Parents of today’s students have unprecedented opportunities for rapid communication with our public schools. The availability of email, websites, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets provides an entire new universe of tools and with it, an expectation for instant contact, particularly among younger parents. We try to oblige…
Just one example: As recently as 10 years ago, parents generally found out about their child’s progress through receiving a report card. Perhaps they might also get an email, phone call, or handwritten note from the teacher when necessary. As the father of seven children, I am amazed at the changes since then. Here in Pearland ISD (for example), the Skyward system gives instant parental/student access for parents to view every posted grade. Parents can receive automatic email alerts when their child’s grades are below expectations. Thus, my wife (more than me) checks Skyward almost every day to determine how our children are doing, whether they’ve turned in their homework, how they did on the big test, etc.
With this convenience comes even greater desire for instant feedback from teachers when grade or discipline problems surface. Frankly, our hard-working teachers often struggle to keep up with the demand. Parents can forget that the typical high school teacher may instruct as many as 150 students per day. Or that the typical elementary teacher is providing instruction in as many as five or six areas every day. Consequently, they are not going to be instantly familiar with or available to answer the questions posed by a panic-stricken mom who just realized her child failed a major test – or is being sent to detention for name calling.
There is a middle ground somewhere between today’s expectations for instant communication – and the realities of a teacher/administrator workload. Here are some things to keep in mind when parents desire communication on academic, discipline, extra-curricular, or other issues/problems:
- Follow the chain of command. Begin with the person directly responsible for the problem/situation you’ve identified. Usually, that means the teacher or the counselor serving your child. Be nice. It generally works a whole lot better.
- If the concern/problem is not solved at that initial level, then proceed to talk to the administrator on the campus (assistant principal or principal). Again, realize that the principal is responsible for hundreds (or thousands) of students.
- Our board policy specifically states that issues should first be approached informally and at the lowest level possible. But if informal methods aren’t satisfactory, parents can use the formal complaint procedures as outlined in our board policy manual (available on our district website).
- When people jump over the chain of command and contact the board or superintendent first, the issue will be referred back down the chain of command to the appropriate person. Therefore, it is generally better to talk directly to the person involved rather than to go above their head. In the long run, this produces much more lasting solutions and certainly better communication with the people daily serving your child.
- When you request an appointment, please don’t expect that to occur within the next hour or even within the next 12 hours unless it is a true emergency. (A true emergency is not “My kid is failing, and I’m free in 20 minutes.”)
- If you e-mail or call to talk to a teacher/principal, it is reasonable to expect a response within 24 hours. We emphasize this with our faculty/staff – as an expectation.
- In general, make use of the Golden Rule: Treat the teachers and staff in the same way you want to be treated.
Frankly, our school district must now provide additional training to our people on enhanced customer service techniques. Why? In our society now, those who want instant gratification often shout and scream when they don’t get what they want at the instant they make contact. Thus, training on the unreasonable “customer” is becoming increasingly necessary.
Unfortunately, those most likely to read this blog are NOT those who most need to hear this. But perhaps the word will spread…And I so appreciate the majority of our parents who already know and practice these things!