The English Teacher

Parent/Student Caused Discipline Problems [2]

The following advice on this topic is from Linda Gunhouse, an English and creative writing teacher in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada.

Parent/Student Caused Discipline Problems is a thorny subject that is often perplexing. Just when you think you have things well under control, something unexpected happens and you have to re-think your strategy for discipline problems. I would like to offer a couple of suggestions from my own experience.

I think you really have to keep on top of things when it comes to teacher/student/parent relationships. I begin every teaching session by establishing two things: 1.) a positive attitude and genuine interest in each student which surprises them and puts them at ease 2.) iron-clad rules about the kind of work I will expect and a no-exceptions rule. This establishes a congenial atmosphere and yet students know immediately the kind of boundaries they will not be allowed to cross.

I think "boundaries" is the key word here when it comes to people in general, whether it is a student, parent or even another teacher or administrator. The great problem of today's society (in Canada anyway) is that "tolerance" is in and the right to exercise reasonable "authority" is out. Children especially need boundaries and they need someone to look up to. They know when they need discipline and many times their actions are a way of screaming out for attention.

In the schools I've worked in (in Canada), administrators often do not want to get involved in discipline problems with either the students or the parents, so it is left up to the teacher. Considering this, I have learned that the best way to handle parents is to get them involved as soon as and as much as possible. Keep a running record every day of the students who refuse to comply with your wishes or do not hand in their completed work when asked. Even though it may take a few minutes longer each day, call the parents and keep calling them to make them aware of what their child is doing, saying, or not doing. By the time teacher/parent interview day arrives, there will be no surprises. You will have a record of the child's behavior and the parent will have received the phone calls and messages left that will match your record. I have done this myself and I have seen it done with great success. Students do not expect you to be this diligent, so when their parents confront them (and are usually very distraught to have received the phone call), often the child's behavior changes immediately. If the child is in the habit of fabricating things and calling the teacher a liar and the parent believes the child over you, then all you can do is firmly stand your ground and continue with the daily and accurate record-keeping. Many parents are not even remotely aware of their child's behavior in school. Keeping a running record for them will dispell the mystery of what is really going on in the classroom. Often, if the students know you are keeping records on them, this in itself, can have an unnerving effect on them and they will think twice about misbehaving and not complying with your wishes. If you can get the support of other teachers who also have the same problems with the same students and have them also keep a record, then this is a wonderful bonus for you.

One more thing you can do is send a form letter home on the first day of school that must be signed by the parents and returned to you on a set date that outlines your expectations for the student for each unit you do. This way, both the student and the parent is responsible to see that the work is completed as outlined, and it gets you off the hook!

Return to: Strategies for Classroom Discipline