Now, before you get all banged up by the title, take a deep breath. Because I do happen to think the misunderstanding goes both ways. (Gasp from the crowd here.) While I will ALWAYS stand up for teachers (A.LW.A.Y.S.), I also think that we teachers need to pause for a moment and think that maybe, just maybe we don’t always recognize where parents are coming from either. (There. I said it. What do you think of that?)
I’m not sure where this new found compassion and understanding is coming from. I’m not sure that many people would label me as “sweet” or “compassionate” when it comes to dealing with other adults. Maybe it’s my impending initiation into being a parent (Yes, you read correctly! Thanks for all of your well wishes thus far. I have the BEST FANS EVER!) Maybe it’s because I’m away from the classroom this year and my vision is therefore no longer clouded by visions of irate, entitlement fueled adults charging at me at 8:00 in the morning when really, I’m just trying to suck down as much of my crappy travel coffee as possible and get my friends upstairs in one piece.
You all know what I’m talking about, right? There are those parents who are perpetually pumped up with self-righteousness, copious amounts of caffeine and a healthy dose of my-child-could-not-possibly-have-done-what-you-are-saying-he/she-did-even-though-you-saw-it-with-your-own-eyes. Ah, let me take a moment and relish the memory. (Big inhale, even bigger sigh and small murmur of thank that my mornings are now usually only plagued by an overly loving cat who wants to lie on my lap/keyboard at all times despite my dissertation looming over me like a, well, an angry parent. Funny how it all comes full circle when you really think about it...). Back to the parents – clearly, those parents are not my fave. Even when they have a legit argument (which is usually 23% of the time if I really think about it), do they really think that creating a scene in front of children, yelling and/or writing a grammatically incorrect and hateful note is going to fix anything?
My grandma said you get more flies with honey, not steaming piles of shit thrown at other adults in the form of a verbal assault at 8 freaking o’clock in the morning.
I talked to one of my Super Colleagues last night. She is (in my mind) infamous for having insane amounts of patience with needy parents. INSANE. In my last couple of years, I did much better with parents and felt I developed much better methods of communication. In the spirit of Being More Positive in 2010, I'm going to share my favorite idea with you here. (All this sharing...it's really out of control, isn't it? And all the positivity...maybe this year it will really take.)
Okay, here goes. I think it's one of my BEST (been forgetting about that Jan NaBloPoMo theme...I think my raging sinuses have taken over my brain.)
Positive (that's right, I said POSITIVE) notes home.
Yeah, I said POSITIVE notes. I know I used to be guilty of only sending notes home when my blood pressure was pumping away which meant that some parents only got negativity from me. So much negativity in some cases. A couple of years ago, I got sick of it and realized some parents probably were too. I bought a cute pad of note paper (to differentiate a positive note from the less-than-positive notes that still went home from time to time....hey, sometimes you just need a note home!) In big fancy writing, I put the name of each child on the top of a page of pretty paper (mostly to check myself that I sent one home to EVERY kid at some point, even if my compliments were a bit of a stretch.) I used to pick a child, announce it to the class at the end of the day with the reasons why I chose that particular friend. I'd read my note home out loud to the class and then ask if anyone had anything to add. I'd add on the extra compliments, sign the note and present it to the beaming friend. During rough times, I did this at the end of every day, but usually it was a once a week kind of thing. Five minutes, no big deal but WORKED WONDERS..
How do I know it worked wonders? One day Big Boy, a friend who was one of my most challenging students EVER, actually earned himself a positive note home. As I read the note out loud to the class, he was so happy I thought he was going to pee himself right there. He took it from me as if I had just handed him a check for a million dollars (which is a lot for a kid who jammed everything from artwork to extra snacks to his homework folder to the bottom of his backpack with so much force that I was continuously amazed that the bottom of his backpack just didn't give up. I know I wanted to from time to time.) That night, his mother who must have had my cell phone number on speed dial, called me crying. Crying. Her second grade son had never gotten a positive note, sticker, reward, anything. Did he come in the next day a new man? Not exactly, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.
Cost of pad of fancy paper? $5.99. Cost of a new set of markers to write the note with? $3.49. Completing seven posts in seven days? Priceless.