Working with parents is part of our jobs as teachers. It can be a very daunting task for a new teacher to face 30 sets of parents so here are some of my tips.
When we are stressed/overwhelmed/worried about meeting a parent or indeed when a parent is angry about something (usually nothing to do with you) – smiling relaxes the situation immediately and 99% of the time the parent will smile back. It also makes you more approachable and parents will feel at ease if they want to say hello/ introduce themselves etc.
If a parent requests a meeting – ask them to make an appointment. Try to be flexible when meeting parents as many of them may be working so an appointment before school might be more feasible.
If an irate parent tries to meet you before school as you are walking the children in – it is ok to say ‘I’m sorry I can’t talk now but can we meet at x o’clock?’ It is not possible to give a parent you’re full attention when you are responsible for 30 children. This also gives the parent time to calm down, and gives you time to get yourself ready for a meeting.
Sometimes parents need to talk about something. They may say things which you feel are unfair or incorrect but its important to let them speak and get whatever issues/problems they have out in the open. Interrupting someone when they are already annoyed will just escalate the situation further. When they are finished you can go back to what was said and discuss it.
If you have asked a parent to come in to discuss an issue/ problem – make sure to have evidence (an observation sheet from a particular day or a childs copy etc.)
During the meeting take down key points/important information. When the meeting has finished – go back through your notes to make sure you fully understand what you wrote. Keep these notes in your Assessment Folder as you may need them in the future. (The notes should also include the date, time, who was present at the meeting, what was discussed and what action will be taken.)
Don’t make promises
You can’t solve all the problems or issues that might be happening in school/ at home. Assure the parent that you will look into the matter further and get back to them.
You don’t have to have all the right answers. It is ok to say ‘I’m not 100% sure about that. Let me check and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.’ or ‘I need to think about this further. I’ll get back to you in the next few days.’
If you have had a particularly difficult meeting/ there is an issue you’re not sure how to handle – speak to your principal/vice principal/ year head. Its important for management to be made aware of situations that may become more problematic in the future. They will be able to best advise you on how to handle tricky situations.
Hope these tips help! Niamh x