When people talk about the difficulties of teaching the conversation usually revolves around students, pay, and administration. Typically, in that order. That is where the conversation belongs. Students can be difficult. The pay isn’t great and depending on where you work, neither are your bosses. However, for me personally, those things don’t register as particularly hard to deal with. In my experience, parents have been the worst part of my job.
The vast majority of the parents I deal with are great. If forced to equate that to a percentage I would say around 85%. But when you teach 300 plus students, having issues with 45 parents can be quite stressful.
I should also define what I mean when I classify a parent as difficult. I am not the type of teacher that has a problem with parents being involved, nor do I take issue with parents holding me and the school accountable for their child’s education. Usually when I have an issue with parents its because they hold us EXCLUSIVELY responsible for their child’s education, or they are “seemingly” not invested at all.
Let’s start with the former:
I see students on average an hour a day. Within that time, I am responsible for everything that happens. With that being said, there is only so much that I can do.
- I can’t control how far behind they are when they get to me.
- I can’t make them do their homework or practice what we learned in class.
- I can’t prevent them from being sent to in-school suspension for their behavior in another class.
Most parents understand this. They realize that education is a partnership between teacher, students, and parents. However, there are always a few that do not. There are always a few that are furious at me when grades come out. Typically, they were the ones I could not reach before report cards were sent home. Usually we do that same song and dance for a whole semester until a retention conference is held.
Then there are the parents who never think their kids do anything wrong. They think because their child has not exhibited a certain behavior at home means it is impossible for said behavior to manifest at school. These are typically the same ones that believe their children over their teachers and will say as much.
I do understand the dynamics of why some parents lash out at teachers, in particular, parents who didn’t have a great schooling experience themselves. That doesn’t make it easier to deal with.
Those parents are still preferable to the ones I never hear from. Almost without exception the parents I never hear from are the ones I need to talk to most. Their kids are often the ones who are chronically absent or have some latent learning disability that we could problem solve around if we only had the go ahead from a parent or guardian.
I realize that it has become taboo in urban education to “bash” parents. Some stakeholders have taken to blaming the entire state of inner-city education on parents as if they created all the obstacles and conditions their children face. What I am saying is the opposite. Most of the parents I work with, in-spite of the barriers they face, in-spite of the criticism they have received, are amazing. That’s what makes the ones who aren’t so noticeable. Not every parent who isn’t a great educational partner is that way by choice. Parents have a lot going on, especially where I work. With that being said, on my end, it still registers as a difficulty.