Many of us have been there. You know, when you get called into school because the teacher must discuss your little one’s newest…creativity. Or, running an errand to the school’s office leads to a run-in with a less than friendly staff member. How do you, and by extension your child and your child’s educators and support staff, survive without blowing your top? Here’s some useful tips.
1. Go in to parent/teacher meetings with an open mind.
No one wants to hear that their child has gotten into trouble, has picked on other kids, or may be falling behind. Keep in mind that teachers are generally looking for a solution to whatever problem has come up, not a bashing session. Attend meetings with an open mind, be honest with the teacher and yourself, and keep an open dialogue with the teacher. You may disagree with the teacher over what has happened with your child, and that’s no crime. Instead of making it a point of contention and debate, strive to keep it as a point of discussion.
As an example, a few weeks ago our 1st grader’s teacher was concerned over our son constantly not finishing his class work. Her worry was that he may have an inability to pay attention. We felt that was not the problem. After much discussion (not arguing!), we came up with some plans together to help our son finish his work. It turns out that, for the most part, he was feeling unmotivated and was easily distracted by others, since he was relatively unused to being in such a large group. Our action plans worked, and we rarely have the problem now. My point is by being open with the teacher, being open minded about what she had to say, and keeping up a dialogue, we were able to solve the problem.
2. Be gentle with the staff.
This may be a little harder for some people than for others. We’ve all been in a situation, and not only at school, where we are speaking with someone who is a bit more than curt. It’s very tempting to return the attitude, but consider this: Their job is hard. Any job where you are dealing with large numbers of people is going to tax a person’s patience at one point or other. Before you return “that tone,” remind yourself that they may be feeling ill, that they’ve answered the same question a hundred times, and are dealing with parents who are taking their bad day out on them. Keep your temper and use your friendly voice. You’ll get further.
My younger sister told me once that while she was out shopping, there was a very angry, gruff woman in front of her who seemed to be out to make everyone as miserable as she was that day. Now, it would have been easy for my sister to turn to her and say, “Knock it off, take your turn, and get out of my way.” Instead, she looked at the woman and said, “Hard day?” The woman responded by pouring her heart out about what was going on, and left a lot calmer.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Let this be your mantra when you walk through the office door.
3. One person’s actions does not reflect on another.
Maybe a staff member or another teacher made a snide comment to you on your way to meet with your child’s teacher. Maybe the principal didn’t return your phone call or e-mail in the time you expected. Maybe your parent/teacher conference didn’t go so well. It’s easy to categorize everyone in the school under the same angry umbrella. But don’t! Remember that what your child’s teacher said has no bearing on how well the office staff does their job and vice versa. Everyone is an individual, so try to keep your frustration under your hat, not directed at people who have no idea what you are upset about.
As parent/teacher conference time is coming up for many schools, I hope you can use these tips to work for you!
Kristina is a stay-at-home mom of two boys. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and spends her down time sewing, baking, doing crafts with her children, and experimenting with recipes with her husband.