Not trying to brag or sound conceited in any way, but I’ve been told by administrators & colleagues that I have a “magic touch” when dealing with parents who can be a little hard to love. They’re the parents used to getting negative, weekly phone calls. They’re the ones who started screening calls & stopped answering 98% of the time. They’re the ones who get mad at their kids for being difficult while silently praying for help & wondering why teachers can’t seem to see the beautiful, little boy that lights up their lives….If you’ve taught for six weeks, you’ve met them. You might already know how the teacher from last year feels about that mom.
Well, that mom or that dad needs you. If you’re like me, you know that every child placed in your care is there for a Divine reason. Maybe they’ve had five years of office referrals and detentions, but as of the first day of your class, you have amnesia about their history & you prefer to keep it that way.
That doesn’t mean they magically turn into a new kid with impressive behavior (although that actually has happened), or that there aren’t moments you consider a new profession while dealing with them. It’s not easy dealing with challenging students & their battle-weary parents. But it’s not impossible, either.
Years of being a receptionist and trying to make a dollar in direct sales, before and during my teaching years, helped me develop a comfort in uncomfortable phone calls and meetings. When your commissions depend on trying to make a sale, you’re trained not to take the first “No” to heart! Just picking up the phone to make a sale, or talk to that dad, is enough to keep the weak from taking the first step. But when you’re hungry and need that check, or need that kid to open her mind & heart, you pick up that phone, use your best manners, and don’t you dare hang up without progress being made! Crazily enough, you even develop a professional tone along the way. I mean, if you don’t quit.
You also need to be aware that if you are going to judge a child from last year, you’re going to receive last year’s anger plus more. Be proactive. If you know a child has a negative history, find one good thing to praise, early (like first day of school early), call their parent and let them know you see something good in a child they love. Just that one action can disarm that mom and get her on your team.
It’s not magic. It’s refusing to engage in nasty emails. It’s responding to hateful messages when you’ve calmed down. It’s remembering you’re dealing with hurting, festering, wounded souls and if you can’t find anything positive to say, all you’ll see is the armor put in place to protect broken hearts. Armor put in place to protect that kid you can’t see as a young person because they’ve wrecked your classroom or cussed in your face. Armor put in place because they’re at the end of their ropes too, they’ve tried spanking, grounding, nothing but books to read, and that kid still won’t behave for them or you!
It’s not easy, it’s not magic, but progress can be made. Hope can be restored and it’s going to take a prayerful heart, sound wisdom, and perseverance. Oh yeah, and lots of help.
Here is what I do and maybe you’ll see something that works for you, too:
1. Pray for your heart to be strong, for your student, and pray for their parents.
2. Make sure the first few meetings or calls are positive even when not received well. Those parents have their guards up, and will continue to have them up, until they see you as genuine.
3. Call or conference when issues arise. Email and texting should only be used as a last resort in these situations. Talking in real time prevents misconceptions.
4. Share your plan of action, ask for their input, and keep consistent in your efforts to keep them informed.
5. Love that kid. When her parents see your sincerity and progress made, you’ve just won them over.
I could not do any of this without my Faith in Christ leading me. There have been times I’ve wanted to give up, but persevering has shown me that kindness and compassion will go a long ways when dealing with the parents who had lost hope until they met you.