6 Tips to Help You Deal With Parents as a Middle School Teacher

Being a teacher not only means interacting with children, it also means you need to deal with their parents as well. Communication with parents is probably one of the most stressful parts of being a teacher, yet one of the most important! In this post, I'm going to give you some tips on how to effectively communicate and build positive relationships with parents.

1. Be proactive in reaching out to parents
    Reach out to them BEFORE there is a problem. If you establish a good relationship with your parents from the get go, they will be more receptive to hearing what you have to say about their demon spawn child. I recommend giving parents your behavior expectations and consequences at the beginning of the year so there is no question as to what will happen when the students don't do what they're supposed to. Being a middle school science teacher, I probably had more expectations than most other teachers just because it's a science class and there's a certain level of control needed when doing labs.

2. Keep parents informed
    Don't wait until the straw breaks the camel's back before you contact parents about their child's behavior. If I wasn't sure if a behavior or action warranted a call home, I would ask myself, 'If this was my child, would I want to know about it?' That answer would always dictate my next steps. Take advantage of apps like Remind to remind parents about upcoming tests, due dates, etc. The more you communicate with parents and treat them as a part of their child's education, the more receptive they are to hearing from you when it's not positive. It's better to be safe than sorry! In my school district, ALL parents were automatically signed up for Remind. So, when we had a test, I'd send out a quick message to parents. Then, when a child did poorly on the test, the parents couldn't say, 'I had no idea there was a test coming; my child said you never told them about the test.' Bust out that Remind message and BOOM problem averted.  

3. Be positive and encouraging
    Parents want to know that you have their child's best interest at heart! If you come at the parent as if their child is the problem, they will shut down and become accusatory. No one wants to hear that their child is the bane of your existence, even though they 100% are. Put the onus back on the child. Say things like, 'Johnny made a choice today that prevented him from completing the assignment.' OR 'Johnny kept making random loud noises in class and that prevented the class from doing...' Please don't say, 'Johnny was being obnoxious and annoying so the class couldn't get anything done.'

4. Keep your opinions to yourself
    Even though you've probably thought about putting duct tape over Sally's mouth, keep the conversation professional and strictly factual. Don't say things like, 'I think....' Say what actually happened even though it might be uncomfortable. A couple of years ago, I had to call home to inform parents that their kid drew a penis on one of their papers as a joke. That was uncomfortable!! However, be straightforward but gentle. If you are ever asked your opinion by parents, be careful not to say anything incriminating, hurtful, or diagnose anything. A lot of parents that I've dealt with have asked me if I think their child might have ADHD or be depressed. DON'T TELL THEM ANYTHING THAT THEY CAN COME AT YOU LATER FOR. These parents could easily meet with admin. and tell them... well, so and so said that my child has autism. That is very bad!

5. Document, document, document
    Whatever you do, document everything. Whether you do that digitally, written, or both, just do it. Even if the 'good kid' who never gets in trouble does something out of the ordinary and you call home, document it. I used a chart for each of my class periods that I made on the computer and printed out. I included the student's name, parent or guardian whom I talked to, the phone number I called, the date, the time, and the reason I called. I use the CYA method obsessively when it comes to dealing with parents because I've seen through colleagues how not documenting something can come back to bite you in the butt. 

6. Get admin. involved if necessary
    There are some parents out there that can be worse than their child! I've had run-ins with many of those parents. If you don't feel comfortable meeting with a parent alone, ask admin. or another teacher who has that student to sit in with you to be a 'witness'. I've had several instances throughout my teaching years where I refuse to call a parent because they would berate me, yell at me, and insult me. Every single time, my admin. has taken over and made phone calls for me. Usually when it gets that far, the parents won't even answer the phone anytime admin. calls them. Your admin. is there to support you. They've had experience dealing with these not-so-fun parents. 

I hope you learned something new to help you with your parents. If there's anything you'd like to add or any questions, feel free to leave a comment down below. 

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