Podcast Season 2, Episode 37: Difficult Parents: My Take

Read through this before watching above.  This week, the content is distinctly different from each other, and complimentary.


I want to start by acknowledging that my perspective is one of privilege.  I have the privilege of knowing I am never “stuck” with any particular teacher or school or even school district.  If after reading and listening you have a different conclusion, I support you 100%!


I’ve gotten and heard a lot of questions lately about whether or not a parent should write a letter at the start of the year to the new teacher, or if the parent should say something to a teacher who is, in some way, not doing right by their kid.


My answer is almost always: yes!  Say something!


For over 15 years I worked as a “resource”/Specialized Academic Instruction/Special Education teacher in public schools.  I often saw both sides of what happens when a parent is dubbed “difficult”.  


“Difficult parents” were often somewhat feared.  They seemed unpredictable.  They might take the school to court and that would be costly, so we better pay attention!


This fear of the parents led some teachers to sugarcoat everything and give better grades than earned just to keep the parent happy.  However, the teachers also were very aware of the legal responsibilities they had toward these kids.  They knew they really had to follow the IEP for those kids!


The kids wound up usually getting all the things they needed, with maybe a little less affection from the teacher.  However, they may not have gotten that affection anyway.  Afterall, their learning differences make them a bit difficult (in the eyes of some teachers).


I also saw parents who never said anything to teachers.  They sent their child to school and they signed the IEP papers without question and didn’t say anything if the IEP wasn’t followed.


Now, in those schools, I was the one who was doing my best to notice who needed reminders to implement all accommodations for all kids.  But parents sometimes find out things I am not aware of.  If they wait for the IEP to say something, months may have been lost.  


My priority is to be sure the teacher knows and implements the IEP fully, ensuring the best possible education for that child in that class that year.  If having an occasional note from a parent to make that happen is necessary, I’m all for it!


I also want to point out that MOST teachers don’t mind letters/emails/notes, as long as the tone is kind.


And that’s the biggest thing I want you to focus on.  Not whether or not to send the note, but how to word the note so that you are coming from a place of kind curiosity, assuming the best of the teacher.


99% of the teachers I’ve met love teaching, love kids, and want to do the best they can for every kid on their roster (and a lot of bonus kids too!).  They are overworked and stressed out. 


Assume that if they aren’t implementing an IEP accommodation for your child that they simply forgot and need a gentle reminder.  


Assume that if they are approaching your child’s education with outdated methods, they just haven’t had the time and mental energy to learn the latest research and update their methodology.


If you are afraid of wording something wrong to the teacher, a phone call often works better than an email to get the gentle tone across.  Just don’t stay on the phone too long! Teachers are BUSY!  


A Starbucks delivery wins most teachers over.  (Or almost any gesture of appreciation; the more personalized the better)


And sometimes contacting the case carrier to approach the teacher on your behalf works the best, especially if you are feeling a bit heated about what is going on.  You can also reach out to a principal or other administrator.  Once you’ve met everyone, you’ll likely know the best person to turn to with your concerns.


All of these episodes are designed to be super helpful to you! 
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If there is anything you'd like to see an episode about, email me your suggestions at Kimberlynn@DecodingLearningDifferences.com.
Decoding Learning Differences