It is Parent Teacher Interview time again and while most of us have positive experiences, a lot of teachers will have to face conflict and confrontational parents.
So how can we protect ourselves and handle these difficult situations with a high level of professionalism?
We have put together a kit to help new and current teachers to navigate this area of education with the appropriate tools, with sophistication and confidence.
Parent Teacher Interviews (PTI's) are a time where conflict can arise when a parent does not agree with your statements or becomes offended and defensive about their child’s progress. You must ensure you respond calmly and professionally if this situation occurs through developing your pedagogy in the areas of:
Our Parent Teacher Interview Guide addresses all of these in the Kit with the focus on COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS + PLANNING YOUR MEETINGS to ensure a professional and successful outcome during your interviews. Let’s take a sneak peak into the last point – Dealing with Conflict.
When would conflict arise in PTIs?
If parents won’t acknowledge or agree with you that there is a ‘challenging’ area or behavioural issue that needs attention, then this is where conflict can occur.
This is where you need to plan and executive strategies as a professional to connect with the parent and reassure them to remove any reason for the parent to be confrontational.
When you do find yourself in the ‘orange’ or 'red' area, you need direct the conversation into a different direction. Your strategies should aim to move the parent to the blue and green areas. This can be done using this 3-step process:
Supporting your statements with evidence with observation notes, work samples, assessment, quizzes etc… should assist the parents to see how you were able to conclude your statements. Evidencing your reports will help the parent to connect with the information and recognise that the issue exists. You must then demonstrate a list of strategies you have planned to resolve the issue and extend the invitation so they can be part of the solution.
For example, you could seek their opinion on the strategies you have designed in your report and this will open up the conversation and involve them in the resolution. This will help minimise the conflict and change the focus on the future.
If you can feel a sense of awkwardness, defensive responses, aggression or hostility, it is vital that you calmly try and connect with the parent/s and reassure them you are here to help their child reach their full potential.
For example, you could validate their apparent anguish with your words, "I can see that you are upset and this is not my intention. I have some great strategies here (referring to your plan/documentation) because I care about your son/daughter and I want us to work together with you and [insert student's name] so we can get him/her to reach their full potential."
This Kit contains a SMART goals activity which must be completed prior to the PTI's and given to the parents/carers to enable them to connect with their child and see the vision they have for themselves. If a child can recognise their own areas of improvement, then a parent is more likely to react calmly and work to be part of the solution. Please refer to the file labelled "SMART GOALS Activity" and select the appropriate year level - they are designed for Foundation - Year 12 + teaching notes.
In order to work in partnerships, you have to be open and honest so all parties can face the ‘challenges’ together and move forwards in a positive direction.
TEACHING TIP #2
When a parent is talking, it is vital you give them your complete attention through body language by maintain eye contact, listening intently and record their concerns in writing (see our template in this kit). This will demonstrate a highly level of professionalism and validate the parent’s concerns. It will also provide a record for the student's file for teacher next year and build a positive relationship with your parents.
If the level of hostility is beyond your personal safety, then you need to stand up or move back slightly and state that you are not comfortable with the level of anguish in the room and perhaps it would be more beneficial for all parties to have a meeting next week with learning support or team leader where we can all seek to resolve this issue. This normally helps the parent to recognise that their anger is making you uncomfortable and they usually change and take you up on the offer. If it is not appropriate to try and set an appointment time, tell them that you will email them all your available times and they can pick a suitable time that works for them. Giving them the option to calm down by leaving and selecting a time in a day or so, should resolve the situation.
If the aggression reaches a level that makes you fear for your safety, you need to remove yourself immediately from the classroom or location and seek support through locating your Principal or lead teacher who should not be far away. I would also suggest recording using your phone is you are extremely scared for your safety. This is not normally the case, however your safety is most important.
The most important part of creating successful PTI's is planning and we are offering all teachers a FREE Parent Teacher Interview Template to help teachers document during PTI's interviews. This is a sample of one tool we have included in the Parent Teacher Interview Guide. Would love to hear your feedback, so make sure you sign up (which is free) and tell us what you think!
Remember, as you grow as an Educator, the more confidence and skills you will develop and always seek the advice of your mentor!
Feel free to take a look inside our PTI GUIDE which will equip you with skills and tools that you can adapt into your policies when communicating with parents and develop collaborative partnerships with your parents.The tools include: Class Booking Sheet, PTI Recording Template, Student Follow Up Form and an Individual General Capabilities Checklist with great descriptors. Click here for a sneak at these documents.
We hope this provides you with some strategies for dealing with conflict in a professional manner. My professional advice is to design your policies prior to holding your PTI's and plan your response, which will give you some confidence and access to strategies during a stressful event. It is not until you experience the situation, that you can then plan better and learn how to manage any conflict or confrontation with parents, with more success in the future.
Reach Your Full Potential
Rachel Wills is the Founder and Executive Teacher @ Boost Education Australia. Graduating with a Bachelor of Education as a 'targeted graduate' she has been teaching for 17+ years and has spent the last 14 years working with students with learning difficulties and disorders.
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