I Am the Parent Most Teachers Dread

I went to my daughter’s Open House the other night.  She’s beginning the first grade, and as any mother I am concerned about the transition from kindergarten.  In some ways I know I shouldn’t be.  After all her kindergarten wasn’t anything like mine.  Her kindergarten class had desks, uniforms, homework, a spelling bee, and no naps.  It wasn’t like she played all day and had circle time.

As I was talking with the teachers–or attempting to as the lead teacher was all over the place like some ADD kid being overstimulated, and the assistant was sitting authoritatively at a desk making the kids come and talk to her–I began feeling very uncomfortable for my daughter.  If first impressions are anything to go on, well, I’m sure you can see my problem already.

As I was talking to the teacher’s assistant–excuse me, the classroom instructional assistant–after the teacher had disappeared, I was sharing my concerns that my daughter’s good at completing tasks, however, once the task is complete, if there isn’t one for her to move on to she tends to socialize thinking she’s done.  Before I could finish the assistant says in a dismissive, self-assured tone that she knew all about my daughter.

Really?  Funny, my daughter had never met the woman.  So whatever this woman “knows” about my daughter is all teacher talk, which I am familiar with.  Teacher’s talk.  They talk about students, they talk about parents, and they talk about each other.  It’s a fact.  When it becomes a problem with me is when they have the audacity to act like the grapevine is the gospel, and they form preconceived notions about my kid that they think are set.

Having been a counselor and teacher of troubled teens, I’ve met some interesting parents from across the spectrum from well educated to high school drop outs.  I remember the most difficult parents were those in the counseling or teaching fields because they liked to think that they knew enough to know their child’s problems and how to fix them.  It was hard for them to step back and admit that what they had been doing wasn’t working for their kid, and that they needed to be open to what we were seeing and offering.

Now I am a parent with a background in both counseling and teaching.  I realize this makes me potentially one of the most difficult parents my kids’ teachers will ever have to deal with.  As such I try to keep this in mind so I don’t come across as a know-it-all, and try to stay open to the observations of the others who work with my kids.  I don’t want to be one of those parents who thinks they knows their kid so well that they miss problems and blindly defend their child’s behavior.

However, I do rely on my background to aid in communicating and understanding.  I’m very good at talking about my concerns and listening to those of others.  I like working as part of a team to improve things, especially for kids.  As such, I think it is important to establish this right from the get-go.

I want to know what is being done for my child, and what I can do to support the process and my kid.  I want to share my concerns and observations, and feel that I am being listened to and understood.  If you can’t do that for me, what assurance do I have that you will do this for my child?

I’m not the defensive parent of a misunderstood angel.  I’m not the superior parent, the anxious parent, the careless parent or the passive parent.  I am the actively involved parent who is knowledgeable and likes to stay well informed.  This means that I will question everything from methods to observations.  If you tell me my child is disruptive, I want you to explain exactly how.  If you say my child is struggling with a concept, I want you to explain what that looks like, what you’ve tried, and what I can do to help.

For those teachers that are easily threatened, or believe that they are the ultimate authority on my child, this is what makes me the parent that most teachers dread.

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3 Responses to I Am the Parent Most Teachers Dread

  1. Bryan Wappes August 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    I would have to agree with you, you are the parent that most teachers dread. That being said, if you separate your past from your child’s future, the view becomes a little more clear. As I am sure you remember, those parents that “interfered” often made our job more difficult. In most situations that I dealt with other peoples kids, I did know the child better then their own parents. That being said, you have a unique position to straddle. Are you the parent that nags and pushes or are you the parent that helps and supports. Simple dilemma I know but one that I think you may be over looking. While I am sure you are basing everything on a first impression, so is your child’s teacher. I suggest, that you try the support/kill em with kindness route. As you seem to be a very concerned parent, I would encourage you to wait to see if there is an issue to be concerned about. This is by no means an attack on you but more of a perspective of a “counselor” without kids of my own. Maybe talking with other parents about the teacher (I know total BTS) would help you to form a more realistic view of the teacher and his/her assistant. Hope this is helpful, I dread the day I have kids that go to school, their teachers will hate me!…….. hope you and your daughter make this a great learning experience.

    • veronica August 25, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

      Any of us with counseling or teaching backgrounds are the dreaded parents mostly because it means we ask more challenging questions of those who work with our children. The kids and families we worked with as counselors were different in that there was an element of dysfunction and/or mental illness at play, but we always owed the parents an explanation for our methods. Anyone who works with kids should always be prepared to explain methods and interventions to the parents of that child. Hopefully everyone can work together for the sake of improving things for the child. Parents who want to be involved shouldn’t be viewed as interfering or undermining. Usually professionals who think that don’t respect the parents, and are themselves interfering and undermining. I speak as a former professional that has looked back at some of my previous thinking and sees things differently now. I hope it makes me a better parent.

  2. Mikel August 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    I think you might just fear that you are dreaded. We (teachers) actually love involved parents who care about their children’s progress. I hope when the assistant said that she “knew all about” your child that you called her on it and asked just what she knew! You are right that teachers “talk” but you might be surprised to find that your FERPA rights require it to be all in the interest of your child’s education or it is a violation of your rights- SO “we” are doing much better about what is said and to whom it is said. Also, remember the “classroom instructional assistant” is just that- an assistant and the teacher was probably so nervous and excited to meet you all that she couldn’t figure out what to do first. Teacher’s get very nervous and want to all of the effort and enthusiasm they have to show in a positive way!

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