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Lesson From Dad: Parent Respect for a Teacher

Posted by Grace Lee on Aug 13, 2013 7:39:00 AM

On my first day of 6th grade at Teachers Elementary in Kinston, NC, my dad and I went to the classroom to meet the teacher and pick up my books.  Having recently moved to the area, this was my first day at the school as well so no reputation to overcome. We stood at Mrs. Jarman's desk exchanging the customary pleasantries before my dad looked at her and said:

"When you have to spank him, let me know, because when you're finished it will be my turn."

The keyword there was "When." When I was a young student, I was the kind of kid a teacher couldn't ignore. I was ADD before they knew of such a description, preferred kickball and recess far more than any academic subject, and I got into the occasional fight. My track record was such that my dad expected to be called at least a few times regarding disciplinary action.

The tone my dad was trying to set was crystal clear--he was letting the teacher know (with me as his witness) that he would support her descisions, especially with regard to discipine, and would reinforce any actions she had to take. He wasn't kidding either! My dad and I had a great relationship, but he was serious when it came to respecting the authority of teachers.

Regardless of your opinion on spanking, what teacher doesn't want strong support from parents?

Dad knew how to communicate support, and I can guarantee that he would never use any of these techiques with a teacher or coach:

  • Send an ALL CAPS email that is copied or blind copied to other parents.
  • Call from the car, with kids in tow, to express displeasure with a decision.
  • Invoke the mystical declaration of how many "other parents" are also upset.
  • Threaten legal action if not satisfied.
  • Send an anonymous, unsigned letter. (If it can't be signed, it shouldn't be sent either.) 
  • Go over the teacher's head by taking a complaint directly to the principal or school board.
  • Give permission to disobey the teacher's or the school's policy.
  • Confront them about playing time or the quality of an assignment.
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Dad treated the teacher as a professional, with the commensurate respect and manners. This is perhaps one of the biggest changes in the relationship between teachers and parents since I was a kid--too many parents today have a contenteous expectation, giving the student the "benefit of the doubt" rather than the teacher. Their priority is holding the teacher accountable more than the student.
Teachers deserve better than that!

Wouldn't the Parent-Teacher relationship be improved if these guidelines were used? (also work for Administrator-Teacher relations as well):

  1. Assume the best. Consistently express an expectation of partnership and teamwork.
  2. Listen. Proactive listening is a fundamental social skill that parents and teachers can model for students.
  3. Respond. Responding rather than reacting to situations demonstrates a higher degree of emotional intelligence, and is the best way to preserve relationships even during times of disagreement.
  4. Use Manners. Avoid interrupting, use the proper tone of voice, always show courtesy, and express gratitude.
  5. Rebuke Privately. Criticism should be shared without an audience, which excludes social media.
  6. Encourage Publicly. Encouragement is best shared publicly, building on strengths.
  7. Get All the Facts. Drawing conclusions based on the one-sided perspective of a student will limit your judgment, so wisely listen and gather a broader perspective before deciding a plan of action.
  8. Be on Time. Minimize absences and tardies because of the disruption to the learning process and plans.
  9. Communicate. Respect the Laws of the Grapevine by communicating in the proper sequence with each other, avoiding gossip and dissention. 
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