What Do Principals Really Think About Some Parents?

<p>I had the opportunity to attend an awards ceremony for the top school principals in the country recently. My wonderful husband was one of the recipients.</p>

<p>Each principal spoke about their school. The majority of them were leaders of schools with moderate to high poverty rates. Of course, there are many challenges to overcome when working with this type of school population. What surprised me was a common issue the principals of affluent schools mentioned.</p>

<p>Dealing with parents who are pushy, think they know how to run the school, treat teachers in a demeaning manner, etc.</p>

<p>I think that this is disgraceful.</p>

<p>My husband has never worked in an upper middle class or affluent school for this reason. But he has heard horror stories from principals who do. My mother, who taught kindergarten up until the late 70's, worked in one of the most affluent schools in the country. She ended up retiring early because the parents were driving her crazy.</p>

<p>I'd love to get some feedback on this issue.</p>

<p>Having grown up in a family with multiple teachers some of this is true. My mother also retired from teaching in the 70s after almost 3 decades of teaching in the middle and high schools because things were changing and in her opinion not for the better. It's not all parents of course but like any job the PIAs are the ones that can make or break a good day.</p>

<p>If you look at history it all makes some sort of warped sense. 50s parents grew up in the depression often from immigrant parents. They were grateful that the war was over, that business and industry was taking off and that they could attend college and live in this country where so much was available. Subsequent generations never experienced those hardships and an entitlement mentality set in. Remember the "me generation." Now in many cases today's parents are two generations removed from the depression era parents. There is no sense of gratefulness about anything. The younger parents are almost deconstructionist, wanted for good or bad to change things and there is a sense of entitlement because the younger generations have never not experienced an ability to get whatever they wanted they just want change. </p>

<p>Some parents make change through organization and engagement with administrators. Some parents don't think "big" and simply push and push and push for their particular child right or wrong. The other change is in the inclusion and mainstreaming all all kids into one system. So you have parents of children with issues pushing for their child and you have parents of bright kids who want the system to do more for their child so there is pressure from both ends of the academic bell curve. Budget issues, an inability to be nimble with contracts etc. and Title IX have added financial pressures to the business of educating causing conflicts between parents, teachers and administrators. Add to that the fear of lawsuits for all kinds of things unimaginable four decades ago and you have an environment that can be very stressful for teachers and administrators. All this happens in business in one way or another but public schools are well, public.</p>

<p>We have a couple parents (actually, mothers) in our small community who I'm sure make the principal cringe when they walk into the school building. </p>

<p>One went too far and was officially banned from school property by the School Board for a series of incidents, the culmination of which was a loud, profanity-laced verbal attack on the (volunteer) cheerleading coach in the middle of a basketball game.</p>

<p>I have heard a teacher friend say during parent teacher conferences that the parents who truly need to be there never are while the parents of the high achieving students are pounding on the door.</p>

<p>^ I've heard the same thing.</p>

<p>Recently (on a college visit) I ran into a man who used to be the principal of the middle school at our kid's smallish independent private school in the midwest. Not the most expensive school in our city, but one of the top 3-4. He had moved to the west coast a few years ago to take over head of school at a wealthy private high school there (so he could be closer to family). We chatted for a while, and he confessed that while he thought he had parent issues at our school (his old school), it was NOTHING compared to what he put up with from the rich (and sometimes famous) parents in his new school. But I also think he didn't realize that it could be worse while he was with us, until he got to the new situation. It sounded like he had a lot of challenges from wealthy people who assumed they could have whatever they wanted from the school.</p>

<p>That said, I think parents at private schools (even not the tippy top ones) do have an expectation that they will get a result when they complain about something. When a parent is paying a lot (say, $20,000 a year) for a private education, one of the things they expect is quality teaching. I am happy that my kids' school usually does something about it when they make a poor hiring choice; and often the only way they will know is if the parents let them know their concerns. Of course, there are certainly varying ways to do that! And the administration does sometimes stonewall ("Oh, no, we have not heard any other complaints about that teacher" when I know that at least 2 other sets of parents have already been in their office to talk about it that semester alone). But if enough parents bring the same issue to their attention, they do act. Some parents, of course, do not have their facts in line or have completely unrealistic expectations. I could see how principals don't like dealing with that.</p>

<p>I taught at 3 different schools that drew students from low socioeconomic areas. I loved the kids, and their parents were wonderful to work with. </p>

<p>Many years later, I now live in a very wealthy area, and you couldn't pay me enough to teach in our local school system. Though I am extremely pleased with the quality of the teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff that I have encountered here as a parent of 3 children, my fellow parents can be an embarrassment. They tend to be powerful, well educated, "masters of the universe" at work, and unfortunately that can translate into pushy, entitled, rude, demanding, condescending behavior towards school personnel.</p>

<p>As an elementary school principal at a public school, my husband puts in very long hours. He usually works about 10 hrs a day, then another 1-2 hours after he gets home. Plus, he has to stay late 1-2 nights a week for school functions (PTA meetings, concerts, etc). He's also involved in a number of educational associations and groups that take more of his time. So, all in all, I would say he works about 65 hours a week at a minimum.</p>

<p>The main reason he gets home late from school is because he has to deal with some parent issue. It would be much worse if he were the principal of an affluent school. His school is what he would call your "average" school.</p>

<p>Both my kids have attended sought after schools, one was a private prep, the other a public school that was a magnet for the brightest kids in the district.
At both schools I admit there were a couple times when I enjoyed shaking up the preconceptions of other parents, by flaunting our own blue collar/uneducated status.</p>

<p>They tend to be powerful, well educated, "masters of the universe" at work, and unfortunately that can translate into pushy, entitled, rude, demanding, condescending behavior towards school personnel.</p>

<p>While most parents were not, I did see some parents who fit that description at both schools. Education is still not viewed as an occupation that draws the "best & brightest" ( however false that is) & the parents seemed either to be used to getting their way, or possibly the opposite was the case. People who don't have a lot of control at work, may feel even more pressure to have control over their children's day.</p>

<p>Principals are in a tough position. They are supposed to not only handle administrative tasks, but also supervise the teachers. If they don't support and defend their teachers from both children and parents, they won't be able to get cooperation from their staff. But on the other hand, there are times when they need to deal with a problem teacher. My sense is when they have to choose, they choose the teacher and push the parent out the door. This produces very frustrated parents.</p>

<p>As a parent who has had some very legitimate concerns with what goes on in school, I do get tired of the bashing of parents by teachers and now, apparently, principals. If parents aren't involved, then the kid's academic and discipline problems are the parents' fault. But if they are involved, then they're pushy and should stop helicoptering. While you will always have selfish parents with an entitlement mentality who wrongly push for their selfish goals, you have to remember that there has also been a documented decline in the quality of our teachers--specifically in their academic achievement and IQ. This frustrates well-educated parents who pay a lot of taxes for public education and yet the product is sub-par. The puts the principal between a rock and a hard place.</p>

<p>I'm the president of a middle school PTA at a very wealthy public school system. </p>

<p>We have a new principal who came from a nearby less wealthy community and he jokes that all of the people in his old school were like: "Ooohhh, those parents are going to be TERRIBLE!" and he's found just the opposite. The parents have been great - very involved in their kids' educations and producing motivated and enthusiastic kids. </p>

<p>I think you find bad apples wherever you go.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Education is still not viewed as an occupation that draws the "best & brightest" ( however false that is)

[/quote]
</p>

<p>There are definitely more career paths available for women compared to 30-40 years ago. As late as the 60's and 70's, many women felt confined to more traditional careers for women such as teaching and nursing. I'm sure this has had an impact on which students decide to pursue a career in teaching now. I know that among my D's peers at her competitive high school, none of them were even considering going into teaching. Sad, but true.</p>

<p>We don't have enough graduates from our state to fill all the teaching positions. My husband routinely has to hire new teachers from neighboring states.</p>

<p>We live in one of the wealthiest counties in the US. I have been disgusted how some of our neighbors and acquaintances with so-called high-power jobs have treated my husband when they find out he is an elementary school principal. The complaints about the schools start spewing from their mouths. Educators and principals do not get the respect that they deserve.</p>

<p>Parents in affluent districts can be a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing because they care so much for their childrens' academic success and are so invested in it. They can sometimes even be downright craven in their desire for the teachers to validate their childrens' intelligence and potential through high grades and positive recommendations. This gives the teacher some degree of power as a credentialing authority. On the other hand, many of the parents secretly believe that they could do just as good a job, if not better, than their childrens' teachers. They have an inflated view of their children's abilities and they dismiss misbehaviors they should address. Many parents in affluent towns also tend to have the "taxpayer = employer" attitude toward teachers that is a real turnoff. It's a mixed bag. On the whole, I think working in an affluent district is easier than working in a poor district.</p>

<p>A few years back I was hired by a principal in an affluent HS. He hired me because he wanted to see the direction of the program go from "xyz" to "123". At the beginning of the school year, the powerful parent group called a meeting with me and explained that they expected me to keep the focus of the program as "xyz", after all many of them had bought houses in that district just so their darlings could participate in "xyz". They were not interested in "123." (The principal was not invited to this meeting.) The next day I met with the principal and told him that I could not function effectively if the parents would fight me at every turn. I explained that I thought I was hired and evaluated by the principal, not the parents. Yet the parents were telling me exactly how I was to do my job (including setting my after school and weekend schedule). I resigned. He knew he couldn't fight these parents, and realized he had to hire someone who would continue "xyz." BTW, that position has changed hands nearly every year since. Tells you something, huh?</p>

<p>^^yes, there is an abundance of precocious children. A well known and well respected retired teacher fired out a blistering letter to the editor about a neighboring school district that had an entire newspaper page and a half of "honor list" students, it had to be 80% of the student population. He was none to pleased about the "everyone is great" mentality. It's hard to find parents that agree. There is just this general feeling that as parents we are supposed to prop these kids up and fight battles to smooth the way. But good heavens how to we ever let them fight there own battles if we're in the schools fighting them for them. And how are they ever going to handle a "bad evaluation" or a job loss as adults if they are always told they are g-r-e-a-t... I'm also happy to see the era of the "my kid is an honor student" bumper stickers is over. The kid did the work, not the parent with the sticker on their bumper. We said "how nice" and folded them and put them in the kids memory books and by the time 3 got into high school is was passe.</p>

<p>^^</p>

<p>My husband has never allowed those bumper stickers at any of the elementary schools where he worked. My daughter used to throw hers in the trash. She would be horrified if I put it on my car (as well as my husband).</p>

<p>This is a problem where parents, teachers/principals, educrats, and US society at large share the blame. </p>

<p>Both the OP and TheGFG are right in some respects. </p>

<p>K-12 education has been regarded disdainfully by US society within the last few decades....especially by its most wealthy professional elite. </p>

<p>I've seen it myself at my NYC specialized high school's Parent-Teacher Conferences as a volunteer translator from some of the well-off Upper East Sider and similarly well-off parents* when they try getting unmerited special treatment for their kids to conceal the fact their kids are far less special and academically intelligent than they wished to believe. Sad thing is that it ends up backfiring on such kids as word gets around and such kids are regarded sarcastically as "Mommy's/Daddy's special darlings" and not respected by the rest of us. That parental entitlement behavior is also so alien to me at the time as my parents came from a society which revered teachers and abhorred parents with entitlement attitudes who tried getting such special treatment/privileges for their kids.</p>

<p>On the other hand, the social revolutions which enabled women access to more lucrative and socially prestigious careers, increasing tendency of entitled parental behavior, abject neglect of public schools due to various factors**, increasing trend of LCD teaching/extreme low expectations, severe deterioration of K-12 education occupations' social prestige, and more are some factors in why most best and brightest IME never consider K-12 careers or reject them from consideration altogether. </p>

<p>Those factors are why from what I've seen....those who go into K-12 teaching nowadays are either:</p>

<ul>
<li><p>A minority of public-service minded idealists who are the best and the brightest. Most tend to burn out within the first 5 years due to poor treatment from parents/educrats, abysmal working conditions, negative attitudes from colleagues who don't have their academic/intellectual backgrounds, low pay in context of what they could command outside teaching, too much bureaucratic/board BS, etc. Among them are high school and college classmates. </p></li>
<li><p>A majority who want a relatively stable secure job with a mediocre academic record*** which precludes them from more lucrative/prestigious jobs...or any college grad job altogether. This is illustrated by the much lowered standard of admission to Education Masters programs and worse....the abysmal lack of rigor in most undergrad ED majors. </p></li>
</ul>

<p>It's really telling when even Top-3 ED grad programs admit students with sub-3.0 undergrad GPAs and subterranean GRE scores compared to other grad programs on the same campus....including two well-known Ivies. One of them was a post-college roommate who honestly admitted his college GPA and GREs wouldn't have been competitive for his Ivy's GSAS Masters programs. </p>

<p>The third factor is US popular culture's disdain and disparagement of K-12 teachers and other professionals due to the above factors and some latent anti-intellectualism in our cultural history. </p>

<p>Why is it that it has been generally "cooler" in US pop culture to be an I-banker, lawyer, medical doctor, mid/senior corporate executive, bigtime Hollywood actor/musical pop act, etc rather than a K-12 teacher/professional? No wonder the best & brightest tends to flock to most of the above-listed professions over teaching. </p>

<p>To fix this, our society needs a major attitude readjustment for this factor to be ameliorated. </p>

<ul>
<li>Biglaw partners, Ibankers at Wall Street type firms like Goldman Sachs, etc.<br></li>
</ul>

<p>** I.e. Desegregation which caused not only "White flight" in many metro areas but also the creation of crappy private schools known as "Segregation Academies" in the south which 2 cousins had unfortunate experiences with the substandard education because their parents weren't aware of this history when they first moved down to Mississippi. </p>

<p>*** Bottom half to third at best.</p>

<p>
[quote]
yes, there is an abundance of precocious children. A well known and well respected retired teacher fired out a blistering letter to the editor about a neighboring school district that had an entire newspaper page and a half of "honor list" students, it had to be 80% of the student population. He was none to pleased about the "everyone is great" mentality.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>One of the school districts in our area, 43% of the class of 2012 met state standards on the state tests they took as second semester juniors.</p>

<p>90%+ were on the honor roll or high honor roll (mostly the latter) as first semester seniors.</p>

<p>Ain't it amazin' how fast some people improve?</p>

<p>As one of those "annoying parents", I have to take some offense to some of what was said. My younger S who's still in elementary school has a learning disability, but I have had nothing but headaches trying to get the poor kid some support in school both in public school and private. I'm pretty sure the public school principal does not have an issue with me nor do the teachers - I volunteered a lot in that school, even though I probably drove teachers crazy with emails and meetings trying to get some kind of accomodations in the classroom. The principal was generous enough to put S with a wonderful 3rd grade teacher when he was denied services by the disctrict because she knew he would do well there.</p>

<p>Once I pulled him out and put him into a private school so he could get a "better" education and personal attention, I've faced one obstacle after another of trying to get these teachers to understand S's difficulties and to let me participate in his education. </p>

<p>So maybe it doesn't always have to do with the parents, but it has to do with the inflated expectations of some of these "elite" institutions. Sometimes private schools need to listen to parents who know their children better than the school does. Then I wouldn't have to be "in their face" all the time. I have psychological evaluations, occupational therapist's suggestions, and my own experience of how to teach my son, but they don't want to hear any of it, and I've been branded as a "problem parent". I don't think that's fair just because I need to fight for my child's right to a good education.</p>