Whether the teacher has called the conference with academic or behavioral issues to discuss or the parent(s) have asked for a conference to represent their child’s interests, the meeting can become confrontational leaving the parents, the teacher, and probably the student uneasy about the outcome of the meeting and future communications.
Parent-Teacher conferences can bring out the best and the worst in each of us. Sometimes parents say things that are misunderstood and that just plain come out wrong. Other times, out of sheer frustration, parents intentionally say things that take a verbal shot at the teacher which often shuts down effective communication for the remainder of the meeting and even for the remainder of the school year.
Here are four things parents should never say to their child’s teacher:
1. “I don’t think my child should suffer just because…….”
“Suffering” is a strong word that immediately throws up a road block to communication. The teacher then is put in a defensive stance and this is not productive. There are other ways to discuss an issue with the teacher. Don’t believe that you have all the information because you may not. Find a way to ask about a decision or procedure in the classroom and then explain how your child interpreted it.
2. “I have a friend on the School Board.”
This statement or something close to it can be perceived as a threat that you will be contacting someone higher up about the classroom situation. Chances are good that you do know someone on the School Board. You might even know another high-ranking person such as the Superintendent of Schools or the Mayor.
There aren’t too many instances in which this would actually come up naturally. Be sure you aren’t letting this be known as some kind of a threat that if you don’t get satisfaction at this level, that you might have to talk to your friend on the School Board about your child’s teacher.
3. “I don’t know how you sleep at night!”
This kind of statement has the strong suggestion that this teacher is evil or extremely unfair to the point in which he or she doesn’t deserve a good night’s sleep due to how badly he or she handled some situation.
4. “Johnny loved his last year’s teacher. He learned so much in her class!”
This is a double-whammy because you are implying that Johnny doesn’t love this year’s teacher, who you are now talking to and that your child isn’t learning much this year in this teacher’s class. Address your concerns directly and not indirectly by comparing teachers, especially those in the same building.
It is natural for parents to stand up for their own kids. It is natural for parents to want their child to do well in school and to be accepted among the other school children. The very act of having to go into school to talk about your child can automatically set up an atmosphere of confrontation, or defensiveness. You can try to pretend that you didn’t “mean it that way” when you say something hurtful, but too often, the damage is done and it is difficult to reopen those doors of communication.
Teachers and parents need to think before they speak and if you think you are capable of saying something damaging, then take a short break before saying any of these four things to your child’s teacher. Keeping the lines of communication open between parents and teachers is important in your child having a successful school experience.