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Every parent wants to make a good impression on their children’s teachers, but ask any teacher what the hardest part of their job is, and there’s a good chance they will say: parents. (OK, they might also say bureaucracy or mandatory testing but we bet annoying parents are right up there.) So this back-to-school season, how do you avoid being THAT parent? Here, teachers from preschool through high school tell us 9 things parents do that drive teachers crazy:
1. Give them yet another coffee mug as a back-to-school gift.
Liz Zahn teaches elementary school, and says teachers grow tired of adding mug after mug to their kitchen cabinets.
“I have about a hundred mugs — they’re the go-to teacher gift,” said Zahn.
Zahn suggests giving something more helpful, such as school supplies or a gift card they can use to treat themselves after a long day.
2. Ignore information from the school, and then complain that you don’t know what’s going on.
Melva, who asked that we not use her last name to avoid offending current parents, has been teaching elementary school for nearly 40 years. In a world where parents spend a lot of time on Facebook, she finds it frustrating to hear them say they don’t have time to check the school website, read the school newsletter or check their child’s backpack for notes that are sent home.
“Many schools are going green, so less and less is coming home in hard-copy — but if you request hard copies, they will send it,” she said. “Usually it is spelled out what online communication a school uses in the first few newsletters. But it’s also important to check that backpack!”
3. Refuse to put your cell phone away during drop-off and pick-up.
With 25 years of teaching pre-k under her belt, Donna Stewart says parents are increasingly distracted.
“This is the one thing that really makes me crazy — parents who won’t put their cell phone down and greet their children at dismissal time,” said Stewart. “The kids have been away from their parents for several hours, and they’re trying to show their parent what they made or tell them what they did that day and the parent just holds up the ‘wait a minute’ finger. It’s frustrating and sad at the same time.”
4. Send your child to school with supplies that weren’t on the list.
“It annoys me when (parents) send in supplies that are not on the list because they cause a distraction,” said Catherine Mitchell, a first grade teacher.
Save the personal pencil sharpeners, fancy crayons, and supplies that light up or make noise for a special homework station at home.
5. Blame other kids when your child does something wrong.
Mitchell also says it’s frustrating to teachers when parents assume another child is responsible for their child’s behavior.
“If another child is involved, I have taken care of it with their parents as well, and cannot discuss another child with them anyway,” said Mitchell, adding that in situations where bullying is suspected, parents should contact the school’s administration.
“If the situation is truly serious, the teacher should have already been on top of it, and some sort of plan should be in place to keep it from happening any further — like separating the students, or forming a peer group,” said Mitchell.
6. Assume that we don’t like your child because of a bad grade.
Elizabeth Coronado, a high school teacher, says the only thing teachers want for their students is success.
“Don’t assume that, because your child is failing, I must dislike the child,” said Coronado.
High school teacher Kim Jester says that parents' involvement helps kids succeed.
“Parents will ask, ‘My child got a failing grade in homework — why? How can they bring their grade up?’ It’s simple — make sure that they do their homework at home! Show an interest in helping to further your child’s educational career rather than looking for a teacher to blame,” said Jester.
7. Refuse to let your child take ownership for their actions.
Coronado says another great frustration is when a parent shields their children from consequences — rather than allowing them to fail.
“Sometimes, the best road to success is failure — it should compel families to discuss the causes and consequences of their actions absent the instructor,” said Coronado.
“If you don’t pay your rent or your mortgage, you lose your house. It’s disingenuous to teach them otherwise,” she added.
8. Ignore our recommendations and push your child too hard.
Michelle Hansen teaches middle school, and says that — regardless of her recommendation — some parents push their kids into honors or AP classes, when they would be more successful in an on-level class.
“Some parents have a perceived notion that being on grade level is not good enough for high schools, colleges, or even when trying to impress friends. They ignore the many elements of data we collect — observations, placement tests, their child’s own desires — and still ask for the class change,” said Hansen. “This usually results in the child becoming frustrated and ultimately disliking the subject or feeling badly about themselves.”
9. Refuse to put aside your differences for the benefit of your child.
Hansen says it causes her students distress when divorced parents refuse to communicate with each other. Worse yet, she says the child is often well aware of the tension.
“It’s heart-breaking. We understand that divorce happens and is often messy with resentment,” said Hansen. “However, it’s frustrating when parents won’t put aside their own demons to support the growth of their child, even if it’s just for one parent-teacher conference.”
This article was originally published on August 27, 2015.