Teachers, coaches, parents and administrators each want the same thing as the school year begins: the best educational experience possible for students.
Reaching that nirvana isn’t always an easy thing. Any parent who is completely honest with herself or himself will admit there comes a time when they just want to give an educator a piece of their mind.
Does that sound nasty?
It doesn’t have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
Parents need to be involved with their child’s education, but like everything else, there can be a right way and a wrong way when it comes to voicing their concerns. Here are five tips from education professionals on how to have a meaningful discussion:
• If you have a complaint, don’t hold it in. Voice it. Teachers and principals should want to know when you believe your child hasn’t been treated properly. Some people think complaining may only make things worse, but that’s untrue. The vast majority of educators will give you a fair hearing if you approach them with respect.
• Decide in advance why you are complaining. Do you want something to happen as a result of your complaint, or are you just calling to rant? Avoid generalities. Have specific examples of what you believe are wrong. The person on the other end will be trying to figure that out, so say it up front.
• If you are angry, try to get over it before you call. Then, follow the normal rules of polite discourse. Don’t be abusive, don’t curse. Don’t interrupt and don’t try to intimidate. You likely won’t get the fair hearing your child deserves if you’re lugging a trunkful of attitude.
• Identify yourself and get to the point. Picture the person you’re contacting. Chances are he or she is very busy, even frazzled, with the many other duties of their job. Acknowledge your own bias. It’s perfectly human to have opinions, and they affect how you see the world.
• Have the courtesy to start your discussion with the teacher, coach or school official who is directly involved with your issue before taking your complaint to the next level. Listen to what they say with an open mind. If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, then take your complaint to a principal, superintendent or school board member. The same holds true if you aren’t treated respectfully and listened to.
The bottom line: Stay on the high road. Treat the person you are meeting with in the way you would like them to treat you.