Liam Neeson in Taken

Top 5 Things Not To Say At Parent-Teacher Conference

Jose Vilson Jose 11 Comments

Liam Neeson in <i>Taken</i>

Liam Neeson in Taken

This past Thursday, I had my second series of parent teacher conferences at school. I have a good to great relationship with parents, mainly because I try to maintain some form of communication with them, either through progress reports or phone calls. Yet I’ve seen so many mistakes during parent-teacher conferences that I’m astonished we don’t have training about dealing with parents specifically. Feel free to contribute your offerings in the comment box. I’m sure to be missing other horrible things.

5. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

As you’ll see with some of the comments I’ll highlight below, a big part of dealing with parents is knowing when to say things indirectly but concretely. You want to come across as firm and confident, not defensive and / or apologetic.

4. “Your son / daughter may just need a shower.”

I’ve heard it. Personal hygiene questions should be redirected to someone else, or maybe said indirectly. Then again, I still don’t address it usually.

3. “Meeting you now, it’s no wonder why your child acts the way they do.”

Alright, so you’re not being defensive, but now you’re being offensive. Even if you’re a parent, attacking another parent directly is usually uncalled for. Unless they attack you, then I’ll turn around when anything happens. I won’t tell.

2. (while a parent is reprimanding a student) “I think you’re being a little too harsh.”

It’s one thing to think that the parent’s being too harsh, even when the child got a 65 on your report card and the parent, who works a full-time job, took time out of their busy work schedule just to see their child’s turning out to be wasting their time. And it’s quite another to do it in the middle of a heated dispute between the parent and the child. Rather than say that directly, it’s better to give a more reaffirming and positive tone to your voice if you think the child has potential to do better. If the child earns the chastising, then let it be.

1. “You’re wrong.”

Mission: abort. That’s the last thing you want to tell the person who you’re supposed to work with for the betterment of the child’s education. You can say it, but there are better ways to tell someone they’re wrong without telling them they’re wrong. I’ve had to tell parents about the facts and the realities that happen in their classroom versus what they supposedly act like in home. I’ve had to show parents their child’s portfolio and compare it to others. Again, all facts. But “You’re wrong” sends off a different connotation.

Now, all of these statements come with the stipulation that the parent isn’t threatening your life. Then, you’re free to go Liam Neeson on these fools. Otherwise, please be cautious and constructive. Parents, even more than co-workers, can be your best friends.

Jose, who let a few kids have it right in front of their parents, and they loved it …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 11

  1. Miss Eyre

    You make some excellent points! I agree with what you said.

    I’d like to add that I’ve made the mistake of promising parents and the kids the world in order to get their babies to pass. If you want to offer extra help or extra credit, do it, but make it very limited and very specific. And if you want to offer tutoring or homework help specifically, make it at a specific day and time, say one or two days a week at lunch or after school–and no other time. Make it clear that you have a life and other responsbilities, and if a kid wants another change, he/she needs to do the legwork and not always count on the teacher to bail him/her out.

  2. Latinegro

    It is a shame that they do not have parent/professor conferences at the college level. I can only imagine how those will go. I wonder if I would be more amused by the rich fathers reaction of find out this son or daughter binge drinks from thursday through sunday or the middle class parent finding that their child misses class on the regular becaue of large consumptions of weed…

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  7. Mary Bliss

    How do I deal with middle school teachers who think I abandoned my child by dropping him off at school? They are so busy doing what they think the parents “ought” to do it’s taking away from class time. Why don’t they just tell us there is a problem? Kids are not going to go home and say “Mrs. X said I dress like a distrespectful slob and look under the girls skirts.” They are going to say “Mrs. X freaked out today”; not: “I got out of her stupid class and the principal made me button my shirt the way it was when I left the house. He said something else about respect…”

  8. Post
    Author
    Jose

    I don’t know the particulars, Mary Bliss, but what I do know is that eachers are supposed to be utterly professional, and parents also have to be held to a high standard, too. Have a serious discussion about what’s going on at your school. That’s my best answer.

  9. Me Not You

    I actually heard someone say, “You certainly must have had these problems with “child’s name” in the past”, then looked stupidifed when the parent said “No”.

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