Tips For Parents (To Defeat Your Child's Teacher)
I’m often amazed at the interactions I have with parents. By and large they let me off WAY too easy. Most tend to be focused on their child and what’s best for them in the long run, with each of us assuming the other to be relatively competent and doing the best they can with the time and resources at their disposal. Some of them have actually become Facebook or Twitter friends, so I see pictures of their dogs and family vacations. We’re not moving in together or anything, but it’s generally been warm and fuzzy and one of the reasons I love my job.
In other words, parents – you’re doing this all wrong.
Allow me to draw on 15+ years of experience in my district and working with teachers around the region to help you maximize your effectiveness when advocating for your child with teachers or the school. These are tricks and tips that other educators don’t want you to know, because they’ll give YOU the upper hand in defeating ‘the system’.
Feel free to bring this list with you to meetings or hearings, but do me a favor and leave off any identifying titles, will you? I don’t want them to know I’ve violated The Code.
Tips for Talking to Your Child’s Teachers
1. Don’t talk to your child’s teachers. Why waste your time on the underlings when a little research allows you to directly contact the District Superintendent, Director of Curriculum, Assistant Director of Operations, and whatever an ‘Elementary and Secondary Compliance Manager’ is? Express your outrage and make sure they know WHO YOU ARE (i.e., someone far more important than whatever else is taking up their time and energy).
No one gets to these lofty positions without understanding that most of the people they’ve hired along the way are incompetent and screwing over kids like yours. A few paragraphs elaborating on this fact will form a bond of sorts between you - facilitating their cooperation and perhaps leading to a special meeting fast-tracking your concerns. They probably don’t have much else to do anyway – I mean, it’s not like they teach or anything, right?
2. Avoid including anyone in your correspondence who might actually know your child or the circumstances which prompted your concerns. Nothing complicates matters faster than having all concerned parties in the same room at the same time, sorting out whatever triggered your outrage. Possible allies include building principals (be careful, though – they sometimes ask the teacher for their input on these things), friends who know or are related to teachers, or – best of all – other parents. You wanna know why your child couldn’t turn in that work after the due date? Ask while thirty villagers wielding torches and pitchforks swell behind you and see how THAT improves ‘communication’.
3. Keep in mind that your child is holy, and has the wide and balanced perspective of the very best 13-year olds. Sure, she makes you crazy at home with her whining and complaining. Yeah, he does tend to pretend he honestly didn’t know he had to take the trash out again THIS Thursday, just like the past hundred Thursdays. But once out of your sight, they are your sacred charges to defend and protect at all cost – reality be damned. It is inconceivable that your child under any circumstances would present things in such a way as to cover their own behind. And the suggestion s/he may perceive reality through the lens of a hormonal or genuinely confused teenager from time to time? Inconceivable.
4. Conversely, assume any teacher who holds your child to any standards at all is incompetent, unreasonable, and personally out to get your darling. Come on – if they were THAT smart, they wouldn’t be teaching, right? The only reason someone remotely qualified in their field would avoid getting a REAL job and spend the day dealing with parents like yourself is their love of ruining young people’s lives. Yes, you signed the syllabus with all of those silly ‘policies’ and ‘expectations’ in it, but surely it was understood those were for OTHER people’s kids. Your goal should remain unwavering: to instill in your child the permanent conviction that rules and standards are for those around them (‘under them’, if we’re being honest). Your baby is different – always. They’re the exception – always.
5. On that note, let’s not forget who this is really about – your child. There’s always someone out there trying to drive you apart from your baby, spreading their maliciously smooth rhetoric about development, maturity, and taking on personal responsibility. Fine. One day, maybe. But NOT today, and not in High School, or College, or those first few Nobel-worthy careers, or planning your dream wedding, or in that first marriage, or –
The point is, maybe one day your baby WILL have to handle things by him/herself. How much more important, then, that you model for them NOW the value of outrage, of accusation, of stubborn refusal to compromise, or even really listen, and of disparaging all who oppose you to their peers and anyone else who will listen? We in the teacher business call these ‘life skills’. Should your child ever, God forbid, face adversity or confusion or frustration in college, or at the workplace, or in their relationships, they’ll know to circle the wagons and dig in! I can’t hear you, nah nah nah nah! Nothing says ‘promotion’ or ‘devotion’ like shrieking accusations and personal attacks.
You think reality TV rules the airwaves because those people are BAD examples? Think again, Mrs. I’d-Rather-Read-A-Book.
6. Exploit weakness. Every time a teacher bends a policy to accommodate you, or an administrator responds with more than five words to your eleven page email of demands and complaints, it’s a sign you’re winning. A weaker parent would appreciate the gesture and back down – they’d “compromise.” Don’t fall for it. You’ve got your inch; double down and grab that ell.
7. Finally, teachers and most everyone else up the chain of command are always busy, often to the point of being overwhelmed – especially late in the year. Use this to your advantage. The longer your emails, the more you can drag out the meetings, and the more people up and down the ladder you can get involved, the better. At some point chances are good they’ll give up fighting for your child’s academic soul and simply give you what you want to shut you up acknowledge your correctness. They know this only increases the chance that you or those in your circle of influence will repeat the process every time you’re bored or frustrated or that fool Bachelor gives the wrong trollop a rose, but still they weaken.
Even better, word will get around to avoid any real standards or expectations regarding your child – it’s just not worth the costs, especially with 150 other kids who need our help, our best lesson planning, our most creative adjustments, and our well-rested, back-in-perspective attention. You’ll have won, and your child will be safe – at least until some foolish, idealistic educator slips and treats them just like everyone else again.
That’s OK, though. You’ll know what to do.
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