Receiving complaints from parents can be stressful and make you lose confidence in yourself, especially if they’re leaked to other parents or fellow teachers. Worse yet is when a parent goes over your head and complains to your principal.
The best way to handle parent complaints is to listen politely, and then take action. Fix their problem, allay their fears, and do whatever you need to do in order to restore their confidence in you and your program.
Teachers who bristle and become defensive when a parent questions their teaching practices are making a mistake. If they’re not careful, they’ll find themselves in a protracted battle they can never really win.
Your reputation in your school community is critical and is never worth tarnishing, regardless of how “right” you may feel. Parents want you to do well, and it’s best to treat them like valued customers.
Still, it never feels good to hear from a dissatisfied parent. The best strategy, then, is to never give them a reason to complain in the first place. What follows is a list of eight ways to eliminate parent complaints forever.
1. Send a parent information packet home the second week of school detailing your classroom management plan, homework policy, and restroom procedure. Most complaints come from these three. Make the information contained in your packet clear-cut and simple to read. The reading time should be no longer than ten minutes. Send it after a full week or more of teaching the information to your students.
2. Include a signature slip at the bottom of the last page of your packet. Ask in the cover letter that both the student and his or her parent(s) sign the slip. It should read, “We have read, understood, and discussed Room 22’s parent information packet.” Use a dotted line and clear instructions that the slip must be signed, detached, and sent back to school. The parent, then, keeps the packet for reference. Allow your students a few days to return the signed slips, and then file them in a safe place.
3. At back-to-school night, thoroughly review the parent information packet and allow a Q&A period to clear up any areas of confusion. Tell your parents exactly under what circumstances you will contact them. Many complaints start out with, “I didn’t know this about my daughter” or “Why didn’t you let me know my son did this?” No one likes to be surprised.
4. Send home progress reports once a month. Use a simple form, a half sheet of paper you fill out for each student. You can make it a checklist if you wish. Just give parents the facts. Include number of time-outs, homework misses, and any poor test grades. Only write comments if they’re needed. Progress reports take little time to fill out and are so worth the effort. Require the reports to be signed and returned within a couple of days. Then file them for future reference.
5. Be an open classroom. Invite parents to visit any time and have chairs set aside for visitors. Don’t worry, they won’t barge in. Few will take you up on your offer. It’s the thought that’s important. It shows you care and appreciate their involvement. It’s the teachers who prefer to teach behind closed doors who find themselves in the cross hairs of unhappy parents.
6. Don’t yell, use put downs, or sarcasm. Besides creating tension, these hurtful methods don’t work in the long run and virtually guarantee that you will, at some point, receive complaints. And these types of complaints are especially embarrassing and nearly impossible to answer. Instead, follow your classroom management plan to the letter.
7. Use a simple homework policy. Make sure it doesn’t require parents to do anything except supervise from a distance. Too many students take homework home they don’t fully understand, and parents are left to teach it to them. One of the keys to getting homework back each day is to assign only what students have proven they understand. Homework is between you and your students. Parents shouldn’t have to get involved.
8. Make sure your students enjoy being in your class. Happy students equal happy parents.
Follow these eight strategies and you will effectively complaint proof your classroom. I guarantee it. If you answer probable complaints proactively, you won’t get any.
Thanks for reading.
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