Today I have an outside consultant coming in to assess a student. This visit is a result of a ‘litigate first, ask questions later’ attitude that seems to be more common than it used to be.
Now that I have been in the classroom for a number of years, I have observed a handful of families who have deleterious relationships with the school district. These parents view the school district as an enemy and act accordingly.
This is as baffling. If parents feel that the ‘district’ is corrupt and incompetent, how can they possibly trust us with their child for up to 40 hours a week?
And yet, these parents continue to send their kids. They complain and they demand and they litigate and they get other parents riled up…but their kids keep coming. Interestingly, these parents are often quite pleasant to the classroom teacher. They even make conversations feel conspiratorial, as if we are on their side in their fight against THE DISTRICT.
The problem is always THE DISTRICT.
THE DISTRICT wouldn’t give my son an iPad.
THE DISTRICT allowed my son to fail his math class even though they were supposed to give him 1:1 support.
It is all the big bad DISTRICT’S fault. And THE DISTRICT is easy to hate because it is more of an idea than a group of actual people.
This isn’t to say that THE DISTRICT never makes a mistake. However, I think it is reasonable to assume that school staff generally makes an effort to do what is best for students.
Although some relationships have suffered irreparable damage, others may be salvageable. I think there are three things you can do to try and start the healing process:
- Reestablish trust. –Call when you say you will, follow through on your plans and promises, and adhere to the student’s IEP. Make sure you honestly listen (don’t just hear), consider, and respond to parent concerns and requests.
- Be clear, transparent, and honest through constant communication—If the student had a bad day, let the parent know. Similarly, share student successes whenever you can. Give constant feedback relating to student progress including things that are working and things that aren’t. Honestly seek feedback from the parent on how to improve your interventions—remember, they know the student best!
- Make a human connection.—Don’t communicate exclusively through email. Tone and information can be easily misconstrued through text. Invite the parents to come in to meet. Encourage them to attend conferences. Call home to celebrate a success or openly discuss an issue. When THE DISTRICT becomes more about people than an idea, parents tend to soften up a bit.
If parents have pitted themselves against THE DISTRICT, then we can’t truly be part of a team together. The person who suffers the most from this broken relationship is the student. Parents and THE DISTRICT must mend these relationships in order to do what is best for students!