As educators, we will all have pushy parents from time to time. You know the type. These are the parents that want to be in the classroom every day, chatting with you. They stand in front of you and prevent you from teaching. They stop you in the hallways of the school and monopolize your time. They insist on creating projects for the students to do, and they want to tell you how to do your job. They think everything they want to talk about is of extreme urgency.
How can we deal with pushy parents without alienating them?
Looking at this situation from the parents view, we need to remember that these parents care about their children. Perhaps they care so much that they are unable to let go and allow someone else to guide them. They usually are well-meaning, and may not even realize that they are hindering their child’s education.
Let the parents know when and how often they are allowed in the classroom. I require time in the morning before school begins to prepare for the day. I open my classroom door ten minutes before the morning bell rings, so if parents need to see me, that’s one time I’m available. I even put a sign on my door stating my “office hours” begin at 7:50 a.m.
Some parents still bang on the doors and windows, ignoring the sign. I keep the door closed, and I don’t answer the knocking until 7:50 a.m. Unfortunately, some of the parents go to other teachers and bang on their doors, asking the teachers if I’m at school. At that point, I have to remind the parents that, even though I may be in the classroom, I’m not available for visits until 7:50 a.m.
If I’m making a trip to the copy machine or the teacher’s work room before school, parents will stop me and want to talk about their child. I tell them that I’m working at the moment, but I’ll be happy to talk to them at 7:50 a.m. or after school.
I have many parents that want to visit or call during class time. When parents come into the classroom and want to talk during academic time, I gently, politely, yet firmly, remind them that I’m teaching at the moment, and I’ll be happy to talk to them later. I offer to call them back.
(Notice I use the same phrasing for the repeated messages?) Some parents need daily reminders. If that’s the case, breathe deep and remember to be patient.
If you are going to have parents respect your work time, you must be consistent. Don’t allow parents to come see you at other times unless you want to allow them to do so any time during the day. There are parents that don’t understand you’re a professional. They don’t realize their child’s education is too important to tolerate interruptions.
Ask Parents to Help at Specific Times
One way to make parents feel needed is to have them help in the classroom at specific times. I know it sounds like inviting the enemy in, but a little compromise here goes a long way. For instance, a parent may be able to come into the classroom on Tuesday from 9:50 to 10:50. Give them tasks to do, even simple things like collating packets, prepping materials for art or science, typing, filing, or listening to students read aloud. They will appreciate being in the classroom, able to see what is going on in their child’s daily life.
It takes fortitude to be a teacher, and it’s not because of dealing with the students. Most teachers love children and have no problems setting boundaries and guidelines with them. With parents it’s harder to set those boundaries. But in order for you to have a successful year, it’s necessary.