I’ve finally gone through the cycle of my first parental complaint. The small pebble, that these past weeks has ballooned into stress eating/can’t get out of bed/depression triggering boulder.
It started with a parent coming to me a few weeks ago because they were upset that I mentioned retention with their child. Then, it escalated to the same parent coming to me upset because I sent home an unsatisfactory notice after the conversation we had about retention. So, the parent asked me to set up a meeting with the principal. I asked the principal just to reach out to her directly. Said parent went to the principal with a typed up letter about things like “unsupportive environment” “public shaming” and “bullying”. Plus a whole other slew of quotes around things that I had supposedly said.
In teaching, there are two separate powers: teacher recommendation and parental consent. Ultimately, parental consent wins, so what has unfolded has felt like a twisted and passive aggressive form of power play. Even though the parent always has the upper-hand (as they should be advocates for their children), she was using it to discredit me. As a teacher, I am obligated to notify a parent if their child is performing well below grade level. It brings me no joy to send home these notices as I already feel like I’ve failed (in some ways) as an educator if I can not bring these students to grade level at this point in the school year. In this case, an unusually high number of absences also were in play. However, I feel that a bruised ego is what caused this much hoopla over something that I wish the parent would just come to terms with the fact that their child has fallen behind.
As a parent, I’m sure that reality is distressing. But not once did I say “Your child isn’t smart”, but I’m assuming the heart of the panic and anger comes from having heard that as a subconscious thing. Or similarly “Your child isn’t special”. Which turns me into the bad guy by simply saying “Your child needs help/ extra support”. Because at the end of the day, when I say that it puts the responsibility back on the parent to assist their child in said catching up. As a teacher, that is not an easy thing to say to parents. In fact, I know teachers who would prefer to avoid that conversation, but I adamantly believe that is not in the best interest of the child.
I feel that I am writing this out because it has been this huge boulder in my life these past few weeks. For anyone reading this who might have a kid, just know that teachers take your complaints very seriously. And that they are sorry to have been the cause of your stress or worry. In return, please don’t pull a power play because you’re unsatisfied with your child’s academic progress, just accept responsibility and partner up to find the best plan to help. Your child is special, smart, and amazing. I believe in them just as much as you do, but that does not make them invincible from falling behind without your consistent support and guidance.