Every student comes with different interests and background. These interests dictate their best and worst skills.
You might worry about some of your students’ lack of interest in writing and spelling; others may not bother about putting their best foot forward in learning grammar. And then some students prefer engaging in irrelevant activities during class thus distracting the whole class from the learning process.
It is important to reach out to parents in order to keep them informed of their child’s learning progress and also to rectify such unbecoming behaviors. In some cases, however, parents take difficult feedback negatively and that precious parent-teacher rapport is gone forever.
So how do we overcome the odds of offending parents when sharing negative feedback? Here are a few strategies:
1. Use a Feedback Sandwich
If you are apprehensive of parents’ response, you may try dressing up the feedback more optimistically.
Remember your goal is to gain parents’ confidence. You cannot rely on the painful message only to get the results. You have to keep the situation bright and hopeful.
You can encourage continued communication by including positive feedback among negative ones to keep the tone of the conversation light.
In a feedback sandwich, you compliment your student before giving the issue that needs focus and then you conclude with another positive attribute of the kid.
Always remember to focus on specific skills and achievements to highlight students’ progress for feedback sandwich. Generalities like a good learner, helpful, and easy-going will only widen the rift between you and parents. Find specific qualities of the students and use them in conversation.
2. Avoid Blame-Game
Starting a blame game appears most lucrative when we feel that students deserve more than what they are getting at home.
I know we all keep students’ best interests at our hearts. And I know that sometimes parents fail to notice those aspects of their children which we notice at the school time. This failure can lead to a disagreement of opinion and practice among parents and teachers.
And it appears just right to tell them how their parenting style is failing their kids.
But think again! Would this intensely personalized feedback earn you those parents’ approval?
If your honest, but painful, opinion attracts negative attention you will lose your chance to maintain open communication with the parents. Who will suffer in this scenario other than the student?
So, if you are ready to bash the parents, save your breath.
Instead, focus on involving them as team-players in the child’s development.
3. Try to Keep Feedback a Routine
Have you ever got a text or call from your school principal, or other authority, at the wrong time of the day?
If you have, you must know the panic such calls ensues in the recipient.
It could be a complaint against you or it could be a disciplinary measure.
How did you receive the call? Were you defensive? Or maybe you were in fight or flight mode.
The same cognitive mechanism goes on within the minds of parents when their kids’ teachers approach them, all of a sudden.
My child must have misbehaved.
Or he could be in trouble.
Routine is a great mechanism which will allow you to share the feedback without getting parents in panic mode. A weekly, or fortnightly, routine is most feasible if you want immediate action from parents.
4. Build Rapport
Some parents remain continuously involved in their students’ educational activities. Others are not so attentive.
Either way, technology has allowed you to remain approachable to relevant parents. You can maintain a relationship with them over social media or through school’s LMS. Keep them engaged with regular updates regarding classroom activities.
This way, they will know your commitment to their children’s success and learning and will swallow the hard pill of difficult feedback.
5. Remain Focused on Positive Outcomes
So, Joe is not interested in reading. Whenever you assign a chapter or book he comes back blank. You ask him to read aloud in class and he makes a fool of himself.
You are at your wits’ end. You are unable to help.
But then you decide to focus on the solution. You ask around, consult professionals, search through books and papers, and talk to his parents.
You are willing to know and practice the solution.
You focus on the desired end. And his parents will accompany you to focus on the same.
The best strategy to change an unwanted situation is to focus on its solutions and desired results. Keep the desired results and how you can get there at the forefront of your discussion. These success goals will surely give a light note to your conversation with parents about negative feedback.