Posted on June 19, 2019 | By Alexa Randell
13th Jun 2019
Before starting a new year, your thoughts will probably be occupied with meeting your new students. It’s unlikely you’re thinking of meeting the parents of your students. However, depending on the type of school and the type of parents, you may be seeing them more often than you think!
Hopefully, you’ll mostly be receiving positive feedback from students but there is a chance you’ll meet some parents with questions or concerns. And occasionally, you may meet a downright difficult parent! These are our tops tips for working with your TEFL students’ challenging parents.
Build a rapport with parents
At the beginning of the year, set a good stead with your parents by appearing approachable, friendly, but with an air of authority. Showing that you have an authoritative approach will gain the parents respect as the majority of time they are expecting you to be able to control their children and for them to be able to learn. In addition, to help build rapport praise good things their children do to show that you care and that the parents are involved and contacted consistently not just when a problem may arise.
Communicate throughout the year
It can be normal for teachers not to communicate with parents until the end of the year when reports are written, and Parents’ Evenings are happening. If there have been problems with a student’s behaviour or ability to keep up with the work and this hasn’t been mentioned previously, you can expect bringing this up on Parents’ Evening to open up a can of worms. But if the parents are made aware early on, there won’t be any sudden surprises at the end of the year.
Instead of leaving this kind of feedback to the last minute, you should communicate this with parents throughout the year. The same goes for giving positive feedback – if a child is doing particularly well in a class, make sure to mention this to their parents throughout the year. If you don’t speak the same language as your students’ parents, you can ask a local colleague to pass on this feedback to parents for you. And where possible, keep a record of communication between parents and yourself to reference if needed.
Arrange a meeting
Invite parents to a meeting to discuss any issues that have arisen in class. Communicating face-to-face lets you get the point across more easily and also allows you to discuss the matter there and then. Electronic communication can easily lead to angry comments and miscommunication.
Involve the Director of Studies
Always make sure the Director or Head of Studies is aware of any problems arising with students or issues in the classroom. Before communicating with the parents directly, seek advice from them for the next steps. It is likely that each school will have different policies and procedures in regards to communication with parents. If you do arrange a meeting with the parents, ask the director to sit in with you to mediate.
If you do have a meeting with parents, always greet the parents politely and shake hands – or whatever else is considered a polite greeting locally. Establish your authority in the matter but listen to what the parents have to say and their reasons for why they are unhappy. Try to show you are listening by maintaining eye contact or nodding along. (How you show that you’re listening may differ in different countries, so make sure to do your research first. For example, too much eye contact is considered rude in many places in Asia.) Make sure that the parents are aware that you’re not trying to punish their child deliberately and that you want the best for their child. If you work at a language centre, always ask parents how their child is doing in their normal school, as you will tend to find that often behaviour or level problems can be happening within their every day school as well. This can help the parents to be more accepting of any issues raised.
Stand your ground
Telling a parent their children is misbehaving or isn’t up to the level of the class will usually go two ways. They will either agree or they will act defensively.
Even if the parents do agree that their child is naughty, lazy or disruptive, they may expect you as a teacher to be able to control this in class and that this responsibility doesn’t fall onto their shoulders. This can be a tricky situation to deal with but finding things you agree on can help you to make your point clearly and allow them to know there will be only a certain amount of disruption you will tolerate from their child.
If the parents act defensively, they may say that you can’t be possibly be talking about their child because (in their minds) they’re perfect! Of course, this is only natural, and no parent wants to hear negative things about their child. This is why you have to present clear evidence and have consistent communication throughout the year to back up your comments. Don’t let the parents manipulate you into thinking you have made a mistake and back down, make sure you are well prepared with evidence and examples!
Don’t go around in circles
Unfortunately, sometimes you may find that you’re not getting anywhere with the parents and you’re not going to come to an agreement on a way to move forward. No matter how trying parents can get, make sure you always keep your cool and know when the conversation is over. Don’t keep going around in circles if they are unwilling to listen and accept your comments. If the Director of the school is not present, let them know you will follow up with the Director and that he or she will be in touch directly with how to proceed from the meeting.
If you’re new to teaching and wondering what you’re getting yourself into, it’s really important to remember that problems with parents are rare! The majority of parents are cooperative and keen to help you give their child the best education possible. In fact, more often than not, at the end of the year you’ll receive a gift or card from parents thanking you for teaching their child rather than any negative feedback!
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