Patience Traps, Part 2, part c

Parents, ctd

In order to have a good relationship with the parents of our students, we must remember another very important principle:


Let’s see how patience with parents works:

  1. The parent says something that seems idiotic or offensive to you.
  2. Your feelings are hurt and you pout.
  3. Obviously perturbed (even though you try to hide it), you patiently explain to this ignoramus whatever it is he is commenting on.
  4. The parent understands that you are patronizing him.
  5. The student is bewildered and senses that you and the parent are having an argument.
  6. The parent feels stupid, the student is embarrassed.
  7. Everyone is distressed.

There can be no happy ending to the scenario above. Try this instead:

  1. The parent says something that seems idiotic or offensive to you.
  2. You stop and ask yourself, “What is it that he really wants to know or what is it he is afraid of?”
  3. You address the issue, not the person or his manner.

The advantages to this second approach are legion, but to name a few:

  1. You save time.
  2. You save the chagrin of the parent and the embarrassment of the student for having such a  parent.
  3. Everyone is happy – or not  (maybe you couldn’t address the problems of this parent) but at least you tried and have a clear conscience. You can’t win ‘em all.
  4. If the parent was trying to be rude and make you uncomfortable, you have deflected this.
  5. If the parent had some perplexity and didn’t know how or was afraid to express himself properly, you have answered him without judging him or the question or statement.
  6. You can congratulate yourself on being on high moral ground, that you have behaved admirably (everyone is still alive) and have maintained control of the situation AND the lesson.
  7. Parent, student and teacher now have the feeling that everyone is pulling together.

We must respect parents who say things that may seem uninformed. At least they are giving us the chance to help them understand our methods and goals.

A colleague, who teaches a music in a local middle school here, decided to make a recording of her students’ orchestral playing. She did a beautiful job, well above and beyond the call of duty. But she told me that some of her parents criticized and complained about the whole process, asking,  “What’s so important about making a record anyway?” She was offended and I can’t blame her. However, she didn’t realize at the time that she had missed a great opportunity to get the parents behind her immediately by explaining to them the importance of playing music together, preparing a performance, and making a recording of it. This is what they really wanted and/or needed to know but didn’t know how to ask or didn’t want to seem stupid for asking. We have to jump in with both feet when a teaching situation like this presents itself. This is our chance to say enthusiastically, “I am so glad you brought that up!”  Saying this, you transform the potentially offensive remark into a valid concern worthy of consideration and make the objector feel much better about himself for having posed (however badly) a good question. This also makes him far more receptive to your explanation.

When parents express a doubt, reservation or opinion even in a way that may offend you, look at it as a great opportunity to help them or, at least, promote your cause. They have opened a door and you have to walk in that door quickly before it closes. You may never get another chance.



End of Part 2, part c  next: uncommunicative parents and finally, a conclusion. Registered & Protected 



4 November 2014

2 thoughts on “Patience Traps, Part 2, part c

  1. Throwcase

    Extremely clear and simple! And very true.

    Address the issue, not the person. The same is true for intimate relationships in your personal life- which is why teaching can be so emotionally draining!

    1. Eloise Hellyer Post author

      Exactly! I am also going to write on teacher tiredness. Someone asked me the other day how I can teach 6 or 7 hours straight (and see as many as 17 children – some are very small and can only take very short lessons) without getting exhausted. Part of the answer is what you indicated. Of course, at the beginning of my career, such a marathon totally wore me out. Not anymore! And I think I am much more effective, too. Thank you for your comment.


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