Respond

Responding to Ridiculous and Angry Parent Emails!

3 More Scenarios to Help You!

I  split this into two blog posts: 3 scenarios here and then the first 3 appeared in last week’s blog post, here.

The following scenarios are real situations that happened to me either this year or last year. I obviously changed the names, but the parts in quotes are literally taken right from the original emails I received. I didn’t include the entire emails from the parents; I only included the most focused lines to get the point across.

I did include my actual responses, and so you’ll notice a few things that remain consistent in each email:

I always think about what I want to say (but can’t) just to get it out of my system. Then I use that to very diplomatically reframe the actual problem and to make sure that I am not accepting blame for something that is not my fault.

All too often, we tend to apologize and bend over backwards and just take it when it is not our fault. I bring it back to the student or back to the parent in each situation, but in a way that isn’t rude and that won’t cause more trouble for me.

I always end each email with “Thank you for checking in with me. I’m happy to help!” I do this no matter the situation because I really am here to help. I’m not here to parent, I’m not here to accept blame for what parents should be doing or not doing, and I’m not here to “work for you.” I’m here to help. And I’m happy to help. Plus it’s always good to end on a positive note.

In five of the six scenarios, I either got a “thank you” response or no response at all. So I feel confident that these ideas will help you, too. If you want to read about what happened when I soooo did NOT get a good response, click here and read Scenario 2!

 Responding to Aggravated Parents in Ridiculous Situations

Scenario 4– Tremain hasn’t paid attention in class all year long and now his parents are asking when you can start tutoring him since the big state test is coming up.

What the parent wanted:

“I’m just terrified that he’s not going to pass this test and I’m upset that no one has done anything about tutoring him. I told him he is going to stay after school to get tutoring three times a week from now until the test day.”

What I wanted to say but didn’t:

Why is it that at this late point in the year you are basically demanding that I offer tutoring after school? Tutoring is something I do on my own time once a week for kids who legitimately need it. I decide who those kids are and what we work on. How dare you tell him and tell me that I will tutor three days a week for the next three weeks until the test! He’s never ever shown up for help on my normal tutoring day, even though I told you at the beginning of the year what they days and times are!

And what’s up with this expectation that I even HAVE to tutor at all? No one in any other profession does work for free on their own time. Why do you get to assume that as a teacher, I will? I’m sticking to my tutoring schedule because that’s MY free time and I’m not adding anything extra to it!

What I wrote in response to keep me off the news without totally selling my soul:

“Thank you for your concerns about Tremain’s progress in class. My tutoring schedule, as stated on my class website, is almost all year long on Wednesday mornings from 8:05 – 8:30 and Thursday afternoons from 4:15 – 4:45.  Tremain is always welcome to attend these sessions.

Thank you for checking in with me! I’m happy to help!”

Sincerely,

………………

The response: “He will be there each and every day starting tomorrow.” That’s it. That’s all she wrote. By the way, Tremain never showed up, not even once. Did I follow-up? Yes! I sent another email a week later with a copy of my tutoring pass attached to it just in case he needed another one (since I gave him two in class that very week and I have a whole stack of them sitting on a clipboard by the door). Hmm. We can only do so much.

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Scenario 5– The parents are trying to make it seem like Language Arts class is the only class Chloe is struggling in, but she’s actually struggling in all of her core classes.

What the parent wanted:

“She just hasn’t improved in your class the way she has in all his other classes. How will you make sure she starts showing progress?”

What I wanted to say but didn’t:

Ok. We’ve met already about this issue. She’s struggling because she’s not completing her assignments in class due to off-task behavior like braiding her hair and drawing unicorns. And don’t EVEN act like it’s just this class. Seriously? We know what her other grades are! She is spacey and “lost” and has no sense of work ethic or urgency. Your response last time we spoke was, “Yeah, that’s how she is… She’s the youngest, so… yeah…”

What do you expect when that’s the response you gave me? You’re obviously not doing anything at home as far as consequences! As a teacher, my hands are tied! I’m not allowed to write a referral for drawing unicorns! You’re going to have to step up and be the parent!!!

What I wrote in response to keep me off the news without totally selling my soul:

“As you are aware, Chloe simply does not pay attention or follow instructions in class, and I haven’t seen a change since the last time we met. She’s a very sweet girl and she’s always polite, but she seems to have her own agenda and like the princess pictures I showed you before that she was drawing in class, it’s now unicorns. Chloe is just not getting the information she needs to get from the course material, so that’s why she’s not progressing with her skills in the class.

I’m very concerned about how much she’s falling behind and the knowledge gaps that she’s creating for herself. If you’d like, we can set up a meeting with all her teachers to see if there’s something else we can do as a team to help her.

I know you said that Chloe is the youngest and that she’s always been like this, so maybe you can shed some light on what works at home so we can perhaps apply those same strategies here at school to get her re-focused.

Thank you for checking in with me. I’m happy to help!”

Sincerely,

……………..

The response: Not a word. No follow-up. Zilch.

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Scenario 6 -The parent accuses you of calling out his child in the middle of class and embarrassing him. The whole thing about quietly approaching him and whispering that he needs to please stop doing XYZ is a joke. That doesn’t work with him. You have to really do something big to even get his attention.

What the parent wanted:

“When you told Gavin to sit down and get back to work yesterday, it really embarrassed him. He’s sensitive. Don’t do that again in front of the other kids. Why would you want to humiliate a child by calling him out like that in front of everyone?”

What I wanted to say but didn’t:

First of all, I don’t have time to stop teaching and walk across the room and whisper in his ear. He’s causing major distractions in the middle of class and so he’s already drawing attention to himself. I don’t have time for this! Stop giving in to him! If he’s the least bit embarrassed, then maybe he’ll remember that and not do it again! That would be awesome! But he does this regularly! This whole embarrassment thing is BS! Plus, it’s not like I yelled it! I just said it aloud and then we all moved on! Too bad that’s all it took to make him pouty. I suppose THAT’S the excuse he gave you for why he didn’t get his work done? He was too embarrassed? Seriously?

What I said to keep me off the news without totally selling my soul:

“My intentions as a teacher are to work with students and to help them learn as much as possible to reach their full potential. It’s never to embarrass them.

I had already told Gavin yesterday to sit down and to stop flicking paper balls at another student, and I told him this as the other kids were coming into the room and getting situated, so one even knew I was talking to him.

Four minutes later when he stood up in the middle of the new bell ringer, I did say out loud that he had to sit down and get started because everyone else had already started and he still had not. I said this in a normal voice, and then I immediately moved on to call on another student who had the answer ready. We lost no class time over it and no one said anything else about it. I was not aware that there was any embarrassment.

Let me know if there’s something else going on that we need to address.

Thank you for checking in with me. I’m happy to help!”

Sincerely,

……………

The response: Three of his other teachers, plus me, all sat down at a parent conference later that week to discuss the many issues that are occurring in all of our classes. It turns out she sent the same email to all of us and she refuses to take responsibility for her son… He does not take any responsibility for himself, either. The meeting was pretty pointless and nothing was accomplished. It wasn’t a bad meeting, it was just a lot of denial and “I just don’t know what to do with him” type stuff. That was that. Nothing changed in class.

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Ok, so this is the end of the two-part blog series about angry and ridiculous parent emails. It’s a never-ending battle between teachers and (crazy) parents, but it’s important to remember that, no matter how loony, those parents do love their children (in their own way… just sayin’). 

And by the way… You know what really helps me after a frustrating parent conference or after receiving a ridiculous email? (Here’s the answer) It really helps me to take just five minutes and email the parent of a really good kid to let them know that I enjoy having him or her in class and that I’m always here to help or to answer questions.

Good people really appreciate that, and they tend to be the ones to never ask for anything, either. It’s nice to put yourself out there for those people and to go home with positive parent contact on your mind rather than something else much less positive. 

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