When an irate parent comes pounding on the classroom door, the first rule is to STAY CALM. Assess the situation. Is this an appropriate time and place to be having this conversation? If it is, be friendly and invite them to express their concerns. Most parents just want to feel that they have been heard. Listen to what they say, without interrupting.
Always try to sort out little problems and communicate with parents BEFORE it becomes a massive issue. Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend a problem is not there. More often than not, it will come back to bite you. Sort issues out as they arise. Be approachable and let parents know that they can email you or make an appointment to see you before or after school.
A big part of understanding an issue is to step into the shoes of the parent to see the problem from their perspective. Summarise the issue at hand and ask, “I believe ….. to be the issue. Have I understood the problem correctly?”
This ensures that you are both on the same wavelength and by identifying the exact issue you are well placed to help work out a solution.
Maintain eye contact, but don’t be aggressive and stare them down. Avoid getting emotional (it’s hard, I know!) especially if a parent is critical of you or your teaching. Responding to the parent in an angry manner will only escalate the issue. Speak in a quiet tone.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Remind the parent that you are both on the same team, not only for their child’s education but also for their well-being. Work together with parents rather than against them.
Some issues can be resolved on the spot and solutions reached quite easily. Be solution focussed and think outside of the box. Clearly articulate the strategies and solutions that will be used. Always thank the parent for coming to see you. Follow up with a phone call at an appropriate time to check they are happy and that the strategies put in place are working.
If the issue is a WHOPPER, again remain calm. Clarify that you understand the issue and explain that you will notify your Head of Primary / Principal and get back to them. Talk to a member of the Management Team as soon as you practically can to get the issue sorted.
Write down solutions and a plan of action. Golden Rule: Contact parents ASAP. Do not keep them waiting or they will only get more upset and start to talk to other parents or take to social media.
Call the parents in and have the Head of Primary/Principal present at the meeting. This also applies for parents who become threatening or really aggressive. They usually calm down when the Principal is there. Work through the issue and discuss the plan of action that will be taken.
A final word of wisdom. Always document interactions with parents when there has been an issue. Include the date, name, issue and solutions proposed. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!
So, how is your blood pressure? You have just survived a rather tense issue with an irate parent. Remember to always keep calm, positive and solution focussed. It’s through these occasional times of testing you develop more as a teacher and become better prepared for the next time it happens.
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