As I huddled around a desk with two parents, my principal, and vice principal, I experienced one of the oddest moments I have ever had as a teacher. One second, we were talking about missing assignments and the next, mom was leaning across the table, sharply pointing a finger at me. “I don’t like you. I don’t like you! And I don’t want you teaching my son.”
My reflection on this meeting helped me arrive at five extremely important conclusions. Ones that will stick with me for the rest of my life. For other teachers dealing with difficult parents, maybe these lessons will ring true for you, too.
1. Parents love their children. Period.
I was tempted to lament and complain about what a bad person this mom was immediately after the meeting ended. “Doesn’t she know how many hours I spend planning, grading, creating PowerPoints? Doesn’t she know how hard I work for her kid?” I thought to myself. The answer to those questions is probably not.
She doesn’t know how hard I work, but she does know that she loves her son. In a battle between teacher and child of course she would choose to side with her child. As a parent, I know that same love. Regardless of the meeting, regardless of the child’s grade or athletic performance this mom loves her son. Period.
2. Not every parent is going to like you and that’s okay.
No one wants to be disliked. A coach once told me, “deep down, we are all people pleasers.” On some level, most teachers want our students and their parents to like us. While it may not necessarily be your goal, I’ll bet you smile wide every time you hear, “this is my favorite class,” from a student.
My experience with the loud disapproval from a parent has shown me that, no matter how hard I work, not every parent will like me. They will at some point disagree with me, and I have learned to be okay with that. At the end of the day, I am here to change the world through the power of education. And I am going to do that with everything in me. No matter what.
3. The parent who dislikes you is not every parent.
That parent meeting made it easy for me to throw myself a “no one likes me” pity party. Until I realized that she was just one parent. Just because one parent expresses disapproval or disdain for your class or even you as a person that does not mean that every parent has turned on you.
I am still working on my relationship with that parent, but I am also still fostering the extremely positive relationships I have with other families.
4. The parent who dislikes you is not their child.
This one is so important. Chances are you did not get into teaching for the parents. I know I didn’t. I got into teaching to change the lives of students. This may sound strange but even if a kid’s parent does not like you, it does not mean that the child doesn’t like you. It may mean that you should devote some extra energy and love toward that child.
When that mother told me she did not like me, my response was, “That’s too bad, because I love your son.” And today, I’ve got more love for that child than before or during that meeting. While his mom may not like me, he and I still have daily conversations about hating the Dallas Cowboys or which restaurant has the best chicken and waffles. We just created our own personalized handshake!
5. Teaching is a calling.
This is the greatest profession I know. The students will come and go, along with their parents. Not every student will like you. Not every parent will like you. We all know that not every colleague will like you. But at the end of the day, if you have said yes to the call to teach, you keep coming back.
What advice would you give to teachers dealing with difficult parents? We’d love to hear in the comments.