Dealing with Parents

Dealing with parents is a skill in itself which teachers must master. Parents can become friend or foe depending on how you handle them.  Here are some key tips teachers can consider when trying to keep the peace with parents of students in their room.

  • keep parents informed about curriculum and activities

Send home a monthly newsletter highlighting curriculum and special classroom activities to keep parents well informed of goings on in your classroom. Taking the guess work out of what you are doing in the classroom will make for happier parents.


  • Keep parents informed about incidents or concerns at school

Parents do not like surprises about their children.  Inform parents quickly and professionally about any concerns at school.


  • Create a welcoming environment for parents

A pleasant smile, hand shake and introduction, or brief discussion at your door to set up a time for a longer discussion will help parents feel welcome.


  • Keep administration informed about any parent concerns that have been voiced to you

If you see a potential for a problem with a parent or an actual concern, let your superior know as soon as possible. Administrators are able to ‘calm’ and ‘reassure’ parents about an issue when they have all the needed information beforehand.


  • let parents have their say

Parents advocate passionately for their children and often all they need is to be heard.


  • keep your students happy in your classroom because happy students create happy parents

Students returning home at the end of the day with an unhappy experience in or outside of your classroom creates unhappy parents. Creating a climate of warmth, kindness and mutual respect for all within your classroom is a first step to ensuring students return home happy at the end of the day.  Instill in your students that you are their ‘go to’ person at school if there is a problem in or outside of the classroom.  You can often solve the problem at school before it goes home when you are informed.


  • a positive reputation in a school will carry you far with parents

Parents talk among themselves and you have no control over this.  You want a positive reputation so do your best to win parents over.


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Students with Mental Illness

In my career of 27 years there were only two students whom I would say were unreachable due to mental illness.  One was diagnosed, and the other was not.

Those were tough years.

I’ve also had my share of challenging students.  We’ve all had them.

They are the ones who come to school with tons of baggage due to circumstances beyond their control. They can make teaching a classroom of students a living nightmare.

These students can however be salvaged while they are in your classroom. They will take up a lot of your mental energy, time, patience and every ounce of stamina you have, but you can make some headway with these students.

The ones with mental illness are a different story.  No amount of behavior interventions can make long term differences with these students.

Each day becomes survival mode for yourself and the rest of the students in the classroom.  I know this sounds negative but it’s a reality.

One of the most unnerving behaviors both these students presented was the way they tracked me around the room with their eyes.  Their eye contact was a direct challenge. It was mentally exhausting trying to ignore the eye tracking and avoiding making eye contact.

The eye tracking started to permeate my whole being and I kept waiting for ‘it’ to happen.  The ‘it’ could be a violent or explosive event which circumvented myself and my students being evacuated from the classroom. This was the safety plan.

After one of the evacuations, it took 15 adults 30 minutes to put my classroom back into some sort of order at the end of the day.  He was 7 years old.

No one can understand the power this eye tracking has on you until you have experienced it. You try to explain it to colleagues, family, friends but you end up stopping because you can’t explain it.  You begin to question your own mental health.

A teacher can ‘figure out’ most students after a certain amount of time, but students with mental illness cannot be ‘figured out’. You will be asked what their triggers are and you’ll shrug your shoulders. You will be asked what you can do to de-escalate the situation and you’ll shrug again.

All you can do is try to smile, maintain your composure and attempt to keep everyone safe through it all. To help yourself and your students get through the year, gather as many allies on your side as you can; support personnel, parents, administrators, colleagues.

Parents of the other children in your classroom need to know the situation at school.  A parent can be a great advocate for you to help have this student removed from your classroom or placed on a shortened school day.

Support staff and colleagues need to understand that they are on call for any kind of SOS from yourself and your students.

Administration needs to know the severity of the problem.  They need to understand that it just isn’t a matter of you not being able to ‘handle’ or ‘manage’ the student. They need to be one board with the severity of the the situation with this student.

Lastly, look after your own mental health, get plenty of rest, eat well and exercise.

You’ll need it.




Two Key Survival Tips for a New School Placement!

One of the first lessons a teacher at a new school needs to learn is how to get along with everyone in the school. Two easy ways to do this; thoroughly understand your place in the pecking order of the school, and embrace mutual respect.

Understanding your actual ‘pecking order’ in the school with your administration and fellow colleagues is critical. Firstly, you are not paid enough to make decisions in the school as a teacher and should not attempt to question decisions or make decisions unless you are asked to do so by your administration. Be sure you know, and respect ‘who the boss is’.

Secondly, if you are the ‘new kid on the block’, bide your time and feel things out with your fellow colleagues before trying to ‘rock the boat’ too much.  Unfortunately, there will always be experienced teachers who don’t want to hear what you have to offer. Thankfully though, there are those who will see you as a breath of fresh air and welcome your input.

Treat everyone within the school environment with the same degree of respect you would want: principal, custodian, support person, secretary, new and experienced colleagues, parent, student, early childhood educator, lunch supervisor, crossing guard, substitute teacher, librarian, technology specialist, bus driver, school nurse, psychologist, social worker etc.

These are all people whose services, help or favors you may need one day for whatever reason.  You’d be amazed the number of times I had to jump on a school bus at the end of the day looking for a student who had left something behind or asked someone to watch my class while I made an emergency washroom visit.

You want to be sure you have looked after your relationship with these various people.  A pleasant smile or greeting at the start or the end of the day or week as you pass each other in the hallway can go a long ways when you need it.

You cannot survive in a school working in isolation.  The successful running of a school along with your classroom requires a team effort; and you need all the team players you can get on your team.

Image result for do unto othersThe old saying ‘Do onto others as you would have them do unto you’ is a great mantra to follow.  If your treat people well, in all likelihood, they will treat you well back.  It sounds so simple but its amazing how it can work for you.

Did you know that; “10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.” Unknown

How many times are conversations, looks, comments, texts, emails etc. misconstrued by yourself until you question the intended meaning. Choose your words carefully and be aware of your body language!

“There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict. Walk away from these people. The battle they’re are fighting isn’t with you, it’s with themselves.” Rashida Rowe

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Ronald Reagan

There will always be those within a school who have a natural tendency towards conflict and negativity. Avoid these people when possible and when it is unavoidable, use every resource you can muster up within yourself to resolve the issue with limited collateral damage.

The following quotes will hopefully give you some ‘food for thought’ for the next time you find yourself in conflict with a fellow staff member.


Image result for pick and choose your battles quotes