What would you do?

Discussion in 'High School' started by a teacher, Mar 10, 2015.

  1. a teacher

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    I'm wondering how others would respond to this scenario:

    Your admin tells you that parents and students have complained about some aspect of your teaching. You don't know who or why the parents haven't addressed the issue to you directly. You are taking steps to fix the problem, but its a process and in the meantime, from time to time, you hear similar complaints.

    I'm not being more specific because it's not about a particular issue, but any issue. Just think about what your weakest area as a teacher is and imagine it's being harped on continuously. Obviously you need to develop some confidence to proceed, and you can't respond to anonymous complaints. What attitude would you take?
     
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  3. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I would ask my admin for specific advice on how to improve in the areas that were of concern. I would also ask how those who lodged the complaints would be aware of the changes/improvements that were being made.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I suspect that I wouldn't even hear about it from my admin if one parent complained about me. My administrators know what kind of teacher I am, so they probably have a pretty good understanding about whether what they're hearing from a parent is true or not.

    If, however, there were some pattern of parent complaints regarding my teaching, to the point where admin felt compelled to speak to me about it, then I would need to do some serious self-reflection. I would ask admin for some direction. I might even seek out the assistance of a learning strategist or instructional coach. One way or another, I would find a way to address whatever shortcomings might exist.

    I have to say that it seems that the majority of your posts are about problem students, problem parents, and problem attitudes. Have you always had so many problems, or is there something off about this year? Why do you think you seem to face so much negativity from so many sides?
     
  5. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    If your administrators keep coming to you with similar issues, it would probably behoove you to talk with them and seek guidance. Even if you don't take their advice to heart, you have shown that you are willing to listen.
     
  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I know that this is true of my admin. Our principal has told us that he deals with well over 70% of "complaints" from parents (about teachers, curriculum, school policy, etc) without even letting us know.
     
  7. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    What steps are you taking to address the problems? Is your admin aware of those steps?
     
  8. TamaraF

    TamaraF Companion

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    My admin will not mention it to me unless it's more than one parent, or seems to be a serious issue. They also will tell parents to talk to me first, before coming to the admin team.
    I can't think of any issue that could not be changed or fixed quickly. If it's enough to be a concern, then I will change it IMMEDIATELY. There won't be a lengthy time while I "work on it". I suggest you change whatever it is you are doing, and move forward.
     
  9. TamaraF

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    My admin will not mention it to me unless it's more than one parent, or seems to be a serious issue. They also will tell parents to talk to me first, before coming to the admin team.
    I can't think of any issue that could not be changed or fixed quickly. If it's enough to be a concern, then I will change it IMMEDIATELY. There won't be a lengthy time while I "work on it". I suggest you change whatever it is you are doing, and move forward.
     
  10. a teacher

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    Good question!

    I am venting a lot. I'm surprised others aren't here, but maybe I'm not seeing those posts. Anyway...

    This year has been real trying. I haven't had issues like this in all my years teaching in the past. Overall the issue has been that I don't really fit that well into the particular school culture here. My school really puts a lot of weight on student views, maybe because we are a new school. Students see teachers who are very bubbly and enthusiastic, where I'm more distanced and formal in my approach. A lot of emphasis this year has been placed on this difference and the lack of appeal my approach has. There are so many aspects to teaching, and this is just one part of the pie. It's also my only real weak area, but it's been getting bashed this year for some reason. I've been teaching the same way for a very long time at other schools.

    My principal says there have been a lot of calls from parents complaining about various things, but I would assume if there were anything for me to be concerned with, she would call me in to discuss. That hasn't been happening. My only response to anonymous accusations is: if it's valid, I will be asked to clarify. And then it's just that: I clarify. I don't need to defend myself because my teaching is strong.

    My principal doesn't know what I should do. She says she's just bringing these things to my attention so that I can make changes as I see fit so enough students will sign up for my electives to be able to run my classes next year. My question for you all is what can I do so that this doesn't constantly gnaw at me? I got the message, I am incorporating the lesson into what I'm doing by taking active steps, and there's nothing else I can do except wait to see what the cumulative effect of my changes are in re-shaping student opinion. In the meantime, I don't want to keep hearing this stuff.
     
  11. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    First off, I've never had an admin come to me with a parent complaint. But, I want to believe that if a parent did complain, I would find out about it. I'd hate to think that parents could be complaining without my knowledge.

    If I was in your situation and it was something concrete like "A teacher is giving assignments without fully explaining the directions", I would address it immediately. If it was something more abstract like "A teacher isn't managing the classroom well", then I would ask my admin and colleagues for help on solving the problem. I'd probably ask at least one person I trusted to sit in and observe to help me figure out what the problems were.

    I wouldn't get angry at parents for coming to my principal first or get angry at my principal for bringing it up. They are all just doing what they feel is necessary to get me to fix the problem.
     
  12. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    It sounds like you are describing a school that just isn't a good fit for your teaching style. You said you have been teaching successfully for a long time. have you thought about going back to a school that might be more in tune to your style?
     
  13. a teacher

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    I agree. However, when you're talking about approach to students and being relatable, it's much more amorphous and it also has to do with personality. I can always change things in my lessons, write stuff on the board or clarify expectations. What's much harder is to do something that involves your temperament and personality. In addition, while I am making effective changes now, as I can tell by the amount of friendliness students show back to me, old perceptions die hard. Many students who may not even be in my classes anymore can still be walking around talking trash about my classes. So not only do I need to push myself everyday to me more sociable with students, I need time for the old perception to wear off. This is what I mean about the time factor. Yes, I can change certain things now (though I'll never be a chirpy type) but it will take a while for the cumulative positive effect to be felt. In the meantime it's painful to hear these anonymous complaints and accusations.
     
  14. a teacher

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    I gladly would, but positions in Art are limited. If I were a special ed teacher I would have been out of here a long time ago! :lol:
     
  15. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    I'd agree it does take a while for some of those changes to occur or even for you to implement them. For example, when I started my student teaching, I was outrageously "vanilla", in that my teaching was very by-the-book without a ton of personality or flexing in different topics / thoughts as the lesson went on. If you see me now, I'll change directions all the time if student understanding / a discussion warrants it, and man, I'm nowhere near vanilla. That being said, the process took a long time and was very gradual.

    In terms of the painfulness in hearing it...I think it's important to listen to Taylor Swift's advice and "shake it off" :) Easier said than done, obviously, but you know what I mean!
     
  16. a teacher

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    Looked up the lyrics. Got to say they are applicable. :)

    Have any of you ever been told you have a deficit in your teaching that was connected to your temperament or personal style? I'd really like to hear your story or those of colleagues you may know who have experienced this. I think it's really quite a unique problem because it has a personal dimension and it's hard to measure.

    Even what you just described is simply methodology. I'm not diminishing it's importance, but as a new teacher you expect there's a lot to work on. It's much different when you've been teaching for nearly 20 years and all of a sudden you're being told kids don't want to take your class because you're not friendly enough.

    It's amazing that so much weight is put on this aspect of teaching at my school. It's got to be the student-centered approach that's the cause of it. I'm so professional and such a strong teacher in so many other ways. It amazes me that those things seem to not be a factor in all this drama.
     
  17. a teacher

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    Any idea what he says to parents that it doesn't need to come back to you?
     
  18. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I honestly don't. We know he has our back as long as we are doing our job and he has let us know that, in no uncertain terms. He's a gifted listener; I think that parents feel that he honestly hears what they are saying and will take their concerns into consideration. They respect that.
     
  19. a teacher

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    I would assume parents want to get the teachers in trouble, but secretly he refuses to reprimand them. Therefore the parents are kept under the illusion that their complaints will be known by the teachers. He's fooling the parents then?
     
  20. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    No, I don't think he's fooling anyone. He's willing to listen to parents voice their concerns, letting them know that they have been heard, and letting them know what is, and isn't possible and what his communication will be with teachers.

    An example--one parent was continually trying to get the Phys Ed teacher in trouble because she feels that the students don't get enough gym time and that, at times, the students have to spend much of their gym period "listening to the teacher instead of being active". The P listened to her concerns, let her know about the guidelines and shared the constraints we are under when timetabling Phys Ed. She's still not happy, but she has stopped (for the most part) trying to throw the Phys Ed teacher under the bus. The teacher didn't know about any of this until after the fact, because the P felt that he (the teacher) had far more important things to deal with.

    Edited to add: I may be fortunate, but I've never had parent complaints or concerns whose primary intent was to "get the teacher in trouble". They primarily start with concern for the student and their success.
     
  21. a teacher

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    Sounds like you are working at a well-functioning school. You are fortunate.

    It's funny. I've spoken lately with a couple of people who are much more aware of what's going on in other classrooms than I am and I have heard there are a lot of issues. It's nice to be reminded that my main issue is just one little thing; that everyone has their burden to carry or weak areas, or whatever. I imagine those things are just as tough emotionally as the crap I have to deal with. Also, knowing that I can't take a comment like "kids don't want to take your class because you're seen as unfriendly" at face value is important. I've realized upon much analysis and reflection (on both myself and my school's culture) that their are in reality many nuances behind these reports from my admin. For example, our child-centered approach seems to embolden kids to talk trash about their teachers.
     
  22. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    Your school sounds ridiculous. I know it's difficult to find positions in your area but as soon as you find one, RUN from this school as fast as you can. These students will do the same thing if they don't like their college professors' personalities and their parents won't be able to do a darn thing about it. What about their future bosses? They want to quit? Good, don't let the door hit them on the way out. They need to learn to get along with all sorts of people.
     
  23. a teacher

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    Well stated! My thoughts EXACTLY!
     
  24. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    When I was a kid, if I acted the way your students acted, my parents would have taken away my after school/weekend/phone privileges for a month! I guess they were mean :whistle:
     
  25. a teacher

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    :lol:

    You know, I think I've summed up why I'm getting so much crap about being an undesirable teacher, despite how much of myself I put into this job:

    Our school really puts a premium on creating an emotionally supportive environment. This is important, but it's not paramount as far as I'm concerned. Since most of the teachers really seem to put a strong emphasis on this, I stand out in my formality and more serious demeanor. As a result, I seem to not belong. This emphasis makes being friendly an major factor for our students than the average HS kid, which may account for why I teach so well in so many ways and yet get regular complaints. I remember the good old days (before I came to this school) when people complained about teachers who were actually incompetent. When I get complaints it makes me feel like I'm not a good teacher, and they are out of proportion to the situation (being formal and more serious). So I think the school culture plays a huge role in this.

    Again, I'm making adjustments, but don't want to hear trash talk about my teaching in the meantime. Any practical suggestions? By the way, you all have been real helpful in helping me clarify this for myself! Imagine: you're teaching a certain way for years and no problems. All of a sudden you're made to feel completely inadequate and there is nothing you can do to immediately solve the problem. Talk about handicapping a person!
     
  26. TonyBalonga

    TonyBalonga Rookie

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    I have read most all of this, read between the lines and 'a teacher,' you seem to be a real educator. Please do stay honest and humble. I know a lot of teachers can identify with your situation. I am pretty sure some who do not speak up are from the "best kept secret in town" crowd.
    I am sorry, but after reading all of this, and being reminded of teacher after teacher, I want to echo what many in your position seem to be saying - that most administrators now days are not very good with their communities.
     
  27. a teacher

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    Thanks for your support. I must be a good teacher if I'm putting so much of myself into my work.
     

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