My Message to Parents

 

All of us have had to deal with irate parents. The conversations I have are probably not too much different than the ones you have. Some are adult like in manner and end in an agreement to disagree. Some are not so adult. Some are downright ugly and mean.  When those conversations head south, there are always two different conversations going on in my head. One is what I know I have to say to the parent. The other conversation is what I WANT to say to the parent. I figure when I am retiring the second conversation may slip out. Until then I have to be content with writing about those things we wish we could say to our parents. Here are some of the things I wish I could say to our parents:

We are Human Too

This will not come as a shock to you, but it seems genuinely puzzling to parents. We are not perfect. We work hard, we make hundreds of decisions each day, we make judgment calls like we breath. The odds are good we are going to make a mistake. More than one on some days. We are not infallible. We do not purposely go out of our way to mess things up. However, not being perfect, we are going to make mistakes. We are going to get things wrong. It is human nature. I want to say parents sometimes, “Do you have a job? Are you Perfect at your job, everyday? then why would you expect us to be?” There is no need to dress us down because of it. We will adjust, do what we can to correct it and move forward. Please don’t hold it over our head for every conversation we have in the future.

We Do Not Control the Decision Making Process of students

One of my most irritating questions from parents is “why do you allow that type of behavior?” The truth is we don’t allow it. We don’t condone it. We don’t accept it. However, we didn’t make the decision to behave in an inappropriate manner, either. When you are dealing with 11 to 15 year olds, as any parent can tell you, there are going to be situations where the natural question is, “what were you thinking?” The answer of course is they weren’t. They were behaving like 13 year olds. I so badly want to say to parents, we didn’t tell them to behave that way. We did not encourage the behavior. We use it as a teachable moment, including consequences for their actions, and hope that they have learned a valuable lesson.

Decisions Cannot Be Made Based on One student

Or even a group of students. While I can fully appreciate that the sole role of parents is to protect and advocate for their particular child, my job is a little different. I have to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of 1357 middle school students, not just yours. I cannot give everyone everything they want and still run a functioning school that serves students to the best of our ability

We Have Limited Funds and Resources

This kind of ties in with the section above. I would love to offer six different World Languages, have five different art classes, allow students to choose any elective they want. But the truth of the matter is that I am limited (as you are) by a myriad of factors. Staffing, funding and space are just a few of these limitations. Parents need to understand that while I would love to accommodate everyone’s requests, the fact of the matter is that as a school we just can’t.

We Make Decisions Based on What We Feel is in the Best Interests of Kids…Period

I don’t know about you, but if I went on the recommendation of parents every child would be gifted, or at least deserve to be in Honors classes. While I am all for allowing students to have as many opportunities as is humanly possible, we owe it to the student to make sure we are looking at the facts and the data. I cannot in good conscience place a kid in an Honors class when they cannot pass the state test and teacher does not recommend them for that level. We do not want to set up students for failure. Some parents understand this, some don’t. It is our job to make sure we are striking that balance between doing what the parents want and what we know is the right thing to do.
The more I read over these, the more I think I am going to include them in my Back to School Night meeting with parents. Then again, maybe I will wait a few more years until I’m a little closer to retirement.

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
This entry was posted in Community Involvement, Middle School and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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