> What To Say To Teacher Bashers

How To Respond When Parents/People Tell You How "Easy Teachers Have It" By Robert Bacal

The following is based on the principles and techniques outlined in Building Bridges Between Home And School.

As a teacher I often get told just how easy my job is -- that teachers are over-paid, get three months holidays, work just a few hours a day. You know the deal. It's gotten so bad that not only do I hear these things from parents but also when I go out socially. It makes me really mad, and I often end up in arguments. What can I say in these situations.

People stereotype almost everyone, and of course, these kinds of comments are going to provoke anger in a lot of teachers, because they seem so unfair. The common "gut response" is to put forth your own counter-argument, and explain why they are wrong.

Except it doesn't work. People tend to give credibility to information that supports their existing conclusions, so even if you present powerful explanations, it's almost completely unlikely that you will change their minds. What you will do, by trying to defend teachers, is just create a more heated argument.

If you DO present a great argument, you'll find that the "teacher basher" just gets angrier, and throws more stereotypes at you. And then both parties get more angry.

What To Say:

You could say nothing. Just nod. When the "teacher basher" sees that you aren't going to take the bait, it makes the process unrewarding, so they tend to stop. Saying nothing is not the best response, particularly if you are one on one with a parent in a meeting, since it can send the message that you are ignoring the parent.

Use Neutral Mode

Neutral mode is a technique used to acknowledge something someone has said, without agreeing with it, and doing so in a way that confused the other person enough so they stop their harangue.  It's explained, along with some other verbal self-defense techniques in Chapter 8 of the book. But, here's how it sounds:

Some people do feel that teachers have easier jobs.

Then stop. Don't say more. Again the point here is not to provide the person fuel for their fire. often, the other person will say something like "And I'm one of them", to which you can respond, "Yes, I can see that you might be frustrated" (an empathy response). Then return the conversation to the real topic of the meeting. Or, if it's a social setting, perhaps change the subject.

What's Important Here

Often we want to defend our professions against false accusations and stereotypes, but remember that opinions and stereotypes are NOT rational in the first place, so it's hard to "fight them" with facts and figures. It's really not your job to teach the parent about teaching and its demands, and getting into these kinds of arguments can get in the way of your real job, which is to teach the students, and perhaps get some rapport going with parents.

Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator's/Teacher's Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents contains over 100 tactics to deal with difficult and emotional parents, and includes help with self-control (not getting sucked into arguments), how to avoid taking the bait and giving up control of conversations, and others similar to the "neutral mode" technique in this article.

We'd love to hear from teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents on the content on this page and on how we can build better communication and cooperations between school and home. Our "commenting rules" are simple.
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