Thursday, June 11, 2015

Parents Vs. Teacher: Discipline, How Do We Fix This?

As a teacher, you need parents to back you up. 

When you are trying to teach your student, their child, to follow directions and not back talk, roll their eyes, or cause a disruption, you need the parent to understand the situation and support the actions of the teacher to correct the student's behavior.

When this doesn't happen and the parents are upset at how things are handled with their child, a rift forms between the school from the administration level, who will defend the teacher, to the student's level, who comes to school with snarky remarks about how they were rewarded at home and their parents hate the teacher or school.

The student may learn to threaten the teacher with their parents' intrusion, misbehave in a way to get the administrator's attention either as a way to 'punish' the teacher, or as a way to simply get attention and have a story to tell the parents at home.

The bottom line is doing what is best for the student. The student cannot back talk adults. The student cannot go to the administration office every time they feel like it, because the teacher is 'driving them crazy'. There are rules. Those rules promote a respect-filled classroom and lead to a respect-filled adulthood for any boss in any future career.

What should the teacher do?

1. Promote positive discipline strategies. Get your administration on board, share your concerns, have a plan in place, then begin implementing a reward system. You may already have one, but it needs changed for this one student. Be visual, collect concrete data, reward with tangible objects. Give stickers, check marks that collect to earn a prize, behavior dollars, whatever the student and parent can see. If the student doesn't earn a reward, be specific as to why. Tell the student exactly what you expect. "You did not complete your work. I cannot give you a sticker for completing your work. I do like how you kept trying!"

2. Don't begin a bargaining war. "If you just do one more, then you can get a reward." Once you set the guidelines you HAVE to follow them.

3. Collect Data. Collect data on missed homework, behavior, or the behaviors specific to the parent's concerns. If Johnny or Susie did not get a sticker for three periods in a row, write down why and keep this data close at hand. If the parent wants to see their child's behavior chart data, show them. If a child has a meltdown, write out a description of the entire event. If possible, as it is happening with every word and every action, but if not, try to write down an account as soon as possible so it is fresh in your mind.

What Can Parents Do?

1. Establish clear communication with the teacher. Get all sides of the story. Perhaps the child is playing both sides of the field. Maybe the teacher is not using an effective strategy. Email the teacher frequently. Ask for a behavior chart to go home. Call, write, or even text. Programs like Engrade have an email feature built in, so when you check your child's grades, you can send a note to the teacher.

2. Give suggestions for effective strategies. You know your child, Ask for data, ask for a reward system. Work with the teacher to resolve issues. You can't expect miracles, but you can expect informed changes to be made.

3. Ask your child to give you specific examples. If all they can say is 'the teacher drives me crazy' or 'the teacher hates me', get more information. Was the child misbehaving? Did they get caught when a friend actually started it? Were they paying attention to the lesson? Did they talk back? What was actually said? Document it in an email query. Get to the bottom of it.

But as a teacher, please parents, if your child says they are upset because they didn't earn a reward, don't go out and buy that reward for them. Pacifying children this way reinforces their misbehavior at school and undermines the teacher's work. The reward is no longer appealing and therefore the student has no reason to behave in class.

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