I am in my third year of teaching. I teach fourth grade. Most days, I find the work quite enjoyable - challenging, always different, and always fun to watch children learn new things.
The days I like it less are the days I field endless questions, complaints, or concerns from parents.
As I write this, I feel I have to admit, I am not a parent and I know that I probably find this frustrating because I don't truly understand where the parents are coming from. I'm good with child empathy - I remember being a child and I can put my self in my students' shoes easily.
While I do find it helpful to be on the same page with parents (especially when it comes to expectations), I really struggle to deal with the four or five parents who contact me at least weekly and at times daily about issues, concerns, complaints, vents, etc. I field emails, phone calls, and notes about one failed quiz, why I marked a question wrong, frustration over homework, confusion over the test on Friday that is explained on the study guide, issues about divorce, new jobs, custody agreements, landlord issues, family drama, and just general issues that I don't feel I can provide productive advice or information about, especially after I have heard from the parent four days in a row. I want to promote my students' independence without shutting out these highly communicative parents.
So I ask the parents out there: how can I draw the line and eliminate some of this communication? To be honest... its exhausting to deal with and could push me away from the profession I love.
From: Teacherinmass, Oxford
Parents, could this be you?!
There are so many reasons why parents are more needy these days -- lack of support systems and splintered nuclear families; societal anxiety and pressure for kids to succeed; competition among parents in social groups; angst over children's self-esteem; guilt about working; snowplow parents who want to push problems out of the way before a child even faces it ....the list goes on.
So where do they turn? To the over-worked, under-paid teacher who often has no more experience with the issue.
There are plenty of times when I've written in this space and elsewhere that parents need to "let the teacher know," or "get the teacher's advice/perspective."
I stand by that advice but I want to be clear: Parents need to be able to recognize when it's appropriate to contact and seek out a teacher and when it's not. It is when something is off the bell curve in terms of a particular child (all of a sudden, she refuses to go to school, won't/can't do math homework) or when there is an event in a family's life that might affect a child's ability to function, like a beloved pet's death or a parent out of work. And I think it's OK to let a teacher know that you want his/her input if he/she spots something out of character for a child. There are even times when a particular problem warrants keeping in touch with each other on a regular basis. After all, the education of a child ideally is a partnership between school and home.
Back in the day, a teacher was a minor god and the typical parents wouldn't consider overstepping their boundaries. Today, parents don't feel that inhibition. What's more, it's so easy to send off an email!
The answer, of course, is to achieve a balance. Do parents need guidelines set by principals? Teachers? The PTA?
Teacherinmass, It's sad, indeed, to think that someone like you who loves teaching is contemplating leaving the profession because of annoying parents. Not because of annoying kids, not because of low-pay or too much work or too much testing or insufficient supplies or unnecessary paperwork. Talk about lists that go on....!
Parents, I hope you will take Teacherinmass' comments to heart. If she were your child's teacher, how would you want her to draw the line? And teachers out there, please write in and give Teacherinmass some advice about how you deal with inappropriate parents. I look forward to some lively comments on this one!
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