The relationship between parents and teachers is a tricky one. At best, it's a united team working to help a child excel at school. In a few cases, it turns into an actual friendship. At its worst, it's a battle zone in which both sides pray for a quick end to the school year. Most of the time, teachers and parents get along just fine. But there are some things parents do that annoy teachers almost as much as hearing the latest variations on "Baby Shark."
Some headachy parent actions have been going on almost as long as schools have been in existence: blaming the teacher for a child's poor grade; blowing off a student's misbehavior; offering bogus excuses for absences; copping the "my taxes pay your salary" attitude; addressing complaints to the principal rather than talking to the teacher first. Others are more surprising, and parents may not even be aware that their actions are out of line or irritating. I became a teacher some years after becoming a mother, and once I was on the other side of the classroom door, I realized that my kids' teachers might have seen me as "that" mom sometimes.
These are a few of the things I and other teachers I spoke to (names have been changed) cited as among our top parent pet peeves. Hopefully, none of them hit home with you, but it can help to see things from a teacher's-eye view.
1. Not Reading School Announcements
Good communication is at the heart of any relationship, and the parent-teacher connection is no different. But if that communication is one-sided, that's a problem. I and the teachers I spoke to all have stories of parents who told us, "Well, I didn't know about that (insert: half-day dismissal/homework assignment/picture day)," when we sent out no fewer than four printed memos and emails over the course of three weeks. If you don't do it already, this is a good time to start checking your child's backpack daily. You might be surprised at what you find there (besides the decaying sandwich they tossed in last week).
2. Insisting On A Morning Chat
We're always glad for a cheerful greeting, or even a longer conversation when it's convenient. But some parents get especially talkative at drop-off time, when we're trying to get the day started on schedule. Ditto for parent-teacher conference nights, when we may have 20 or 30 meetings to cram into a couple of hours. The best approach, if you have a concern to address or advice to ask: Email your child's teacher and arrange an appointment. That way, you'll know you have their undivided attention.
3. Unsolicited "Helping"
Teachers love getting help from parents — when we've asked for it, that is. But some parents take it upon themselves to lend a hand on their own, which isn't always welcome. "One mom who was picking up her child shortly before our dismissal started calling other students over to put on their coats," says Elena, a preschool teacher. "The cubby area got chaotic, and it threw off our routine."
Jen, another pre-K teacher, adds a similar pet peeve: "Parents who show up to a class trip, even though they weren't selected as chaperones." Sometimes, having too many parents on a trip can be overwhelming; plus, the teacher can't risk any confusion about which students are being supervised by which adults.
4. Covering Up Kids' Health Issues
My teacher friends and I all have stories to tell about parents who dosed a feverish child with Tylenol and sent them to class, or insisted a pus-crusted pinkeye was "just allergies," or conveniently forgot to tell us that their child was treated for lice the previous night. We totally get that it's inconvenient to take off work because of a sick child, but exposing a classroom to a contagious illness puts the rest of the class (not to mention the teachers) at risk of being laid up, too.
5. Committing Fashion "Don'ts"
Teachers go all SMH at seeing kids come in wearing princess dresses and heels (hardly practical for painting pictures or running around the playground), or in clothes that are clearly too large or small for comfort. Another faux pas, adds preschool teacher Monica: "Sending kids to school in pants and belts they can't take off when they have to go to the bathroom." Parents of young children sometimes forget to switch out the change of clothing according to the season, which makes for an awkward situation if a child soils their pants in February and the teacher has to put them into shorts in 15-degree weather.
Sometimes parents deliberately turn a blind eye when their children violate their school's dress code. First-grade teacher Victoria recalls one student who came in wearing a shirt that was inappropriately skimpy. The girl's mother sent in a note explaining that she hadn't been able to convince her daughter to change clothes, but that there was another top in the backpack. "I looked at the student and simply said, 'Go change your shirt,' and she did," Victoria says. "No hassle."
6. Not Making Pre-K And K A Priority
Kindergartens have only been in the US since 1804, according to Smithsonian, and preschool only since 1965. Maybe that's why these grades are so often treated like the black sheep of the educational family. Parents of 4- and 5-year-olds seem to think nothing of dropping their children off half an hour after school begins, or keeping them out of school in mid-semester so they can go to Disney World and avoid the crowds. It's hard to teach a child if we hardly ever see them.
The other thing that drives us nuts: Being told "It must be fun playing with the kids all day." If only. We're just as busy creating lesson plans and assessing student skills as high-school teachers are, and we're held just as accountable for the children's progress. Plus, we deal with tantrums, runny noses, and potty accidents. Give us a little credit for our work, and the parent-teacher bond will be that much stronger.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.