Maintaining Professionalism in the Face of Hostility: An Educator’s Advice for dealing with Angry Parents
Maintaining professionalism while connecting effectively with parents and students should be an educator’s top priority. A teacher cannot empower students by swearing at them and minimizing their potential. A teacher cannot become irate at parents and still provide assurance to them that their children are in good hands. These kinds of outburst are counter-productive and result in loss of professional and academic reputation.
The qualities needed to maintain professionalism includes a good sense of morality, dignity, patience, self-confidence and interpersonal abilities.
Morality is the ability to make the right choices in decisive moments. For example, if a student in the classroom throws a book at you out of anger, you are strong enough to keep your composure, even though you will need to respond to such an act. You have a choice of getting out of the way, seeking help from the front office or scoring a knockout on the student. The latter will undoubtedly put you in hot water, perhaps resulting in loss of a job as well as producing a hefty lawsuit.
Loss of dignity is a bad break for an educator (or any professional). Wherever you go, that loss of dignity, during an explosive moment, follows you. It doesn’t matter how much you have achieved or accomplished in the past. Many employers are narrow-minded, only seeing the highlights of your track record, whether those highlights are good or bad. Most of the time, one negative highlight will outshine the positive things you have achieved. For example, let’s take a convict who has been recently released from prison. Suppose this convict has been completely rehabilitated. He has prospered in prison by educating himself and has mastered the craft of cooking. When he gets out he fills out a thousand applications, goes on a few interviews, but still doesn’t get the nod for a job after two years. This is how the loss of dignity can affect you as a professional educator.
As professionals, a good dose of patience with students and parents protects us from losing our dignity. Patience is able to bare the brunt of angry slurs from parents and students. Although we may be boiling on the inside, we are aware that anger against anger is an unpredictable combination. We also know that it is the teacher’s responsibility to demonstrate professionalism under these circumstances. By remaining patience during heated exchanges, we not only show parents that we are committed to the academic success of their children, but we also act as a good role model to the child. We demonstrate respect for the concerns of their parents.
Self-confidence along with the interpersonal abilities to make parents aware of your vision for the social and academic success of their children is an undeniable gift of communication. Constant connections with parents, whether or not the occasion is bad or good, has the potential to strengthen collaboration in fostering the growth and academic achievement of a child. Teachers and parents working close together remain a potent combination against poor academic achievement. However, to create this kind of relationship, you as a professional educator, must inform parents of the successes of their children as well as their failures. Parents do not always want to hear the negative things regarding their children, but the positive as well. If we can find ways to give parent more of the positive, they can bare the negative. Emphasizing the positive shows our confidence in a child’s ability to achieve.
Opportunities exist throughout the school year for educators to demonstrate their professionalism, including conducting conferences with disgruntled parents as well as conferences with irate students. If you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these intense confrontations, your first response is to take charge of your feelings and maintain calmness. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their accusations as if what they are claiming happened to their child had happened to your child. You don’t have to actually have children to perform this. Just use your imagination regarding someone close to you, such as a niece or nephew. Practicing this response shows that you are empathic and concerned about the issue the parent is bringing to you.
Don’t try to outright contradict a parent as if they are lying about an issue. Calmly, let them know that you didn’t perceive it that way. Patiently, tell them that you are committed to resolving the problem, but that cannot happen unless the present situation settles down. If the parent or student doesn’t stand down, then you must be strong enough to reject the abuse, walk away or direct the parent to the administrative office. As an educator or a professional, you don’t have to be an open rug, on which an unreasonable parent can wipe off his or her feet. Instead, let them know with integrity, that you are willing to discuss the matter another time, when there is potential for decent communication.