You got the note from the office: “Call Madame Satan ASAP.” A student says, “My mom wants your email address” or asks “When can my mom can by and see you?” You had Open House, and not to mention Parent Teacher Conferences that lasted until 1:00 am, but no, this mama wants to talk to you now. You feel the knots in your stomach, the blood rush from your face and all the water in your body go to your palms. What could she want?
As I am typing this, my first year teacher daughter has stayed at school until 6:00 because of a little one that seems to find himself in trouble often. In response to the note sent home, she stated that she works full time and can’t talk until after 6:00. Guess who else works full time? But, I digress…
It may have happened this way: the parent showed up unexpectedly at your door, red horns, pitchfork and all. She was raging. She unloaded, verbally vomiting on you. By the time she left, you were in tears. And guess what? She was happy. She had told you, and you deserved it. Granted, you may have messed up, but there’s no excuse for rudeness.
Ok, let’s take this step by step. I will divide this into categories and end with the pep talk. If you just want to scroll to the pep talk because you are already in tears and thinking of applying to be that Walmart greeter (as I have said many times), just by pass all this.
If you know mama wants to meet and you suspect it could be more than you can handle…
- meet on your terms which need to include an administrator. Tell your administrator the entire story by email. You need a paper trail. A good administrator will be able to defuse the situation. That is his/her job. Let him/her do it. On a side note, if you have an administrator who does not back you up consistently, look for another job. Notice I said consistently. Everyone can mishandle a situation, including administrators, but if that seems to be a norm, there’s another school just around the corner. Spruce up that resume.
- If that plan can’t happen, leave your door open and alert another teacher. Have him/her just around the corner. Try not to ever have a parent that is angry in your room alone–just you and him/her. You need a buddy.
- Have evidence ready. This can include progress reports or report cards, graded papers, anything that is evidence.
If you are caught by surprise…
- Try to breathe. Be calm. Do not match anger with anger, even though you want to. Yes, there are verses in God’s word about that, and yes, I will remind you of what they are.
- When you can get a word in, say things that are true: “I am sorry that you feel this way. Can we meet another day when we can take our time and go over some of his/her work, grades, problems? Now is not a good time for me.” This is easier if the parent comes at you via email. If so, respond quickly, letting the parent know that you will look into this, see if you can figure out what seems to be the problem and then get your facts together and respond again. I love how I can attach a copy of the report card to an email. That squelches many a mad mama.
Yes, mama is mad. So many times, she is mad at someone but you are not it. When you get to know the child and the family situation, you might realize why there is a constant anger. There are tons of single, stressed moms raising their children alone. If she told you what the father of the child was like, you’d be mad too. Mad at him, mad at the situation, mad that you allowed yourself to be in this situation, unable to forgive yourself and others involved. I would venture to bet that you are not the only person that she has yelled at today, and you will not be the last. Possibly that baby that you teach will get the same treatment. Maybe that is why the child acts as he/she does. Anger must come out some way. It’s like a volcano. We all know that.
This parent, mom or dad, needs someone on his/her side. You must prove that you are. That will take time. First year teachers, you are an easy target. A parent can easily convince himself that you are young, “What do you know about parenting or small children?” Prove yourself. You can do it.
Verses that you need for this battle:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. Ecclesiastes 4:9
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18
Now for the pep talk:
You didn’t deserve this, but it happened anyway. Don’t expect an apology for this rudeness and personal attack if one came with this (mine did). It’s ok. You do not need an apology. You are an educator. You can see beyond people’s actions and look deep for motives. You can back away and realize that this is not personal. It’s not. A hurting person hurts people. Weeping may last for the night, but joy will come in the morning. You will be fine. You are tough. This will bring you down for awhile but not for long. You are a fighter–if you were not, you certainly would not have become an educator.
Here are some truths, brothers and sisters in Christ. If you are a follower of the King Jesus, God has your back. He will take care of His children. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 Some days, this verse feels good to remember. The Creator of the universe certainly knows how to take care of His own.
“Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” Psalm 50:15 LISTEN to that still small verse that is the Holy Spirit within you Christ followers, and let God speak.
“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Your pride may be hurt, but that’s ok. You may want to be proved right, but let it go. Let God do a work. God’s word clearly points to pride being a downfall, something God hates. A servant of God seeks humility and the building up of others. This may be so hard right now, but don’t trust what you feel. Seek God. Pray without ceasing on this.
Remember that every time you enter that classroom, praying for those students and loving them as Christ loves them and doing the same for the parents, God is smiling. He is saying, “That’s my girl/boy in that classroom. I am going to do miracles if he/she will just give Me time.”
And He will.
Praying for you,