So now that I've written about all the practices I know to do in order to reach out to parents, I've got a long list of questions I'm utterly stuck on when it comes to parent relations.
A few years ago we worked with a parent who wanted worksheets. Nothing we could do or say would convince this parent that worksheets were not the way to go. Despite the data we'd collected and being able to show that everything we were doing was considered best practice and research based- this parent wanted worksheets.
It got ugly.
We weren't going to change our instruction to meet this parent's request, not when the child was benefiting from our instruction, as was the rest of the class. (If the child had not been making progress it would have been a different story- we gladly would have tried something new if we felt it would be in the best interest of the child). We tried to explain to the parent why we did what we did, we brought in resources, experts from our building, and spent hours going over exactly what our reasoning was. Nothing worked. Worksheets were all the parent wanted, for what appeared to be no justifiable reason. When asked why worksheets were requested we were given the "it worked for me" answer.
As we declined to put worksheets in place of centers the relationship deteriorated. Suddenly everything we did was awful. Every action we made was met with a phone call and a complaint. None of our normal parent relationship-building practices worked. At some point we'd stepped over the line of no return and we seemed to be destined to continue the year in a permanent state of conflict. Complaints were registered above us. We documented every step we took, every moment in the classroom being backed up and defended in case the parent came after us. Although everything we were doing was supported by best practice and research, we still needed to be able to prove what we were doing was right when asked by those above us.
It wasn't fun.
In fact, it was the opposite of fun. We got through it, but instead of spending time and energy to improve our practice we spent a lot of time on paperwork and in meetings. While we could have been teaching there were substitutes in the room so we could sit in meetings. Ironically, sometimes we'd leave worksheets with the substitute. And as expected when you give kinders worksheets, it didn't go well.
What should we have done differently? Should we have given some worksheets just to make the parent happy? Or would that have become a slippery slope of giving in to whatever the parent wanted, despite what we know is best for kids?
How do we de-escalate parents so we can have meaningful and productive conversations about children?
A parent once shared with me that she felt it was her duty as a parent to be "on" the school at all times. It's what her mother did for her. She didn't feel that she was being a good parent if she just trusted what the school said- arguing with us at every step of the way was part of her parental duties.
I wonder how many parents feel that way. Especially parents who come from a cultural background that inherently do not trust public schools (for what are probably justifiable reasons).
How do we rebuild that trust? How do we work with parents who want to advocate for their children and "on" the school at all times, while managing to maintain a productive parent-teacher relationship that best meets the needs of the child?
What do your schools do to work with parents? How do you help parents understand that what you are doing is best for their child? How do you create a team mindset between parents and the school instead of a contentious one? I would love to hear what other schools and teachers do to create and maintain productive relationships.