Preparing for a potential problem parent

Discussion in 'High School' started by a teacher, Feb 26, 2015.

  1. a teacher

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    So I got a lot of aggravation from a hostile parent recently and I promised myself I wouldn't let what happened happen again. Briefly, the problem was that I came in with the expectation that the parent simply needed some clarification on their kids grades/performance in class but ended up getting attacked. In the process of defending myself (with no intervention from the admin) I became more and more aggravated and defensive. By the end of it I felt victimized. Instead of the meeting being about how the kid can improve it became about my perceived deficiencies.

    Now I realize the best approach is to swoop in and set the terms of the conference from the very beginning. I have a parent who has requested a conference for a kid who got in trouble for walking out of class and the parent is not telling me what they want to talk about and I have no idea what kind of attitude I'm dealing with, so I'm going to just assume that they will want to hassle me. This time, I want to go in in a professional and friendly, but firm manner, stating that the purpose of the meeting will be to clarify my expectations and discuss how the kid can better meet them.

    Unfortunately, not knowing what these parents thinking/perception of things is, it's hard for me to do that. Any suggestions?
     
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  3. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    No suggestions. You already made up your mind.
     
  4. a teacher

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    Suggestions might include how to respond to various attacks or how to keep the conversation focused on the kid. I'm not used to having to do this since when I have dealt with parents in the past it's usually been initiated by me.
     
  5. MrsC

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    If you have no idea why the parent wants to meet, you'll need to start the meeting that way, by listening to their concerns and/or letting them ask their questions.

    When responding, it's really important to remain neutral. For example, when discussing behaviour, refer to your tracking or anecdotal notes and talk about what you observed without attaching judgement (ie. "On February 26, about 10 minutes into class, Billy got up and walked out of class without permission. It is our school policy that students are not able to leave the room without direct teacher permission; it's important that we know where each student is at all times in order to be sure that they are safe. The consequences for not following this policy are.....") Don't get drawn into an argument, or try to "explain away" something that happened. Stick to facts and have documentation of policies and infractions to back you up. If you feel that, in spite of this, things may get out of hand, I would meet with admin beforehand to express my concerns and to ask if they will sit in the meeting.
     
  6. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    You respond in a professional manner, state your facts, and listen to their point of view. If they become disruptive, you end the conversation, thank them for coming, and turn the matter over to admin.
     
  7. a teacher

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    Feb 26, 2015

    :thumb:
     
  8. a teacher

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    This is succinct and strong. Thank you. You pretty much summed it up.

    What do you all make of a parent who won't fill you in on their concerns by email? This makes them very suspicious to me, like they want to mess with me or throw me off somehow. What's your experience? Are parents who don't fill you in about their concerns, who just want to meet first, typically a problem?
     
  9. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Feb 26, 2015

    They want to hear what you have to say without you having time to run it by others to determine what is the "best" thing to say. It may also be because they want to hear your side without giving you time to perfect it.

    It also may be something that the parent doesn't want documented. There may be something going on in the student's life they don't want in the paper trail.

    The parent could have had bad experiences in the past and doesn't want a repeat (just as you don't want a repeat of your past experience with a hostile parent).

    It could be many different things from innocent to manipulative.
     
  10. a teacher

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    Good points. I REFUSE to be manipulated again. I am planning on repaying their reticence with my own. I will just state my policies, and if they question them, I will simply repeat them with a smile. They will have nothing else they can say and I will remain in the one-up position.
     
  11. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I don't think that's where you should be, or where you should think you should be. Teachers are not "above" parents--you need to work together.
     
  12. a teacher

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    Unfortunately that's not what all parents seem to think.
     
  13. 2ndTimeAround

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    Yes, sadly, they usually are. At least in my experience and that of my coworkers.

    Parents that don't want to share their reason for meeting are not concerned with working together for the best of the child. It is more of a Gotcha meeting.

    I'd invite an administrator if I were you.
     
  14. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    But OP already has built a reputation among students, parents, and the administration as being difficult. So, it is entirely possible that the parent doesn't want to give advanced notice because they don't want to give the OP any more time to become more difficult.
     
  15. a teacher

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    You're way off. I don't have a reputation like that. Stop making assumptions.
     
  16. a teacher

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    Thanks for the heads up. I will get my principal to join us, since my ap proved in the other meeting that they cannot be relied upon to step in and put a stop to personal attacks.
     
  17. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Feb 26, 2015

    http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=186900

    Post number 8 of this thread....

    You said: "I spoke with my admin about the meeting and while he admitted that the parent got out of hand he thinks there was an element of truth to the accusation that I am too rigid, strict and not relatable enough for students. .....

    .... Both the parent, and now the admin, are pouring salt on my wounds. .... My admin said that the counselor in particular has had to bear the burden of many parent/student complaints about me, which is an insinuation that I'm doing a bad job. "

    According to you, you have others say you are too rigid, strict, and not relatable. Parents/students complain to the counselor. That to me is in the same category as "difficult". You may choose another word. I know you don't agree with them, but that is what others are saying and thinking which goes back to my comment. If this is the reputation you have, a parent may not want to let you know in advance.
     
  18. Linguist92021

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    I just got an email from my P that a parent is very upset with me. Long story short, the kid exaggerated and blew something that was nothing into a huge lie. The P asked for me to give her the info from my side, because she's meeting with the parent, so she wants to have all the info. I know she'll have my back.
    She said the parent said she wants to meet with me, but that might not happen if the situation is diffused.

    If I meet with her, we'll have admin there (and a translator since she doesn't speak English) and I will make sure I have a print out of his grades and assignments, and remind myself of his daily behavior, etc, so whatever she asks, I will have an answer for. I don't go in there trying to win, I always go in to work with the parent, clear up any confusion, and do what we can to best help the child.
     
  19. a teacher

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    But again, preparing is key. And it helps to know what the attitude of the parent is. I'm really annoyed at these parents for not communicating with me through email. They're off to a bad start!
     
  20. a teacher

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    You're not understanding what I wrote earlier in context.
     
  21. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    I participated in that thread. I remember (and reread in full) what was written. I understand your comments in context. I also understand your follow ups.
     
  22. a teacher

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    It's too complex and nuanced for you to understand it through fragments I post on a forum like this. My admin does think I'm too strict (in some things) but that admin can also be criticized for being too easy on kids (and has been). As for the parents I mentioned, they were clueless so their complaints are meaningless- just annoying.
     
  23. 2ndTimeAround

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    I've had a handful of parent complaints at my school. But from what I hear (from parents themselves, reading things on Twitter and Facebook, from counselors, from my kids' friends) I have a great reputation for working with parents. The kids would rather be where they can play on their phones and get an easy A, for sure, but parents like me.

    I wouldn't assume that a teacher has a reputation for being difficult just because there are some parent complaints.
     
  24. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    But that is not the only one who thinks there are problems.
     
  25. a teacher

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    Sorry pal, it's pretty rare. I've only had one problem parent all year, and I'm hoping the people requesting this next meeting are not as foolish.
     
  26. a teacher

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    :thanks:
     
  27. Catcherman22

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    This... as soon as you feel attacked, thank them for them time, tell them to contact the admin if they wish to talk further and walk out.

    Hopefully the admin has your side... mine does. Last time this happened to me, when the parent contacted the admin, and she found out that I walked out on the parent, she went ballistic on the parent for attacking me. Needless to say that parent didn't attack me again. The key is though, nothing changed in my demeanor... I kept contacting the parent as needed and kept everything professional as though it didn't happen.

    Don't take things personal.
     
  28. a teacher

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    Good point. I wish I had as assertive an admin. as you do!

    You have to admit that's it's hard to keep your cool when you're having rotten fruit tossed at you. And it's worse when they try to make it personal. Fortunately that's been extremely rare. It toughens you up though.
     
  29. Linguist92021

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    I think the only way to handle parent meetings is to go in there with a neutral (and not defensive) state of mind and have all your ducks in a row. Look at the kid's grade, assignments, what was turned in, what wasn't, because there's a chance they will ask about that, even if it seems to be about discipline issues. The more knowledgeable you sound, the more respect you earn.
    Also mentally go over everything how the kid is, how he was before, what are the specific issues, what have you done to correct them and how he responded.
    Most importantly: find a few positives, and start with that. Even if it's hard, find something.
    he's here at school every day, on time, his attendance is great... He was always a great student, ... up until recently...
    he's very smart, but he's not working at his potential, and he could do so much better.... etc.
     
  30. greendream

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    I wouldn't walk out unless physically threatened. That could become the basis for a future complaint. I can hear it now: "He didn't even listen to us! He just walked out of the room!"
     
  31. a teacher

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    I agree, that is what you want to do.

    I think the real question I have is how do you keep your cool and keep the conversation focused on the kid when all the parent seems to have wanted the conference for was to complain about you. In the instance I was describing, that really seemed to be all that it was about. I don't really think I had any chance of being heard. They had asked the ap to be present and I think the strategy was that they wanted to attack me in front of the ap so that he would, I don't know what, discipline me privately?
     
  32. a teacher

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    Good point.
     

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