‘Highway to the danger zone’ … or training the parents!

I want my child to sit the B2 exam in three months like my neighbour’s niece’s niece.’ (of course why not? Who cares about the CEFR, the SLA, the fact that no one will employ you just because you got a B2 ten years ago)?

By Tanya Livarda

‘When will my child ‘take the Lower’ (Is it a thing or not?)’,

 ‘I really like the way you do your lesson, my kid loves you, but my sister’s friend who has studied in England knows English (well, yes and no) and she is coming back to Greece and I would like to help her earn some money (nothing is more permanent than a temporary solution) and she will eventually teach my daughter (mmm is she familiar with the current methods, techniques, psychology, I wonder)’

‘Can you please tell me the books you are using because the teacher I am having does not know? (Aha, so you are not satisfied with one’s services, yet you continue paying them but you ask another professional to give you a list of books and why not lesson plans to pass them on to the one that you are not satisfied with? It’s getting interesting.)

‘You are so pricey. I don’t understand why! There are so many teachers out there with half of your price. (I particularly like this one. Well, let’s say that I am self-conscious enough to charge my services based on my working experience, academic background, knowledge and many more.)

‘You always play, draw, create, listen to music, watch videos and play games on the PC’ (Well, not really! There is always a reason behind what we do. Don’t get me started!)

I am sure that we all have had such experiences now more than ever. The majority of the parents, hopefully not all of them, are taking the professional role and parents who know everything about school, English, certificates, second language acquisition, the CEFR, the working life and life in general. We are talking about parents who are in their 40s or 50s who have taken English courses themselves, some of them (yes some of them) have obtained a B2 level certificate twenty or thirty years ago, yet they have an opinion, which is absolutely acceptable, and they can’t stand someone disagreeing with them. Therefore, one of the ‘danger zones’ in our field tends to be our clients, or ‘the parents’. Our main stakeholders after our students of course. Do they leave us room to do our job? No. Do they leave room for their kids to flourish and grow? No. Do they accept the fact that things are slightly different nowadays, mainly due to technology and because humanity tends to move forward? No.

So, who is the professional anyway? Is it the sign of the times and knowledge instead of making us more powerful, it makes us doubt and reach to irrelevant conclusions, just because we heard or read it somewhere? Where is the critical thinking? Where is the trust to the pros? Where is the trust in their own kids? Where is the trust in the procedure?

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel or let’s admit that this is the case?

As always, there is not such a magic recipe but there are a couple of things that can be done to train the parents. Because the parents need training.

  1. Organise parent’s’seminars to get them know your work. You can train them regarding the methodology you are using, the materials, your organization philosophy or your beliefs as a teacher. A brief schedule with what will be covered within the school year might be effective. You can prepare a guide including all these.
  2. Open days, be it once every two months, every semester, or once a month would be beneficial. These days the parents will have the chance to view how things are done in your school by asking the students.
  3. Ask the expert. You can also organize short seminars, either online or face to face in which they will ask an expert (a guest or someone from the school) about the issues they have.
  4. Involve them. Treat them as a partner by letting them share information about their children that seem to be valuable during the learning process.
  5. Create different communication channels (like an app, through emails or in-person meetings) in which you can communicate your expectations, what is expected from them, what they need to do to help their kids, and what they do not need to do. In other words, barriers.
  6. Share accountability. Adding to the above, being clear about your methods, materials, expectations, policies and protocols ensures building trust, and treating everyone with respect.
  7. Help manage the learning process outside school hours.
  8. Let the parents be students for one day. They can be your students and experience the lesson themselves. Ask them afterwards ‘how does this experience make you feel?’
  9. An online calendar in which the parents will be kept updated or a blog.

And number 10. Money. You might already do some of the above but how about the financial factor? ‘I like the way you do things but the tuition fees are expensive’. What can you do about it? Well, maybe it isn’t the client you need to have and they may cause you trouble in the long-run. In a nutshell, a teacher-parent relationship should be based on mutual trust, respect, and communication. If any of these cease to exist, then we are approaching the danger zone


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