constantly have to tell myself that I'm doing everything I can for these kiddos and that there is going to be a parent or two that feels I'm not doing enough. What they don't understand is that you have other kiddos that need your attention just as much as their daughter does. Go into this meeting knowing you've done everything you can, with documentation showing she's failed almost everything but hasn't come into to change that, and having her in there might be a great idea because it will make her responsible for her actions. Good luck!
     
  7. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2009

    I've been teaching 21 years and I still get emails like that and, yes, they do upset me, BUT... it doesn't sting as badly as it used to. If I'm wrong, I admit it, but if the kid is at fault and the parents think they walk on water there's not a whole lot you can do except maintain your professionalism and hold your ground. Unfortunately events like this happen and over your career this won't be the last time. Don't let it ruin your holiday and don't dwell on it, I know it's easier said than done, but seriously, when you leave school leave the burden there.

    I'd have little kiddo sit in on the meetting, who knows what's going on in her personal life and it may be something castrophic and the parents not know about it. She's the creator of this mess and she should be held accountable for her actions.
     
  8. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Nov 25, 2009

    "Thanks for meeting with us today. I'm so sorry for missing that notification on the fourth of November, and I know that caused some concern for you, but other notifications included sending home quiz grades on XXX and XXX, and posting grades in the hallway the past three Fridays. I'm likewise concerned for her declining performance and I, too, am looking for explanations for her slips. I know we can agree that [student] is not working up to her potential and I'd like to see her for tutorials on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. I'd also like for you to review notes and chapter questions with her at the end of each day. I appreciate your concern and apologize for missing that notification, but I think our plans here will help us move forward most constructively...."

    That their email stings means that you care and want to do well. When you begin to too easily dismiss such emails, might indicate that you have become a hardened and burnt out teacher. Yes, its very easy for people to find blame in others, especially over an email. Just rise above, be confident, and set a tone of working together constructively for the student.

    Try not to worry too much and enjoy a bit of Thanksgiving!
     
  9. forkids

    forkids Cohort

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    Nov 26, 2009

    No advice, just want to send hugs your way and say that it happens to all of us. It just happened to me two weeks ago. It is very upsetting but usually passes quickly. Sorry, and have a great Thanksgiving holiday.
     
  10. noreenk

    noreenk Cohort

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    Nov 26, 2009

    As Hoot Owl said, when you're wrong, admit it, and when you're not at fault, hold your ground! In this case, you missed an official parent notification but the student certainly knew - I would definitely make her sit in on the conference. When my fifth graders do as poorly in a short period of time as your student did, I always make them responsible for explaining the change in performance to their parents - and they're only ten!

    It sounds like you provide tons of student and parent feedback.. mistakes will happen, but I don't know that I would even call this a mistake. Parent "meanness" will always hurt, no matter how rational and/or justified it is - simply because it feels like they have no idea how much time, energy, sweat and tears you put in. I've had parents go off on me because I didn't do daily checks in their child's agenda to make sure they wrote down their homework when they have had this expectation since third grade. But when I thought about it, the anger was out of frustration and a sense of helplessness - and it wasn't my fault! The student's performance here is also NOT your fault!

    Now stop thinking about it for a few days and enjoy your break!
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2009
  11. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Nov 26, 2009

    I also don't have any advice but it's one of the hardest lessons I learned in teaching: you will never please everyone. You may do a project-a majority of your parents love it, 2 may complain. Do something you think those 2 parents will love, 2 other parents complain. Does it hurt? Of course, we're human after all. But you have to let it roll off your back. I usually try to remember all the good things parents have said or reread cards kids have made me how I'm the best teacher they've ever had (I am usually their first teacher :p). You never get used to it, but I think you grow a thicker skin so it doesn't bother you quite as much the more it happens.
     
  12. newexperiences

    newexperiences Rookie

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    Nov 26, 2009

    Definetly have another teacher in there with you for the meeting. I once had a meeting with two parents alone, and they started to gang up on me, and pressure me, etc. Especially in cases where the parents are threatening and aggressive, do not face them alone! Also make sure to bring the documentation with you to the meeting, so show how the daughter has been doing this year.
     
  13. CanukTeacher

    CanukTeacher Comrade

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    Nov 26, 2009

    The one thing I noted was your comments about tone. If a parent is abusive (verbally) I tell them to leave. We don't tolerate that nonsense in our school. Don't put up with verbal bullying.
     
  14. 1st-yr-teacher

    1st-yr-teacher Comrade

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    Nov 26, 2009

    I would also like to add that sometimes people are more "brave" when it comes to emails. The parents could come in and see the administrator and be completely different. I would go in prepared with what you want to say and any documentation that you need. Be confident. You can do it!
     
  15. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Nov 27, 2009

    You have encountered one of those that believes the REST of the world is the problem not them or the little perfect offspring. Trust me, there are more but the majority are not. I would have the AP or other adm. meeting with her. Tell the truth and let it fall where it may. You are obviously doing much to keep parents informed.
    If she wants to rant and bi#ch let her. After that she will be calmer. Like the another poster said, most are braver in email than face to face. Look at this as a learning exp.
     
  16. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Nov 27, 2009

    A few observations and thoughts. 1) The student may well have known her grade was going south and kept that information from the parents. Even my 6th graders sometimes try to hide or ditch their corrected papers. 2) Said student really MUST be at this conference in the interest of clear communication all the way around. 3) Have a print out of her grades from the quizzes, tests, essay, and other assignments at the conference as well. It is very difficult to argue with numbers printed in black and white without calling the score keeper (you in this case) a liar.

    As for the other question you ask, it is very difficult NOT to take these sorts of attacks personally precisely because I work so hard for the kids and their education. I tend to become rather defensive. If it is an inpromptu conference (parent comes in or phones angry and ranting) I try to keep my cool as much as possible and generally just listen and let them get it out before I say anything. It wouldn't do any good trying to explain when they are fuming because they wouldn't listen anyway. If it is an e-mail, I try to give it a day or two before I respond, or if that is not an option, ask a coworker to come in and read my response before I send it. The one thing I really try to remember is that most of the time, the anger is wrongly placed but I am the easiest target. Parents dealing with challenge children are (one way or another) trying to come to grips with the fact that their angels are not angels. This helps me take things less personally even it is not the perfect cure.
     
  17. tgim

    tgim Habitué

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    Nov 27, 2009

    One more suggestion - have them and the student sign a written plan that you draw up at this conference. It could be something as simple as "student will report grades to parents weekly" or "student will come for tutoring until end of the term," or whatever you deem appropriate. I find it is beneficial to have a written document of what was discussed and what will happen next when dealing w/ parents of this sort.
     
  18. babyraptor

    babyraptor Rookie

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    Nov 30, 2009

    I had my meeting today and it was good. The parents were crazy, I left confirmed that I am a good teacher, and her failure is on her, not me. It was really shocking to find that the parents were grounding the kid for an 88, that they were enabling her to not seek help (she doesn't like talking to people she doesn't know, asking questions isn't her style, tutoring is for students who are failing) and were a great example of helicopter parenting. I even got a compliment from my admin about how well I handled myself. :)
     
  19. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Nov 30, 2009

    Good for you. Glad you came out of this feeling good.
     
  20. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Wow! Congratulations on not only coming out on top of this situation, but for earning the respect of Admin. A plate of hero cookies to you!
     
  21. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Could I have one of those cookies. Just ate lunch and need that ending. ;)
     

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