Conflict Resolution – Parents/Students
November 9, 2012 at 9:59 am #15141
This is my second semester working in my district, and in ten months, I’ve found myself in a swamp of passive-aggressive conflict. I’m evidently a much more serious director that my predecessor was, and none of my students will come near me if they have a problem with what’s going on in class. Instead they all go to the principal. Needless to say, I’m driving to school every morning wondering, “Who’s going to try and get me fired today?” In addition, my ex-Boosters president turned on me and quit within three months. Conveniently, he has four children (spread over six years of age difference) in the program, who walk around like they own the place. While his kids are decent players (or at least by comparison to the small pond they live in), he does not hold his children accountable for defiance, missed assignments or counterproductive behavior. One quit after the last spring semester. Any effort I make at this point to collaborate with these parents is futile.
This morning after what I thought was an outstanding rehearsal, the oldest daughter, who generally has her act together and had allegedly been planning to write me a letter expressing her issues, went to the principal WITH A PETITION, stating that I’m “not fit to be a teacher,” and was going to go around to have people sign it. Of course the principal shut her down immediately, but… what am I supposed to do now? This family is going to be part of my program for the next six years, unless I get hired with another district (which isn’t likely in the current economic situation), and as long as we’re in the same pond, there’s going to be a constant internal effort to get rid of me, which is going to hold the potential of the program down.
Should I start looking for a new gig? Should I call a meeting between my principal and this student? At this point, pride doesn’t even come into play anymore and I don’t really care who wins in the end, because I’m going to end up with an ulcer if something doesn’t change here.November 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm #15211
What a tough situation for you. It sounds like your principal is backing you, which is a good thing, and I think you’re right in thinking the best solution would be to have a meeting with this student. It might be best to keep it between the student and you; I can imagine that the student might feel very defensive if the principal was in the meeting too. If she will not meet with you alone, then you could bring the principal into the mix. If she wants to write you a letter first, let her do that. It’s a good way to get thoughts out clearly and coherently and in an organized form. It would be nice to address any “issues” she is having, real or imagined, and if she just can’t handle being in band, let her go. It’s better if you can work things out, but life isn’t perfect.
Chances are good that the tirade won’t last forever. Students will stop comparing you to previous directors, the game won’t be fun anymore, and they’ll find new distractions. Brothers and sisters grow up and form their own opinions. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a tough year, but it may not go on as long as you think.November 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm #15224
You didn’t say what your numbers are, but are you going to let one student, 6 potential students and a parent hold you and your program hostage? Remember, you are the teacher and you shouldn’t have to defend what you believe to be are sound teaching techniques. They’ll be many other kids and many other parents. If you have your administration’s support, keep doing what you’re doing. Be polite, be honest, be nice and BE FIRM. Listen to criticisms and evaluate them on their merits. Change procedures if you need to, but not because a parent or child thinks you should do something different. Numbers always drop when you take over program. These kids will leave and you’ll be left with the kids that want to work with you. . Yeah its frustrating, but don’t worry about it. In a few years your program will be stronger and better. Once your program finds success, the students will come.
NOTE: it was suggested to “keep it between the student and you.” NEVER have a one on one discussion with a student. Ask ask a counselor, AP or Principal to sit in and observe while you have this discussion with the student.
JohnNovember 14, 2012 at 12:03 pm #15431
Every person I know and trust in the profession has stories about taking over a program and dealing with “how things used to be”. It isn’t easy, but I echo John’s advice to be polite, honest, nice and FIRM. I think acknowledging and admitting that you are in no way the person who was there before is key. Having a conversation with students and their parents to “clear the air” is also vital.
I took over for a teacher who treated music class like a party and I am in no way that teacher. Students came into a transformed band room, it was a disgusting mess before, and a teacher who expected a lot more from students in the areas of responsibility, musicality and respect. I like to think that I balance everything by being approachable but at times students will have problems approaching me. With these students I try to approach them and make sure there aren’t any unaddressed problems. Never in a closed room one-on-one though.
Overall, know your vision for the program so you can recite it to anyone at the drop of a hat, listen to parent/student concerns without being combative and at the same time respectfully defend and hold to your ideals as a teacher. And if they do not like it they do not have to take the class. It sounds like your admin supports this.November 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm #15433
I would definitely have the principal sit in on any meeting with the student and family. It might be helpful to get it all out in the open and on the table in front of your administrator, especially so the parents have to hear about the petition and the inappropriateness of their child’s actions. I hope your principal continues to support you! Hang in there and keep us posted!
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