Building Positive Relationships with Parents

Some of you are ending your spring break and some are just preparing to enjoy some R & R.  Parent conferences are the furthest thing from your mind. Right? Wrong! Parent conferences are never far from a teacher's mind. One of the goals that teachers desire is to have a positive working relationship with parents. I used to use the slogan teachers + parents = a successful year for students.  Corny, huh?  But I meant it. I truly desired to work with parents. To form a team that would work together to help their child navigate the twists and turns of middle school. I formed some wonderful relationships and made some great memories, but unfortunately the old adage, "You can't please everyone all the time" rang true. There were those that were unhappy no matter what I did. I could have handed them a golden ticket and still been that "nasty teacher that is out to hurt my precious child". Nothing could have been further from the truth, but that was their perception.

There are those parents that insist on enabling their child. I was introduced to that term my second year as a teacher.  It was a foreign term to me. I couldn't understand why parents wouldn't want the best for their child. Why would a parent intentionally make everything easier for their child knowing that their child wouldn't succeed in the "real world". I was old- school and had been raised by old-fashioned parents that believed that I needed skills to succeed. I needed to learn. I needed to be respectful. And, if I wasn't??? If I got in trouble at school, I got in trouble at home. My parents didn't blame Ms. Barley. They blamed me. They didn't question her or her ability to teach and correct. They did doubt my ability to follow rules. So.... when Ms. Barley called my mom, my mom believed her and I got it. Big time! But did I learn? Yes, I learned to follow rules, accept responsibly, and be accountable for my behavior.  Not bad for a seven year old.

The concept of enabling is alive and well. It even has an offspring- entitlement. Students come with expectations. Not of what they can learn, but of what we can give them. Some of their parents have the same attitude. In my opinion, the best thing to do in this situation, is let it go. Do what you can do and don't sweat over the rest of it. You will never change these people or their attitudes.  It will probably take a reality check to do that. Focus on what is good. The students who want to achieve. The parents that are supportive. Do your best in the situation that you find yourself. And... pray. A lot. Using the advice of a dear friend, I prayed over my classroom, before school started, every year. One of the things that I asked for was to develop a positive, working relationships with the parents. I walked the room and went to each desk, asking God to bless the student that would sit there and to help me see their good. I asked God to help the parents see my efforts and my intentions as they were and not view me as an enemy forcing their child to grow up.

God and I walked a lot of circles around my classrooms over the last 20+ years. Some years have been better than others, but all have been memorable.  Sometimes I have to stop and remember that I am human. I will make mistakes, but my heart is in the right place. And that, is all that matters.

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