Students studying to be teachers imagine what they will teach, how their classrooms will look and where their jobs will be. Not one of them spends dream time wondering how they will deal with parents-especially no-it-all parents. The sad reality is that almost every teacher, at least once in her career, struggles with parents who feel they know more than the teacher. To keep a positive working environment for the child and with the parents, the teacher must handle things very carefully.
First, realize that the parents do know their child better than you do, so patiently listen to what they have to say. They need to feel like you hear them. Realize, at the same time, many parents have a rosy-glass view of their child, so their knowledge may be slightly tainted. Keep both realities, yours and theirs, in your mind as you listen to them share their problems, expectations or ideas with you.
Second, agree with them any way you can to show you respect their comments. Share with them the strengths you see in their child and how their suggestions will help or why they are not possible at this time. Comments like, “I will keep that in mind,” or “I see where that might work in…,” or “That is such a great idea, but, because of our requirements, I won’t be able to use it at this time.” It is important that they do not feel you are brushing them off or finding their needs unimportant.
Then, share with them what you can do at this time. If you have to think about it, tell them so. Give them a time frame for when you will get back with them.
The truth is, for teachers to be ready for know-it-all parents, it is important to avidly document anything that happens in your class. As you do assessments, when issues come up, when problems happen, write it down in a book and date it. When a parent enters your room with a complaint about something that happened or why their child has a grade lower than they think it should be, you have documentation of what happened, missing homework-anything that would help you share the classroom reality with the parent.
Many parents were the child of a teacher or may be a teacher himself. Be prepared to share your teacher style and your justification with the parent who wants to tell you how to do your job. Remind them that different styles work for different people. Share results that you have had with their child using your chosen methods and techniques. Sometimes, simply understanding what the teacher is doing is likely to unarm the parent.
Remember that most parents mean well, even when they come across as someone who seems to think he or she knows it all. Treat them with kindness and respect, regardless of how they treat you. In the end, both of you want what is best for the child. Pave a road that will allow you to work together.