Emails that are filled with threatening statements, hostile and tense parent teacher conferences and warnings from previous teachers about "that student's family" are just some of the classic signs of overly aggressive parents that are often abusive and hostile toward their child's teacher.
It is critical in these situations that teachers establish clear boundaries and guidelines for communication with these types of parents early in the school year and stick to these rules throughout the year. Unfortunately far to many teachers absorb this type of abuse. In doing so they inadvertently empower these hostile parent to continue their pattern of unacceptable behavior. Here are three tips to help manage these types of parent relationships:
1. Address the issue immediately. Teachers need to speak with their building principal as soon as threatening or abusive communication comes across their desk via email, phone call or a note sent in with the child. Your response, or lack of, teaches parents what they can get away with. A coordinated response should be developed with the principal to let the parent know the commuication is inappropriate and will not tolerated. Basic respect is NOT negotiable and failure to do so will result in the school administration taking action.
2. Document. Keep good notes and maintain a chronology of events. While rare; some threats and insults can rise to the level of police involvement. I have made preemptive phone calls many times as a police officer to a parent and advised them of what charges may occur if their behavior continues. Generally the behavior has significantly changed after such a call.
3. Clearly define methods and times that parental communication is appropriate. Getting yelled at by a parent the next morning when they are angry that you did not return their email with a home work question sent at 9:30pm the night before is not acceptable. At the beginning of the year teachers should define the best modes of parental communication and the appropriate times. For example: "Parents who have questions about homework or other materials sent home should feel free to email me or call the school during the regular school day. I check my email Monday-Friday periodically between the hours of 7am and 7pm. I return calls between 3:30-4:30pm Monday-Friday after the students have gone home for the day. Looking forward to working with you and your child this school year!"
Teachers have a tough enough job without being abused or insulted by hostile parents. I hope these practical tips help make their upcoming school just a little more manageable. This is John Baker with safetysolutions4schools.com.