Parents Just Don’t Understand…And Sometimes Neither Do We

Now, before you get all banged up by the title, take a deep breath. Because I do happen to think the misunderstanding goes both ways. (Gasp from the crowd here.) While I will ALWAYS stand up for teachers (A.LW.A.Y.S.), I also think that we teachers need to pause for a moment and think that maybe, just maybe we don’t always recognize where parents are coming from either. (There. I said it. What do you think of that?)

I’m not sure where this new found compassion and understanding is coming from. I’m not sure that many people would label me as “sweet” or “compassionate” when it comes to dealing with other adults. Maybe it’s my impending initiation into being a parent (Yes, you read correctly! Thanks for all of your well wishes thus far. I have the BEST FANS EVER!) Maybe it’s because I’m away from the classroom this year and my vision is therefore no longer clouded by visions of irate, entitlement fueled adults charging at me at 8:00 in the morning when really, I’m just trying to suck down as much of my crappy travel coffee as possible and get my friends upstairs in one piece.

You all know what I’m talking about, right? There are those parents who are perpetually pumped up with self-righteousness, copious amounts of caffeine and a healthy dose of my-child-could-not-possibly-have-done-what-you-are-saying-he/she-did-even-though-you-saw-it-with-your-own-eyes. Ah, let me take a moment and relish the memory. (Big inhale, even bigger sigh and small murmur of thank that my mornings are now usually only plagued by an overly loving cat who wants to lie on my lap/keyboard at all times despite my dissertation looming over me like a, well, an angry parent. Funny how it all comes full circle when you really think about it…). Back to the parents – clearly, those parents are not my fave. Even when they have a legit argument (which is usually 23% of the time if I really think about it), do they really think that creating a scene in front of children, yelling and/or writing a grammatically incorrect and hateful note is going to fix anything?

My grandma said you get more flies with honey, not steaming piles of shit thrown at other adults in the form of a verbal assault at 8 freaking o’clock in the morning.

I talked to one of my Super Colleagues last night. She is (in my mind) infamous for having insane amounts of patience with needy parents. INSANE. In my last couple of years, I did much better with parents and felt I developed much better methods of communication. In the spirit of Being More Positive in 2010, I’m going to share my favorite idea with you here. (All this sharing…it’s really out of control, isn’t it? And all the positivity…maybe this year it will really take.)

Okay, here goes. I think it’s one of my BEST (been forgetting about that Jan NaBloPoMo theme…I think my raging sinuses have taken over my brain.)

Positive (that’s right, I said POSITIVE) notes home.
Yeah, I said POSITIVE notes. I know I used to be guilty of only sending notes home when my blood pressure was pumping away which meant that some parents only got negativity from me. So much negativity in some cases. A couple of years ago, I got sick of it and realized some parents probably were too. I bought a cute pad of note paper (to differentiate a positive note from the less-than-positive notes that still went home from time to time….hey, sometimes you just need a note home!) In big fancy writing, I put the name of each child on the top of a page of pretty paper (mostly to check myself that I sent one home to EVERY kid at some point, even if my compliments were a bit of a stretch.) I used to pick a child, announce it to the class at the end of the day with the reasons why I chose that particular friend. I’d read my note home out loud to the class and then ask if anyone had anything to add. I’d add on the extra compliments, sign the note and present it to the beaming friend. During rough times, I did this at the end of every day, but usually it was a once a week kind of thing. Five minutes, no big deal but WORKED WONDERS..

How do I know it worked wonders? One day Big Boy, a friend who was one of my most challenging students EVER, actually earned himself a positive note home. As I read the note out loud to the class, he was so happy I thought he was going to pee himself right there. He took it from me as if I had just handed him a check for a million dollars (which is a lot for a kid who jammed everything from artwork to extra snacks to his homework folder to the bottom of his backpack with so much force that I was continuously amazed that the bottom of his backpack just didn’t give up. I know I wanted to from time to time.) That night, his mother who must have had my cell phone number on speed dial, called me crying. Crying. Her second grade son had never gotten a positive note, sticker, reward, anything. Did he come in the next day a new man? Not exactly, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

Cost of pad of fancy paper? $5.99. Cost of a new set of markers to write the note with? $3.49. Completing seven posts in seven days? Priceless.

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  • That's one of the strategies I always use and it works well for me.

    January 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm
  • I don't go back to work until tomorrow (planning day) and the kiddos come back Monday. All of your positive suggestions are actually making me feel a little excited though. I'm going to be trying some new things. Thanks for posting each day! I really enjoy it!!

    January 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm
  • Hi. I'm new to your blog – I am a 1st grade teacher. A friend of mine (who is a 5th grade teacher) suggested I read your FUNNY blog. So glad I did.

    I LOVE this post. What a great idea. I too send home "Oops Slips" when a child has oops … had a rough day.

    What a great idea (why didn't I THINK OF THIS?) to send home a positive note? I DID however call EVERY kid the 1st friday (after the 1st week of school) to tell them how excited I am to have them in my class – I thought that was saintly of me. Yes?!?

    Anyway, thanks for the idea – I'm going to start it!

    oxoxo Lisa

    January 7, 2010 at 6:44 pm
  • I am so with you. We used behavioral charts, and I'd be sure to make positive comments about the child's behavior.
    When did have to make phone calls about bad behavior, I'd be sure to preface it with something positive about the child.
    We have to be very careful about our wording.

    January 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm
  • First off, I love the blog makeover! So pretty. 🙂

    Whenever I am doing a positive behavior support plan with any of my students, I always add "positive call to parent" as one of the rewards. Dude, it's FREE. And if you use call-blocking, the parents will answer, and if you can get them not to hang up or have a panic attack through, "This is Dr. B, the school psychologist at your son's school," they just love it. I love the shock in their voices when you are calling for a good reason.

    Love the adaptation of writing kids names on the paper so you don't miss anyone!

    January 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm
  • I think we all enjoy receiving positive notes, regardless of our age. I actually write notes for my high school students as well, but I usually give them to the students instead of the parents. Either way, they are delighted and so thankful!

    January 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm
  • I guess I"m lucky most of my parents have email… I do this QUITE a bit since it's so quick and easy with email.

    January 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm
  • Nice.

    And you probably didn't know this, but smiling helps relieve the pressure in your sinuses…

    January 8, 2010 at 12:07 am
  • I smiled when I read your post because I wrote two positive notes home today! I'm student teaching and I wanted to try to get things off on a better foot. My students always get a letter/phone call home when they have poor behavior. It felt good just to write the letter, but I know the two students were shocked and elated that they would finally have something fantastic to share about their behavior at school…I will definitely keep this up!

    January 8, 2010 at 2:03 am
  • Thanks for putting this idea back in my mind. It is one I have used in the past, but somehow forget to bring it back. I like the idea of sharing it with the class and adding additional compliments. I love the positivity by the way, and the "purty" new blog!

    January 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  • Both of the schools that I work in (I am a 1/2 teacher at each school) have positive behavior systems. We are encouraged to contact 2 student's parents a week with a positive comment. I love it!

    January 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm
  • Love this idea… because who doesn't want to be recognized for a job well done? What cracked me up the most, though, was the "new set of markers to write the notes…" Because, and I say this without a trace of sarcasm, OF COURSE you have to have the new markers! That is our reward… 😀

    January 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm
  • During student teaching, we were required to send a positive note home to every student. I thought it was a great way for us to see what an impact it can have.

    Plus, if you do it early, you find the parents much more cooperative later.

    January 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm
  • I came across this slightly older post, and I had to comment that positive notes home were the only things that kept me from going off the deep end last year. Poor class placements from admin led to me having a boatload of kids with behavior problems. The negative notes were starting to feel awful and repetitive. I too, got a separate "cheery" pad of paper, and made sure to send home positive notes for the particularly challenging kids. It would really turn a bad day around in an instant, for both of us.

    August 6, 2010 at 5:56 pm
  • I'm definitely late to this party, but I wanted to say that I love reading your blog. In my quest towards more positivity, I started handing out pre-made slips of paper that said "writer of the day" or "reader of the day" or write out quick tickets for "partnership of the day". I would try to find an opportunity for those difficult students to get one of those slips.

    Thanks for the tip!

    September 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm

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