When you’re a teacher, managing parents is part of the gig. Although there will always be problems, over time, you learn how to form positive, cooperative relationships with families. Sure, you’ll always have that one parent complaining to your principal that you won’t give them your personal phone number, but those situations are somewhat unavoidable. Been there, dealt with that. But with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our school system, there’s a whole host of problems we’ve never encountered before. So we took the liberty of rounding up several common pandemic parent problems and providing you with some practice solutions.
1. “My student’s dad says they don’t believe in wearing masks. Our school policy says they have to. Help!”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, children over the age of 2 should wear a mask in public settings where it’s difficult to practice social distancing. Since your school has a mask mandate in place, you can really lean on that and your administration to enforce it.
Try saying: “I know wearing a mask all day isn’t ideal. But it is the school policy, based on national health guidelines, and the policy is in place to keep us all safe. If you don’t feel like your family will be able to comply with these guidelines, you might want to look into the remote learning option.”
2. “During my online instruction, a parent shouted out the correct answer.”
Parents doing their children’s homework isn’t exactly new, but it’s gotten worse during school closures. Now that a lot of work (if not all of it) is being done at home, it’s probably time for a conversation about what we mean by “independent” work.
Try saying: “I so appreciate your involvement in your child’s learning, but during my lessons, I need to hear from the students themselves in order to monitor their understanding.”
3. “A parent popped into my Zoom meeting to tell me I looked ‘hot.'”
Many teachers are the recipients of unwanted attention regarding their physical appearance—both positive and negative. The reality is that these comments (even those meant to be complimentary) are inappropriate.
Try saying: “Your comment today made me really uncomfortable, especially because it was said in front of my students. I’d appreciate your help in maintaining a welcoming learning environment by modeling respectful language.”
4. “I just got an email from a mom who feels like she’s doing a terrible job because she can’t manage all the online platforms.”
We of all people can understand the frustration with Google Classroom, Zoom, Canvas, and the like. After all, most of us had to learn them for the first time this past spring.
Try saying: “I’m so sorry to hear you’re having trouble! I know it’s a lot to manage. I’m happy to direct you to some parent education resources on using district technology. How else can I help?”
5. “A parent messaged me, ‘You’re not paying enough attention to my child during synchronous learning!'”
Teaching in person and online at the same time is a huge and, frankly, unreasonable ask of teachers. But it is what it is. See where you might make adjustments to this less than ideal situation. For example, try using Nearpod so both in-person and online students are looking at the same. Also consider setting aside time at the beginning of the period to run through your roster and check in with each student.
Try saying: “Thanks for getting in touch with me. I am committed to the success of all my students, whether they’re virtual or in person. I have some ideas for making sure all students’ needs are addressed.”
6. “I’m already in bed and a parent contacted me demanding an immediate response.”
If it’s really urgent, you might choose to respond. After all, we aren’t living in normal times. However, you are completely within your rights to wait until the following day to respond. And in the future, consider setting an automated response.
Try saying: “Thank you for your email. I am always available to respond during my office hours.”
7. “I got the following email: ‘Between me, my spouse, and my two kids, we don’t have enough bandwidth to all be online. What are you going to do about it?'”
Looks like a case of misplaced frustration. Take a deep breath and remember that it’s not your fault. If you can, try to give the parent some grace in a difficult situation.
Try saying: “That’s a frustrating situation! I’m happy to help you troubleshoot and/or share what our district is offering families in terms of tech support.”
8. “I’ve noticed that some parents seem really uninvolved in virtual school and it’s having an impact on their students’ learning.”
First of all, try to keep in mind extenuating circumstances. Many parents are focused on just keeping their families afloat right now. No matter what their response (or lack thereof), continue to be a person every one of your students can count on.
Try saying: “I know what a difficult time this is for families, and I just wanted to touch base with you. I’m worried about your student’s progress, and I’d love to talk with you about ways we can work together to help them be more successful.”
9. “We’re a hybrid model and I was just told by a parent that ‘what this school really needs is an A/B schedule.'”
It seems everyone has an opinion about the best way to return to school. These parents may need a gentle reminder that it’s not under your control.
Try saying: “Thanks so much for your input. That’s an interesting idea! Right now, I’m following my administration’s guidelines, but I’ll be sure to pass this along.”
10. “A parent just walked into my room and informed me they’re switching to remote learning.”
Remember that many parents had to make a decision this summer without all the information. It’s a disruption to your classroom, yes, but we really need to be flexible here. Ideally, your district or school has a policy on if and when changes can be made.
Try saying: “I’m sorry to hear this isn’t working for you. I’ll let the principal know that you’d like a change, and we can set up a meeting.”
How are you dealing with pandemic parent problems? Share on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group.