Today an angry parent walked into my room as the students were filing out for dismissal. She was clearly upset and got right “in my face” to tell me that I better stop picking on her son. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but it was obvious that she was extremely agitated.
I asked her to please wait until I dismissed the children. Then we sat down. She claimed that I had blamed her son, Tyson, for starting a fight with another student, James. The parent said that James had started the fight, and of course, Tyson, was an “innocent” victim.
Since I am a sub, I don’t know the children and their personalities very well. I had been in that classroom for only two days. But I do know what I saw.
I tried hard to calm the parent down, and when she left, her tension had dissipated. But I was left with a bad feeling. I wrote a note to the classroom teacher about the incident.
Is there a better way to handle a situation like this?
Samantha in Ocala, FL
Angry parents can be intimidating. As a sub, you are vulnerable because you don’t know very much about personalities of the children and you have no knowledge of the parents’ idiosyncrasies. And yet, it’s not uncommon to interact with parents. After all, you are their child’s teacher for some period of time.
I have found that parents just want to be heard. My advice to you is to be a good listener. Use positive body language while listening. Eye contact is important. Let them talk and express their concern. Act interested.
After the parent tells you her side of the story, express your thanks and indicate that her comments have given you more insight into the matter. You will look into the issue, this time with more information and with another point of view. With her help, you now have a better handle on the situation. Don’t promise any special outcome.
Because parents often go to the top with complaints, be sure to be proactive and alert the classroom teacher and an administrator. They will be thankful that you have given them a “heads up.”
You have acted professionally within the scope of your job as a sub. Let the permanent professionals in the school resolve this delicate situation.
Barbara Pressman is an adjunct professor at the College of Education, Florida Atlantic University. She has been a classroom teacher for more than 20 years, and a supervisor for student teachers for 10 years. She currently mentors Substitute Teachers as well.
Teachers.Net asked Barbara how she came to be interested in writing for substitute teachers. Her response:
I have subbed for many years during my teaching career. When my children were small, I found subbing to be a wonderful "free lance" job. At that time, I took on a 6th grade long term subbing assignment, which led me back to full time teaching. Upon retirement, I went back to subbing once again.