Oh The Parents
Everyone knew the one kid in elementary school whose parents would try anything they could to make their child look the best. These parents haggle about grades, negotiate rewards and punishments, and even blatantly deny any wrongdoings their child may have committed, etc. We call these moms and dads ‘Entitled parents.’ You may have run across one of them while you were in school, maybe they were your parents! Or maybe you have a friend who is an entitled parent. Or maybe you are a teacher like ‘Andrew’ and have had to deal with more arrogant moms and dads than you can count.
Parents can be competitive and argumentative. They will do anything for their children, but some of them go a little too far. The sad thing is, they don’t just want their kid to be the best, they believe they can do no wrong and blame everyone else for any mistakes. The blame game leads to consequences, and unfortunately, it isn’t always the parents who get reprimanded.
There isn’t always much to be done to stop the privileged parents. And usually, they are out of control. However, Andrew got the chance to expose an entitled parent, like so many of us wish we could.
Andrew teaches kindergarten through sixth grade at a school in Australia. He hasn’t been teaching for too long but has already had his fair share of arrogant parents. And this situation was almost no different than so many before it.
He lives in Sydney and at the time they were still in lockdown. It had been months since the world was normal and he had been teaching virtually for ten weeks already. There are numerous adjustments made in the transition from in-person learning to online learning. Not everyone is capable of adapting quickly, so Andrew made sure to be patient with his students. He knew there would be challenges along the way, but it was worth it to make sure all of his students would be comfortable in their new learning environment.
He kept the system fairly simple. Since it was all online, he utilized familiar programs and limited them so it would not be too confusing. His classes utilized Google Classroom for assignments, where they could complete the work and turn it in all in one. He taught the material using Google slides. And his school used Zoom for classroom interactions and teaching, which were recorded according to the law where he is from. This was so important to maintain the safety of the students. Every class was recorded to protect the students. Andrew had no idea it could potentially save him too.
This was how each school day worked. He was able to be online teaching from 9:30 am to 11:00 am each school day and then for the rest of the day he would help individual students. One really great thing about this system was students wouldn’t need to feel any embarrassment from asking for help as they were helped individually. Online classes had so many more advantages as well. Including parents being able to monitor their children’s learning if they felt so inclined. However, this was not always for the best when a parent did not have the best intentions.
It had been 10 weeks of virtual learning and 10 weeks since he had taken over for another teacher of the class. She had gone on leave and he was the second teacher to try and fill her shoes. He was new to teaching, but doing his best to accommodate the class and keep them on track. Unfortunately, when taking on the duties of the other teacher, he also had to take on the drama which came with the class. And just like any other elementary classroom, this one had plenty.
The day started like any other. Andrew was making sure he was prepared for class when he got a message on Google Classroom. One of his students was “struggling to submit work.” His experience with this student had been just fine thus far, she was very sweet. We’ll call her “Sarah.”
Andrew wanted to make sure she understood the directions, so he spent about 20 minutes on an online call with Sarah. He made sure she understood all of the instructions. Andrew was a very patient teacher, so when he saw another message from Sarah the next day, he didn’t think much of it. She just needed some extra guidance, and he was willing to go over it all again with her.
He saw she was still having some trouble and hopped on another call with her to go through it all again. When working with eight and nine-year-olds, it sometimes takes a couple of times to understand something. He wasn’t overly worried and was confident she would be able to get it with some encouragement and more instruction. He understood the transition from in-person to virtual learning also affected the students and wanted to make sure they were all getting a chance to succeed. Every child learns at their own pace, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure each student is given what they need. And Sarah needed some time and help.
It was on the third day of Sarah asking for help when he got a surprise. Her mother was in the video call as well. This might not have been altogether strange, except for her attitude when the call started. Her face showed it all. She looked to be frustrated at Andrew for “not showing her daughter how to submit” her work. She was not trying to hide her feelings towards him at all. He was surprised and explained he had gone over the process with Sarah two days in a row now. This did not satisfy Sarah’s mother, “Karen.”
Karen took a glance at Sarah and said to Andrew, “Well obviously your instructions aren’t good enough for my daughter, can’t you be more clear?”
Being the patient teacher he is, Andrew explained how some students don’t get it on the first try and it was okay. He told her sometimes young children just need some extra help. He was taken aback at her tone but made sure to stay calm and direct. He wanted Sarah to be able to learn and succeed.
Karen looked supremely bothered by his words and responded, “Well, explain it to me so I know how to do it.”
This was a great solution and he had no problem with her idea! So Andrew taught them together. He walked them through the whole process and was feeling like it went well by the meeting’s end. Finally, they had worked through the issue and he was confident they understood. However, the next day proved him wrong.
Sarah was in a reading group Andrew had for his class. The reading groups met during school hours through Zoom, just like the class time meetings. Students were able to unmute and mute themselves when discussing online in class. There were common errors students made in the classes, since using the technology this way was so new to them. Sarah was having some trouble closing out of the meeting when it came to an end. However, Andrew wasn’t worried and gave her time to try and figure out what she needed to do. Sometimes it is better to have the student problem-solve for a bit. Plus, Andrew was attending to another issue, so he would help her in a bit, but there was another student and parent in the meeting as well still in the meeting as they had a question. It was fine for her to be in the meeting still as long as she needed, but her mic was unmuted, which was about to cause problems.
Andrew was answering their questions and did not realize Sarah’s mic was on. When he and the others on the call heard her mother speak, they were all a bit shocked.
Karen said, “So how did it go?”
Sarah responded, “Good, I loved the book we read.”
It was a great start to the conversation, but no one was expecting what came next.
“Was he doing a good enough job? I need to talk to the Principal, something has-” Karen said before Andrew could kick her out of the meeting. She didn’t even know he had heard her words because he had muted her and got her off the call in time.
He could not believe what he had heard, but he just “apologized to [the other parent] and kid still in the meeting and moved on.” He expected to never think of the overheard conversation again. Unfortunately, Andrew was dealing with an entitled parent, so there was no way she was leaving things alone.
The next day Andrew received a concerning call from the Principal of his school. He informed Andrew, a parent had called to file a complaint against him. If you have ever had a complaint said about you then you know how distressing it can be. Especially as a teacher, a complaint can be mean a lot. Each one has to be taken seriously.
Andrew’s Principal was a really good man. He was a fair and kind, all-around “fantastic man.” He always “defends his staff and treats them with absolute respect.” He explained the complaint to Andrew. You have probably already figured out who filed the complaint. Of course, it was Karen.
Karen had a lot to say about Andrew. She “said [he] was very unhelpful with her daughter, constantly unavailable, and when [he] did help, [he] was rude, standoffish to her and her daughter, and would constantly kick her out of Zoom meetings because [he doesn’t] like her.” Knowing Andrew’s story makes this complaint seem so foolish. He had taken the time to ensure Sarah had all of the information she needed and was immensely patient with her and Karen. Her accusations were all lies and quite aggressive.
She also made the bold statement, Andrew should be fired and she demanded they bring back the former teacher of her daughter’s class.
To be fair, Andrew admitted the former teacher had been amazing and it was sometimes difficult to live up to her teaching. However, he knew he was a good teacher and he had done none of the horrendous things Karen accused him of. The Principal told Karen “he would investigate the matter and get back to her, he’s not one to believe everything without getting all the facts first.”
Andrew was very glad to be able to explain his side of the situation. He told the Principal about the events of the past several days. He explained how he took the time to explain everything to both Sarah and Karen and how she got more and more irritated with him for no reason. And of course, Andrew explained why he had to kick Sarah out of the reading group meeting because of what her mom was saying.
Then they “went through the recordings.”
It was undeniable. Andrew was telling the truth. There was no way Karen had a case against him now. She should have done her homework.
After going through all of the information, they both agreed the Principal would have a talk with Karen. He informed Andrew this wasn’t her first complaint. She threw a fit any time there was a new, young teacher. She had a bias for the old teacher and had a tough time accepting anyone else. However, now her allegations were proven false, so there was a talk needed.
Andrew was relieved to have such a secure support system at this new school. It was amazing to have a Principal willing to take the time to listen and make sure the truth was the only thing left.
Later on, he called Andrew and let him know it had been handled. Although we will have to wonder what went down during the phone call, one thing is certain: Andrew’s job was safe.
He did not have to be scared of the entitled parents when he knew his Principal would seek out the truth and there was always video proof of any conversation.
Andrew is always feeling like there is more he can do to make it easier on his students, but he knows the students come first, regardless of their parents. Educating future generations is more important than squabbling with a parent who has a complex.