A Christian School Teacher’s Pet Peeves about Parents:
Putting Them into Perspective
A Christian school teacher uses her experience as a parent to understand and assist the parents of her 5th grade students to achieve the results both the parents and teacher desire.
I’m sitting with my students’ parents at a conference at our school. I’ve fallen into comfortable camaraderie with several and have run into minor glitches with others. Most of the latter revolve around my pet peeves about parents: the disorganized, the protective, and the downright rebellious. Before I pick out my Problem Parents, though, I pause to review my own history in relating to my children’s teachers.
I realize Yikes! I used to be some other teacher’s Problem Parent. Remembering how I felt then, I’m better prepared to meet parents with empathy at the conference table.
The Disorganized Parent
One morning about 8:30, my son’s kindergarten teacher called.
"This is Karen Pierson," she said sweetly. "I have Brian here with me."
I processed the information. Yes, you do have Brian with you because you’re his teacher and he’s at school. Instead of speaking my thoughts I replied, "Yes?"
"Umm," Karen continued, just as congenially, "today is not a school day."
Aha, the missing piece of the picture.
I’m sure my flakiness was a challenge. I habitually lost the newsletter or field trip permission slip and called in to request a second copy. You know the type.
There were good reasons for my overload. I helped run a family business and rear three children. I needed information from school in concise capsules, "What does the teacher want me to do, where do I need to be when, and what does it cost?"
So now I follow a consistent quick-to-scan format for my weekly one-page newsletter to parents. In each of the four corners of the letter, parents can find a note from me, a list of upcoming events including homework assignments, thank-you’s to parent helpers, and congratulations for student accomplishments.
Also, I file student work and send it all home on the newsletter day, together with a cover sheet of what parents can expect to find stapled to it. When a parent exhibits spaciness, I try to remember how I was and write it off, adjusting on my end with clear and possibly repeated communication.
The Protective Parent
When my artsy son, Amos, was in first grade, I was in awe over how he could start in one corner of a blank piece of paper and fill it with drawings of dinosaurs or trucks or whatever was fresh in his imagination that day.
At the first parent-teacher conference, I was shocked to hear the teacher was disciplining my little darling for writing and drawing on his hand. Indeed! How could she hold him up for public ridicule for such inconsequential behavior? The teacher also reported he was acting out some aggression on the playground.
Of course he is, I thought, he’s frustrated in class and taking it out at recess.
I held my peace, however, and the teacher had no idea how I felt.
By the spring parent-teacher conference, things had improved and Amos’ teacher confided she now understood him as an artistic little guy who followed a pattern a bit off the beaten path.
A teacher naturally views students differently from parents, seeing them in a classroom setting and watching their interactions with peers more objectively. When I run into conflict with parents, often I haven’t kept their viewpoint in mind. Picturing how a playground conflict looks to them as they hear their child’s side of the story helps me to meet them where they are. If I’ve been insensitive, I apologize. Then I try to build a bridge across which we can share information and insights to solve the conflict. Usually then parents can receive my professional input, and we can act in the best interest of the child.
The Rebellious Parent
Amos’ teacher asked parents to listen to their student read for five minutes each day. Five minutes a day, that’s all she wanted. Five minutes.
I didn’t do it.
Why? Because by the time I worked all day and cooked supper and cleaned up the dishes, I was beat. No matter how tired I was, I could have worked it into my routine. I could have let my son read to me in the car or while I cooked, but I didn’t. Certainly my secret resentment against the teacher over the writing on his hand incident contributed to my rebellion. A friend and fellow school parent eased my guilt by explaining that the teacher used more structure than our family. She also pointed out that Amos was learning to read just fine without the extra practice at home.
When my requests of parents sometimes produce no results, I try to remember my hectic life back then and let it go. Maybe their student can learn well in another way besides my way.
Parents. Without them, we’d have no one to teach. But with them we can forge strong partnerships for the good of our young charges. As I sit down in the teacher chair at conferences, remembering my disorganized, protective, and rebellious moments helps me relate to the mom or dad in the parent chair. I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with me!