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Even as a teacher, you dread it when you get told to come to the principal’s office.
“What did I do?” if often the first thought that goes through a teacher’s head.
While there’s a good chance you’ve done nothing wrong, you may have. We all make mistakes.
As an elementary principal and K-12 special education director, I saw firsthand some things teachers do that is upsetting to parents and makes them pick up a phone and call the principal. Those were not my favorite phone calls to handle, but often the conversations with teachers after the fact were even less pleasant.
That’s why I’m writing this blog post. I want you to learn 10 ways to keep parents from calling your principal!
Let’s get started.
1. Discipline Fairly
This is a biggie. If you constantly punish the entire class for the actions of one or a small group of students, your principal will get a phone call. Handle your problem student. Get help if you need it, but do not punish the entire class. Little Susie’s mom is going to get upset after Susie comes home crying every day for a week after she continues to get punished for something she did not do. It’s hard as a principal to take the teacher’s side on this one when it literally is happening every day.
2. Dress Appropriately
As a principal it is not fun to receive a phone call that a child has seen more of a teacher than he or she should have. If your school has a staff dress code, follow it. If they do not, make sure you are at least following the student handbook. If nothing else, cover what needs to be covered. Enough said.
3. Don’t Push Worksheets All Day
Worksheets and busy work gave me many phone calls as a principal. Yes, there is a time for a good old-fashioned printable, but your students should not be doing worksheets all day while you sit at your desk and grade them. That’s not a quality education, and parents know it.
4. Make Learning Fun
While we’re talking about not doing worksheets all day, make some of the learning fun. I know you can’t dance around and make every lesson 100% “fun” in the eyes of a kid – but if a student comes home day after day saying how much they hate school and want to quit, your principal will get a phone call. Make school fun. Give students something to look forward to!
5. Pay Attention
I realize as a teacher you can’t be everywhere at once, but if you’re neglecting your class on a regular basis – you’re going to have students take advantage of it. That’s when your principal’s phone will really ring off the hook. If you point blank tell me you don’t know what happened because you weren’t in the room, it’s hard for me to support you. Be aware of what’s going on, and don’t leave your class unattended!
6. Follow School Policy
Please follow school policy. There are parents who wait for the smallest things to call and complain about. I realize some policies may seem absurd, but there is a reason for each one. If there’s a policy you don’t like, ask for it to be amended or changed. Most schools look at these things at least once a year, and our school has always taken teachers’ recommendations into consideration.
7. Be Flexible
As a principal, I received many complaints because teachers were not willing to budge on anything. Whether it’s moving a test back one day or excusing a student from an art project – think about the long-term. Is that art project really going to hurt Johnny in his future academic career? Is moving a test back one day because the kids all went to a huge basketball game last night really a big deal? Be flexible (or at least understanding) and save your principal from getting phone calls that will entail talking to you as well.
This might be the #1 point in this article, even though I’ve put it toward the bottom. Communicate with parents and families! If a parent doesn’t know their child is failing until report cards come out, they’re going to be upset. Don’t just assume the parent is going online to check grades or getting the notes you are sending home. Make contact! Many of the phone calls I received as a principal were because parents felt that teachers did not do enough to communicate with them. Sometimes I knew the teacher had sent home newsletters, reminder notes, and e-mails so I was able to back up the teacher, but other times the teacher had many very little or no effort. It was easy to see the parent’s frustration in those times.
9. Respect People’s Time
Don’t be the teacher that calls a parent and then gabs on about nothing for 30+ minutes. Tell the parent or guardian the situation, and then get off the phone. Keep small talk to a minimum. We are all busy. Don’t make parents wait 30 minutes for you to be open during parent-teacher conferences when the signs all say conferences will be kept to 10 minutes or less. Respect people’s time or expect your principal to get a phone call complaining about you.
10. Hold High Expectations
I received phone calls on both ends of this one. One mom of a special needs child called me to say that staff was not pushing him enough. She knew he was capable of more but that he was buffaloing the staff. She was frustrated and I had to talk to the teachers about the issue.
Other parents called THANKING ME for certain teachers holding high, yet realistic expectations for kids – yes, parents went out of their way to call me for a GOOD THING.
Please do not take this that all parents are out to get you. That is simply NOT true! You can never 100% please every parent of the students in your classroom. But by following these ten tips, you are more likely to keep parents happy and not contacting your principal.
And please do not feel that your principal is going to take the parent’s side. There were many times where I simply told a parent that I knew for a fact the information they were telling me was incorrect. Children sometimes go home with only part of the story, and a good principal will be the first to have your back. But it can be hard to have your back if the principal is getting repeated complaints about similar situations or if you are doing something very wrong or negligent. I wrote this post with the hope of helping you learn and grow as an educator.
What else would you add to this list to keep parents from calling your principal?