Teachers and Passionate Parents, Part 2

John Wooden said, “Effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers.”  We might presume, then, that good teachers are effective leaders—of young people, of ideas, and of other adults.  In the teacher-parent relationship, the teacher must take the lead by developing and growing a supportive group of parents.

In order to do this, teachers need to follow some basic guidelines.  First, you need to establish healthy and professions lines of communication: what and how often you will proactively communicate to them; when and how they can reach out to you.  You can even include them by asking them how they best like to be reached.  Establish hours of availability.  Establish that popping into the classroom is not acceptable behavior; you are the same as a doctor or a lawyer.

Second, you need to get to know your parents as people.  As Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot explains in The Essential Conversation:  What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other, parents relive their own school experience when their children go to school.  Knowing this, teachers should build some understanding of their students’ parents.  They should make it comfortable for parents to share what it was like for them when they were young and what it is like now.  Caution: make sure this remains professional.  This connection is all in pursuit of developing a better working alliance for the benefit of the students’ development.

Third, when conflicts arise, allow parents to vent.  When they speak about their children, they are experts.  They have a lot of incredibly useful information.  Empower their voices.  That is not to imply you allow them to walk on you or insult you.  But if you receive their passion with open arms and ask questions, reflect back what you are hearing and feeling, they will provide uniquely useful information that you can take advantage of in working with their children.  The parents will become trusted allies of yours and support your goal of working successfully with their child.

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