When asked to remember problems with parents, a teacher in Tennessee related this experience:
One mother stands out. She complained to the principal that I was not being attentive enough to her son. Somewhat immature, the boy still threw temper tantrums in second grade. His mother expected me to give him individual help with everything. She was a very large woman, intimidating, and one day she came to my class and asked to talk to me.
I thought uh oh, but was surprised when she volunteered to help in my classroom.
After a few weeks we had become chatty. She told me she so admired what I do and had no idea that teaching was so hard! What a blessing came out of that initially bad situation!
Most teachers can recall similar stories, with or without the happy ending.
A cover story in Time magazine in February 2005 documented increased pressure on educators in the United States(Gibbs 2005). Students challenge authority and parents trust teachers less, validating their child’s view of the classroom over the adult’s. School staff members end up dealing with students and parents more delicately than a few decades ago.
Problems take many shapes: disorganized parents who lose papers, hovering moms and angry dads, and of course absentee parents who never show up for anything. Private schools take even more heat, with high academic goals and expectations that misbehavior “shouldn’t happen in a Christian school.”
Let’s look at ways we can foster parent-teacher partnerships by setting a positive tone and structure to prevent misunderstandings, being prepared to respond to potential confrontations, and showing empathy and patience while processing conflict.