VIP’s: Very Involved Parents, Part 2: Young teachers try proving their worth.
Oh dear, the return of the VIP’s. They came back, as we knew they would. So before we lock our classroom door, turn out the lights, and pretend we’re not here, let’s recap a few things:
- VIP’s simply need to be convinced that you want as much for their student as they do.
- Communication is vital – take time to email parents, update your class website, or call parents to keep those lines open.
- For young teachers, parents may act surprised at your age and question your ability. This may chafe you like a 16-year-old being told they can’t drive. But unlike that teenager, you won’t get offended, because you know you actually are inexperienced. Right? So refer to numbers 1 and 2.
Okay, the parent is gone and you can relax now. In this sequel, we’ll talk about how young teachers are trying to prove their worth, how parents are “watching” you, and how to see a VIP in a different light.
Young teachers can be defensive about their choices for their classroom, especially if they are different from the previous teacher’s approach. All teachers have a reason for every choice they make, but since it takes time to get to know the students, the school, and the expectations they are required to conform to, the choice may not be the most popular at the time. A young teacher (or maybe every teacher) still gets a quiver in their stomach when they get called to the principal’s office. Luckily, we quickly realize that an effective principal is on our side – but the VIP that just called the principal may not be, yet! How can we learn to apply the Golden Rule to VIPs, and collaborate with parents as we wish they would collaborate with us?
Here is another real story for you, from my very first year of teaching. I call it the Baseball Cap Example, and it helps me remember how closely some parents are actually watching. Big Brother style, for sure! In this instance, I believe the parent was dedicated to helping me succeed as a young teacher – though of course, I did not think of that at the time, being a bit unnerved. The Baseball Cap Example is simple: I was at one of the school’s sporting events, I was wearing my high school mascot baseball cap, and I forgot to take it off during the national anthem. The next day, a parent approached me and reminded me that not removing hats during the national anthem would offend some members of the community. I said something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m sorry! I was thinking of other things and forgot!” Thereafter I was a bit more aware of Big Brother, whether at a school event or buying orange juice at the grocery store.
Orwell references aside, a VIP is a regular person, somewhere around your age or a few years older. So the advice for this VIP sequel?
- Before defending your teaching methods, get to know the parent a bit. After all, they have their own personality and interests that exist outside of their student.
- Learn to see the world through rose-colored glasses. I think the “kill them with kindness” approach actually works way better on community members than your students.
- Collaboration can be extremely helpful. When talking to a parent; it may be useful to plan one thing that you will do, such as taking a moment to ensure that the student understands the homework assignment; with one thing the parent will do, such as checking your classroom website once a week to see the current homework assignment.
Hopefully, you found this post amusing and true, rather than blunt and annoying. But either way, share your advice and stories about VIP’s by leaving a comment below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents and Teachers:
Next week: Discipline is not Bipolar…