November 6, 2015

How to Cope with a Disrespectful Parent

Advice from Real Teachers Series

How to Cope With a Disrespectful Parent - Advice from Real Teachers post on Corkboard Connections
We've all been there, so if this happens to you, don't be caught off guard! Imagine that a parent of one of your students accosts you in your classroom or in the hallway after school and begins verbally attacking you ... and you are so stunned that you just stand there, completely tongue-tied! You know you shouldn't allow another adult to speak to you in such a disrespectful way, but you have no idea how to respond in a professional manner or how to prevent it from happening again.

A few weeks ago I posted a question on Facebook that had been submitted by "Lynn," a new teacher who wanted to know how to handle this situation. Here's what she wrote:

"The parent of two of my students is being completely inappropriate in her communication with me. She is harassing, called me names, and cussed. She questions every grade given to her children and takes it upon herself to tell me how to teach. She is also a teacher at another school district. Did I mention that this is a private Catholic school? I am getting very little support from my principal, but my mentor teacher is very supportive. Any suggestions on how to get this parent to back off? I am a first year teacher, and I have been told she causes a problem every year with one teacher or another. What can you do when administration will not put a stop to harassing parents?"

Advice for Coping with a Disrespectful Parent
When I shared Lynn's question with the followers of Teaching Resources, I knew that it was a tough one, and I wondered if anyone would be able to offer helpful advice. So I was astounded to see that over 140 fellow educators responded with some terrific and very detailed suggestions! You can read her question and all the suggestions here on Facebook. Normally I shared 15 or 20 ideas here on my blog, but there were so many suggestions that were filled with helpful details that I'm only going to share three examples and you can read the others on your own.
  • Mary Hurst - I'm not sure how things are handled in private school, but please make sure that you keep evidence of every conversation that you have with her. Print your emails and keep them in a folder, document every conversation in a file and keep both hard copies and computer files, etc. You may need them in order to get her to back off. I'm not sure where you are, but you might be able to file legal charges against her if it continues. You may have to tell your Principal that you will pursue that option if the harassment doesn't stop. I sure hopt hings get better.
  • Ginger Henderson - I had a similar situation, although I had support from my administration. I stopped all communication with the parent. I would read whatever the mother or father would send in, but my I did not respond. If it was an email, I'd reply with something like "thank you for letting me know about your concerns" just so they would know I had received and read the message. Then I just let it roll right off my back and continued teaching my class. If they request a conference be sure to have another person present, whether it's a principal, counselor, mentor teacher, etc... In my experience the best way to deal with this is to ignore as much as possible.
  • Vi Petalu - Call a prearranged parent meeting with administrator, mentor teacher, parent, and a stack of data. Let her know the attendees and agenda in advance. Get permission that the conversation be recorded. Back all your claims up with facts. If she won't agree to have the conversation recorded, take minutes to be later shared with all attendees electronically, noting that she didn't agree to have it recorded. Repeat as necessary. Discourage bad behavior with inconvenience and facts. After all, if she truly has a concern, she won't mind taking her own personal time to get things cleared up, right? At the end of the day, everyone is on the same page, wanting student success and happiness, but sometimes it takes time to get everyone there. Listen to her concerns and do all you can to accommodate, but in the end, it's facts and accepting that some people are never satisfied. However, at least that way, you have witnesses and documentation of your earnest, repeated efforts to resolve the situation.

Flashback to My Early Teaching Days

Reading Lynn's question and the advice from other teachers reminded me of a similar situation that happened a few years after I started teaching. A parent came to see me after school to discuss some concerns, and she immediately began speaking to me in a completely inappropriate manner. She had never even visited my classroom, yet she began attacking my teaching methods, my classroom management style, my grading policies, and she just went on and on! I had been taught to treat others with respect, and I had no idea how to defend myself against her verbal abuse. I stayed calm while she was there, but when she finally left I broke down and cried! It wasn't that I felt I had done anything wrong; I was upset with myself that I couldn't figure out a way to stop her verbal abuse and I just took it. When I later told my husband about the incident and how helpless I felt, he said, "Why didn't you just get up and walk out on her?" I was shocked and replied, "What? I couldn't just walk out and leave her in my classroom!" To which he responded, "Why not? You shouldn't let her talk to you that way. If it happens again and she won't leave, just walk out and go find an administrator."

Let's Try that One More Time!
As you might have guessed, it did happen again, but this time I was ready. First, I talked to her as calmly and politely as I could, hoping that I could reason with her and diffuse the situation. But when that didn't work and I had had enough of her verbal abuse, I stood up and said, "I'm sorry, but it seems that we don't agree about these issues. We need to reschedule our conference for a time when an administrator can meet with us."

The woman did not take the hint that it was time for her to leave and she continued talking to me in an extremely disrespectful manner. So I did exactly what my husband advised me to do, and I walked out. As I was leaving, I turned to look at her and saw that she was dumbfounded! She couldn't believe that I would walk out when she wasn't finished blasting me. She yelled, "I'm going to talk to the principal about this!" To which I calmly replied, "That's exactly where I'm headed and you are welcome to come along." I did talk to the principal, but (not surprisingly) the parent didn't join us. She did talk to him later, but he backed me and stood up to her. Even though the situation was difficult for me, I was proud of myself for first keeping calm and trying to reason with her, and then leaving the room when it was clear that she would not stop her verbal abuse. I didn't have any more problems with that parent the rest of the year, but I was careful not to talk with her alone.

Be Prepared and Plan Ahead
Have you ever  had this situation or something similar happen to you? If so, how did you handle it? If it ever happened again, would you handle it differently? Why?

I'm not advising you to handle a situation like this the way I did because you have to do what feels right to you. However, it's a good idea to think ahead to how you might act if something like this did happen to you. Be sure to read the responses to Lynn's question because the educators who responded shared some terrific strategies. If you're a new teacher, ask your mentor or consult other teachers to find out how they would handle a disrespectful parent.

The Question Connection
Do you have a teacher question for the followers of the Teaching Resources Facebook page? If so, click over to this Google Doc form where you can submit your question. I'm not able to share them all, but be sure you to follow my Facebook page so you'll see the responses if I share yours. Also, if you see a question pop up in your Facebook feed that you can answer, please jump in and share your expertise! Your helpful advice might save the day for a teacher who is frustrated or discouraged. Together we can make a difference!

November 3, 2015

Adult Coloring - Art Therapy for Teachers!

Coloring is art therapy for adults as well as kids! Learn how and when to use adult coloring sheets, and download some great freebies from this post!
Adult coloring is all the rage these days. This is no surprise—as busy as our lives are in the 21st century, we are all looking for healthy ways to relax, slow down, and connect with our creativity. 

The calming and therapeutic qualities that coloring has on children are the same for adults. And, yes, teachers count as adults even if our students might think otherwise! 

All adults love to color; they just have different needs than a child does. Adults need age-appropriate subject matter that connects to their lives, and they need opportunities to color material with smaller areas and shapes to match their more advanced fine motor skills. As much as we use our phones, other mobile devices, and computers, it’s important to use the fine motor muscles that control drawing, coloring and writing so as not to lose them. 

When to Use Adult Coloring Sheets

What is your most stressful time of the day? Is there a way you can calm it down by using adult coloring sheets? Here are some suggestions for ways you can work my free adult coloring sheets for teachers into your day:
  • Start your day by coloring while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
  • During lunch, avoid a negative teachers' lounge. Instead, enjoy your lunch outside while you color.
  • If your day starts to go terribly awry at school, stop everything you are doing and hand out some interactive coloring sheets to your students. Turn on some quiet music and pull out your own coloring sheets. Sit down with your students (not separate at your desk) and color with them. This will certainly turn the energy of your class around and get everyone back on the same page again.
  • When your school day is over, instead of going home feeling frazzled and stressed out, sit down and take a few minutes to color before transitioning to your personal life.
  • In the evening, put on some nice music to relax and color at home. Invite your family to join you!
  • Keep some of your favorite coloring sheets with you so you can color while waiting for appointments. The long wait at the department of motor vehicles might not make you as angry if you look at is an opportunity to color.
  • Color during different types of emotions. See how your work looks when you are angry compared to when you are happy. Allow adult coloring to be a therapy.
Coloring is art therapy for adults as well as kids! Learn how and when to use adult coloring sheets, and download some great freebies from this post!

Give Adult Coloring a Try for FREE  

Try Art with Jenny K.’s FREE Pop Art adult coloring sheets for teachers. Jenny has included all the instruction you will need to enjoy these unique Pop Art interactive coloring pages for teachers. 

Take something simple like the apple above on the left, and turn it into something magnificent like the apple on the right. These coloring sheets are unique because you get to interact with them. No two will ever come out the same. See how two teachers colored their hearts completely different. They are both beautiful yet unique - like the teachers who created them.

Use hashtag #artwithjennykpopartcoloring on IG to connect with other teachers who are enjoying the benefits of adult coloring. Click HERE to get started right away!

Coloring is art therapy for adults as well as kids! Learn how and when to use adult coloring sheets, and download some great freebies from this post!

Art with Jenny K Logo
Jenny Knappenberger is an award-winning educator who has taught art to middle school, elementary and gifted children in Virginia and in Arizona. Jenny is is the author of the Art with Jenny K blog and is dedicated to making art integration easy and exciting for classroom teachers.