"Henry is acting out because he's bored in class."
"As a teacher, you spend your life trying to make school interesting and challenging," says Carolyn Bower, a former kindergarten teacher in Bangor, ME. "When someone says class is boring, it means you haven't done your job." The statement also may not be entirely accurate. "Parents often say this in response to a teacher bringing up a behavior problem, when the actual issue is a lack of self-control on the student's part," says Tingley. So instead of starting off with an excuse, find out what's really going on and promise to speak to your child. If you truly believe he's not being challenged, steer clear of hurtful generalizations and mention a specific problem and solution: "Henry seems to have the multiplication tables down. Could we give him something more challenging?"
"We're going on vacation for a week. Can you put together a packet of my daughter's work so she doesn't fall behind?"
You may think you're doing the responsible thing, but unfortunately, this typical request is a bit insulting. "You're implying you can replace teaching with a packet of worksheets," says Jan Copithorne, a middle school special education teacher in Highland Park, IL. On top of that, "it's a lot of extra work to anticipate everything that will happen in class over a week and put it together for one child." Because kids miss so much when they're kept out of school, Copithorne advises against pulling them out for an extended period, unless there's a truly important event or a family emergency. If you're set on your plans, ask the teacher for a general overview, like what chapters will be covered in each subject, and accept that your child will need to play catch-up when you get home.
"I know my son doesn't want to take your honors class next year, but he needs it for college so I'm insisting he sign up for it."
Some kids need a little nudge; others know their limits. You probably have a pretty good idea where your child falls, so be honest with yourself, then ask for the teacher's opinion-not her endorsement-about signing up for advanced classes. "No teacher wants to see a student forced into a place he doesn't want to be," says Tingley. (And no parent should, either.) "What often happens is the kid who isn't yet ready for the challenge ends up getting demoted to a regular class, which then feels like a failure," says Tingley. Karen Patterson, a high school language arts teacher in Upper Arlington, OH, has also seen students who sign up for too many high-level courses "absolutely self-implode." Sometimes, "a kid may love and want to take advanced history and language arts, but Mom is making him take advanced math too," says Patterson, who advocates a less-is-more approach, pointing to the benefits of a lighter workload: more time for extracurricular activities, which also look great on college applications.
"My daughter and her friends don't speak to Beth because she's not in their group anymore. That's not bullying; they have a right to choose their friends."
No parents want to believe their child is being cruel to other kids, so when a teacher brings up an issue like bullying, it's tempting to play it down. And yet, "teachers don't make those calls lightly, so when we do, we need parents' help in reinforcing lessons," says Bower. This can be trickier with girls than boys, since female altercations tend to be more insidious, says Tingley. But you can help "stop the stuff you see." Ask the teacher what behavior she has witnessed in the classroom and talk to your child about why whispering behind another student's back, or passing notes about her, is wrong.
I also found some very funny parent-teacher interactions that should lighten the mood : )
A parent sent a box of cake mix and a can of frosting with a note to the teacher saying that it was for her daughter’s birthday later that week and would she please make it?
Excuse note: “Susie will be checked out early today. We are getting her hair and nails done.”
Several years ago a parent wrote me a note (both parents are doctors by the way) that said, “_____ is feeling a little tired this morning. Could she please go to the clinic to take a nap sometime today?”
This line is just too funny to resist. I had a mother accuse me of being responsible for her daughter’s loss of virginity. (BTW, I am female and teaching 2nd grade at the time). To say I was speechless would be an understatement. And if you knew me, being speechless is out of character. I had warned this little girl repeatedly to sit down properly in her seat. But she insisted on sitting on the chair as if she were getting on a horse, swinging her leg over the back of the chair and then sitting. Yep, it happened. As she was swinging the leg, she lost her balance and ended up straddling the back of the chair rather hard. I immediately sent her to the nurse because she was in a lot of pain. I got a letter the next day saying I was responsible for the little girl losing her virginity (there was some bleeding) and how were they going to explain it to her future husband. This had to have been a couple of decades ago. I guess the husband, if there is one, got over it.
When I taught kindergarten I had a mom call me at my home before school had started and asked me where she should buy her son a glue stick.
Reading all of these stories was comforting and made me feel a bit better about my future with parents. Least of all, this makes me realize we're all in this together.