Week 2.2: VIP’s Very Involved Parents (part 1)

The influencers of child development are family, friends, and teachers. It would be a beautiful world if these three groups could work together, and occasionally, that does happen. But as any teacher could tell you, there are some parents out there who are SCARY. Parents that blame teachers for every low grade and moment of out-of-control behavior. Parents that call weekly, and if given your cell phone number, call on weekends too. Parents that KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE and WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. These are VIP’s – Very Involved Parents.

Now, many teachers are parents themselves. They know both sides – unconditional love for their kid and the challenges that teachers face. It is often said that parents make better teachers and vice versa, and because of this, a teacher’s kid is generally the most well-behaved student in your classroom. Hey – expectations really do matter.

However, reaching a common ground with VIP’s can be extremely difficult, regardless of how much the parent knows about teacher life. Parents see every moment of their child’s frustration and sadness at home, and the protective instinct can kick in immediately and ferociously. Then the protective instinct can be taken out on teachers, and since teachers are human, they can react by only seeing a scary confrontation instead of where the VIP is coming from.

The first thing that teachers need to remember is that the love parents have for their children is an unreasonable one. There is no talking a VIP out of their belief that their child is in the right, and the teacher is in the wrong. You will save yourself heartache and sleepless nights if you do not worry about VIP behavior. Suggestions:

  1. Take a step back, give it a day or two, and then communicate briefly and politely with the parent.
  2. Let the parent talk it out first without interruption.
  3. Ask questions to clarify the parent’s concerns.
  4. BEFORE you explain that the student has not turned in their homework, or that the student was pestering a fellow classmate, tell the parent that you want their child to succeed.

The goal is to establish the open-mindedness and forgiveness that everyone needs in order to move past worry or anger. If the behavior of the student or parent is dramatic enough to require a conference, make sure the student is in the conference. This way everyone knows what is going on – the student will be less inclined to over-exaggerate the unfairness of the teacher; the parent will be less inclined to overreact in front of their student, and the teacher can let the student know that they are on their side despite the problem.

There are no two ways around it – your behavior when dealing with VIP’s has to be above reproach. The teacher has to take the high road. Because again, a parent’s love for their child is bat-eyed blind. Here are some examples to let you know you’re not alone:

  1. When I was a first-year teacher, parents would challenge my knowledge on a regular basis. I was “too young” to teach. In a way they were right – but in a way, they were wrong too. It’s not your knowledge base that is the issue after 4 years of teacher school – it’s your behavior. See Week 1: Taking the “Student” out of Student Teacher.
  2. A parent never responded to emails or phone messages until March, when they called the principal to express their unhappiness with the lack of special attention their student was receiving in the class.
  3. A parent who was also a teacher at the same school would “stop in” to my classroom during my plan hour every week to check on their student’s progress in my class.

conferences-in-time

Got your own VIP story? Please share! Please also share your preferred method of talking with VIP’s. (Not “dealing with,” “talking with.”)

And here are some great resources:

This blog has many useful posts: http://4u2nomore.blogspot.com/2014_09_01_archive.html

And more help on using technology to communicate with parents: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/6639

Don’t forget other wonderful teacher blogs on scholastic.com and teachhub.com!

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