Good morning, County. Happy Monday.
I don’t know if it’s the time of year, but I have gotten several reports over the past few weeks of teachers being involved in some fairly nasty parental interactions.
Parents are, by their very nature, protective of their children, and are not necessarily at their most rational when it comes to their wee ones. As true as this may be, it is not unreasonable that they approach these concerns in a respectful way. In a perfect world, should a parent have a concern with a teacher, they would begin by approaching the teacher directly.
However, we do not live in a perfect world, and a concern from a parent in this day and age is as likely to result in a Facebook tirade or a call to Elwin as it is a civil conversation with a teacher. If you find yourself involved in an incident such as this, there are a few things you should remember.
To begin with, documentation is your best friend. If you have any interactions with a concerned parent, make sure you document. Follow up with an e-mail outlining your understanding of the parents concerns, and how you will try to address them. Keep the tone of that e-mail factual and polite, but it is also a great idea at this point to ask the parent if they have any suggestions of strategies that have worked for their child in the past. Finally, involve your admin team as early as possible in the process. Explain the issue, the steps you have taken, and how you will try (or why it is not feasible) to take the parents suggestions.
If the parent insists on a meeting, that is their right, and you should make every effort to meet that request. However, there is also a reasonableness factor here. Ideally, this meeting would happen during the instructional day, however, you could be asked to meet after hours. It should be noted that at this point, it is not appropriate to involve a union rep. At the meeting, take lots of notes, explain what you have done already, ask for suggestions, and remain professional.
It is that last part that is so often the most difficult, but is hugely important. If the meeting starts to turn sour, you should remember that you do not have to put up with any sort of abuse in your workplace. It is also not a terrible idea to have familiarized yourself with HRCE’s harassment policy, which defines harassment as: “…derogatory (e.g., excessively critical, insulting, belittling) or vexatious (e.g., aggressive, angry, antagonistic) conduct or comments that are known or ought reasonably to be known to be offensive or unwelcome.“
Obviously, the HRCE can not expect parents to follow policy. However, there is an expectation within the document that “Behaviours by Parents, Guardians or Community Members that are considered to be harassing in nature will be addressed by the Principal, in consultation with the
School Administration Department, as required.” If the parent does start to get into the area of being aggressive or insulting, it is the responsibility of your admin team to handle the situation.
The example of a parent losing their cool at a meeting with a teacher is a fairly obvious one, but not, in my experience at least, particularly common. What I am seeing a lot more in the past few years is the e-mail tirade where parents perhaps may not have exercised quite the level of restraint we may have hoped for when addressing a concern.
If you get a nasty e-mail, forward it to your admin team for a second look, and perhaps get some advice on how to respond before doing so. Often, when reading e-mail, tone is inferred by our own emotional state. Using a second set of eyes and applying some sober second thought before responding to an upset parent is sound advice.
Finally, if you feel that the parent is engaging in behaviour that could be considered harassing by nature and you are not feeling supported by the admin team, contact me. I will ask for a “Coles notes” version of your documentation and take the matter up with the HRCE.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to follow up.
That’s all for today, County. Just one other quick note that the time of the social event scheduled for Porters Lake this Wednesday has been changed to a 3:30 start to better accommodate some dismissal times. Hope to many of you there!