Working together with parents

Manaswini Sridhar

I find it very difficult to deal with parents when we have the parent-teacher meeting or when they come for the report cards. I feel so stressed out. Is it just me or do most teachers feel the same?

No matter how noisy or bothersome they are, children are always easier to handle than are adults. While most parents can be pleasant, there are others who will make the entire situation nerve-wracking. What you need to remember about the situation is that while the child belongs to the parents, the child is also your responsibility since you too are a caretaker and a knowledge giver. So, take charge. But remember that there are many things that you may not know about the child, so do not pretend that you are in full control. The parents and you have to work together to mould the child.

It’s an important day, so make sure you are alert and in a good mood. Dress well because if it is the first time you are meeting them, you want to make a good first impression. If the school allows the child to accompany the parents, you could suggest to the parents that the child play outside while you chat with them. You may want to talk about the not-so- positive aspects of the child without shaking his level of confidence. You also would not want the child to witness any friction between two adults!

Manaswini SridharIf your school has allotted a specific time slot to each parent, make sure you keep that in mind. Devote those 10 or 15 minutes entirely to the parent. As soon as they come in, say, “As you know, we have 15 minutes. So let us discuss what you have in mind first.” When they have taken half the time, make sure you gently step in with, “I have a few observations to make.” When you do mention the not-so-positive aspects to the parents, remember that you have to be firm but gentle. You cannot be forthright and judgmental. For example, do not say things like, “He never concentrates on his work. He constantly disturbs others next to him. He is an example of extremely bad behaviour.” I have heard many a teacher pass this harsh verdict. By saying such things, you not only alienate the parent, but also get into an argument that will leave you with a splitting headache. Instead, say, “He is a little restless. Is he like this at home too?” Here the parents perhaps lend you a sympathetic ear and may agree. This will then give you the opportunity to say something like, “He doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate on his work for more than 10 minutes. Therefore he seeks distraction. Unfortunately, those sitting next to him are not able to do justice to the task either. Perhaps with a little bit of yoga or martial arts, his ability to focus will improve.” You must understand that you are not there to upset the parent; you are there to help them with their child. Empathize with parents and make sure that they appreciate the fact that you are helping them solve their child’s problems.

Manaswini SridharWhen the time is up, say so openly: “I am afraid we have other parents waiting. Maybe we could discuss the rest on some other day. Thank you so much for your interest.” Smile and perhaps get up too – this is an indication that they leave!

When parents cross question you or disagree, remember that they are doing it because they know a part of the child that you are not acquainted with. Write down points, ponder and then listen. There is no need to be in a hurry to judge. Let there be open communication. You do not have to agree all the time. The meeting is happening because each of you knows one side of the child and you are trying to put the pieces together!

The author is a teacher educator and language trainer
based in Chennai. She can be reached at [email protected].

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