I let someone push my employee around and now it’s a mess

A reader writes:

I am a principal at a school who recently had a meeting with one of my teachers, “Miss Honey,” and an upset parent. This is not unheard of, though Miss Honey is one of the most popular teachers. I went in with the intention of doing my job to moderate the situation. The parent was upset because her daughter was struggling, not understanding the homework (of which Miss Honey was apparently not sending enough home). The parent also felt Miss Honey’s read-aloud time (a fairly common thing in elementary schools) was a waste of educational time.

What it came down to was that the parent wanted her daughter to stay in from all recesses (including lunch recess) and specials (art, PE, etc. classes, which also happens to be Miss Honey’s lesson planning time) in order to have personal tutoring time. I must also mention her daughter is already receiving individual tutoring that is constantly being examined and tweaked.

Just to continue the conversation, I asked Miss Honey if she would be willing to provide this. To my surprise, Miss Honey said agreed. Now, this might sound like she is a stellar, loving teacher (which she is), but this has had some not entirely unexpected consequence.

Per contract, Miss Honey is entitled to duty-free recesses and lunch. Miss Honey also has a young baby at home and is still pumping. Despite being granted the duty-free recesses as a break time, Miss Honey is allowed to use them as wishes, including tutoring students. Because of the type of employee she is, I’m not required to grant her pumping time. Obviously, I don’t want to be that manager, but this is a school and extra spare time is next-to-impossible to find. Logic and common sense suggested recess was the ideal pumping time.

I left out a part of the parent meeting: When Miss Honey explained to the parent she used her recess time to pump, the parent told her to buy formula.

I suspect there is some passive-aggressiveness going on. Miss Honey is asking for a stipend to cover her lost planning and break time… also to cover the formula she now says she has to buy since pumping milk is out of the equation.

This special time of extra tutoring has not yet begun.

Miss Honey isn’t upset with me, but has explained that in order to do as this parent requests, she needs to be compensated. I agree. However, this is stipend money I may not be able to get from the district.

I’ve prided myself on keeping both teachers and the school community happy, but if I tell Miss Honey to forget it, I’m going to have an angry parent on my hands.

Is there a good way, or at least less painful way, out of this?

Well … the problem here is that you asked her in front of the parent if she’d be willing to do this — which probably made her feel pressured to agree. It’s pretty likely that she assumed you were pushing her to do it since otherwise you wouldn’t have put her on the spot in front of a parent. An unreasonable and rude parent, to boot.

You say you did this “just to continue the conversation,” but by doing that, you put her in a terrible position. Your role in that meeting was to facilitate solutions, yes, but it was also to be a voice of reason and, if necessary, to ensure that your teacher wasn’t pushed around.

And it’s really, really not okay to allow a parent’s unreasonable demands to push your employee into using formula rather than pumping. That parent telling her to buy formula was basically cartoon-villain level of not okay.

You say that the teacher is being passive-aggressive by asking for money to cover her lost planning and break time, as well as the costs of formula. I think she’s both making a point (that she deserves to be compensated for her time, which she does) and asking for something perfectly logical.

Regardless, the solution here is not to pander to a parent to the point of craziness. The solution is to clean this situation up by correcting the original mistake you made in that meeting.

That means that you need to explain to the parent that this solution has proved unworkable as it’s leaving the teacher without sufficient time for other things during the day. Don’t get into what she uses that time for; the fact that it’s for pumping isn’t relevant and is none of her business. You could mention that those free periods are contractually mandated if you think it will help, but I worry that she’ll use that as license to paint the teacher as “working to the contract” rather than in the best interests of students or other nonsense.

When you talk to the parent, it’s essential that you take responsibility for this decision — do not blame the teacher in any way or imply that the change is at her request. If there’s a hit to be taken here, you’ve got to be the one to take it.

You should also apologize to the teacher for putting her in the position you did. Tell her you were wrong to do it, and that you apologize for not having her back.

Your measure of success in your work can’t be that no one is ever unhappy with you. That’s an impossible bar for any manager to meet, but especially in a job like yours. If you try to achieve that at all costs, you’re going to let unreasonable people control you, and you’re still going to make some people — the reasonable ones — unhappy. Side with the reasonable.

(Caveat: I’ve never worked in education, and it’s possible there are education-specific norms here that should impact how you proceed. Adapt accordingly.)

{ 778 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago

    I feel bad for Miss Honey and for the kid.

    At least you have more self awareness than Trunchbull to realize this isn’t a good situation.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      On a strict educational level, elementary-age kids normally need some down time, aka recess, where they physically move around. It is just not the case that doubling the time sitting doing worksheets doubles the learning.

      Now, some kids have a lot of trouble with transitions and maybe avoiding recess and art and so on would make it easier for them to stay on an emotionally steady course. But from what little is in the letter, this doesn’t sound like an IEP that is actually serving the best interest of the child, which is supposed to be the focus of parent, teacher, principal, and everyone else. Above smoothing the waters with angry “customers”.

      Reply
      1. Karen D

        Huge double-plus yes to this. Especially at the elementary level (sounds like young elementary) there is a significant point of sharply diminishing returns in trying to force-feed worksheets to a kid who isn’t allowed to get up and move, or benefit from the educational synergy of arts, music, etc. Plus the social stigma and the fact that the early elementary years set education patterns that carry throughout high school and beyond.

        This is just 18 kinds of bad and, no disrespect to the OP, but shouldn’t the parent have been told all this? What she is demanding is so far outside the realm of modern educational theory. It’s actively bad for her daughter.

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        1. ladycrim

          NTM that staying inside at recess is generally considered a punishment, which will only serve to make the child resentful and hate school even more. That is not something any parent should want!

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        2. Rovannen

          Every school is different, but at our school, asking for more tutoring time is not worksheets, it is direct instruction one-on-one with the teacher. This parent is asking for a huge time commitment.

          Reply
        3. TootsNYC

          “there is a significant point of sharply diminishing returns in trying to force-feed worksheets to a kid who isn’t allowed to get up and move,”

          This is true for grownups!

          Reply
          1. Lyn by the River

            Agree! Kids who dont get to play don’t learn or develop normally! The parent needs to be educated about this and it’s the teacher and principals’ job (as the education experts — or so I would hope) to do this!
            I really feel for this child as they are not being protected or offered appropriate education by the parents or the teachers! :(

            Reply
          1. RADmath007

            What was the other? If you care about kids, parents don’t matter. The principal is an idiot, the parent needs to chill, and the child MUST have open play time. It’s psychology, not common sense.

            Stand up to your parents! Or I will for you :)

            Reply
            1. lokilaufeysanon

              You can care about kids and still not want to ultimately deal with their parents. My stepmom taught high school math (has since retired), and she said that dealing with parents was worse than dealing with their teenage kids. (And she was more than willing to stand up to the parents.)

              Reply
          2. mm5

            a colleague of my mom once answered to the principal that was asking her to take an (in principle) tough class: “no problem, as long the kids are all orphans”

            Reply
        1. zsuzsanna

          It’s kind of offensive to call either the student or parent the “customer.” It suggests the teacher has to do everything to please both with no effort on the other side. Parents have to parent (meaning helping the kids, making sure they are taken care of physically, and, when age appropriate, making sure they do their homework. The teacher teaches – and not just the one kid. Dozens, even scores of them, depending on grade. What’s incredible to me is that this parent thinks the teacher should put her student/child ahead of teacher’s own child! And give up all her break time? No. This parent is so unbelievably self -centered and entitled, that’s the influence I worry about most when it comes to the kid. If I had been that teacher and my administrates had pressured me to basically work for free – sacrificing my time to breast-pump! – I’d have quit on the spot.

          Reply
          1. teacher_gal

            Unfortunately, the state of education is turning, that the parents and students are the “customers”. In my district, the phrase customer has been used an awful lot– office staff are required to attend customer service training, we have a suggestion box posted at the entrance of school, and teachers are expected to bend over backwards to make the students and parents happy. Because if the parents aren’t happy, they will pull their child from the school, and the money goes with that child.

            Reply
      2. Indoor Cat

        I never actually became an art teacher (though I strongly considered it), and while it’s a minor point compared to the rest of of the letter, I keep being struck by how little regard the parent has for art and physical classes!

        Children *need* ability-appropriate art and physical education. I’m restraining myself from linking to the thousands of studies that show how a strong art education background boosts learning skills and creative thinking skills across the board, or how kids with good phys. ed have better physical health, and instead I’m just going to say this: I have used my art skills, which I began learning in school every day. Both in in my job, and also in my social life and interior life. Likewise, I have used skills I learned in phys. ed every day, despite the amount I protested the class as a kid, because I live in a physical body! So learning how to stretch safely, for example, has prevented injuries whenever I try out a new dance routine just for fun. Moreover, learning how to push myself slightly past where I thought my physical limits were was really empowering. Like the child in the letter, I had an IEP (because of my physical disability) but the IEP was never “just skip gym altogether” no matter how much I wanted it to be, and in hindsight that was a very good thing.

        Just, ughh. Your kid needs art and gym, they’re just as important as reading and math.

        Reply
        1. moosetracks

          “as reading and math”
          They think her read aloud time is a waste of time, so clearly they don’t find reading very important anyway.

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          1. Anonymoose

            Yep. Apparently little Bobby Sue is only allowed to grow up and be an engineer. Poor thing.

            Okay I’m in higher ed, and have no children so my opinion may be moot. But my first reaction was ‘THIS ISNT STARBUCKS’. You don’t get to drastically alter the school day according to only your child’s needs. If that’s what you want, then you need to find a way to pay for it at a specialized school. And to be rude enough (!!!!) to alter another child’s feeding implementation is just…..beyond. My jaw dropped.

            Reply
            1. Artemesia

              My oldest friend was in primary education for 40 years. She told me that the biggest changes in that time were 1. young children arrived at school unable to tolerate being told no or to take their turn — it was as if 6 year olds were arriving in her classes with the social skills of 3 year olds and 2. parents who once thought ‘we have to treat everyone the same’ was reasonable now basically said ‘I don’t care about the other kids and whether it is fair to them, I want this special privilege for my kid.’ These two trends are probably related.

              Reply
              1. copy run start

                Parenting these days is nuts. Several years a go, a former friend brought her 2-year-old son to my house one afternoon, and her child started yanking on the cables coming from my TV. It was a flatscreen (small and light enough that he had it rocking) and it was just sitting on an old-school TV stand. I couldn’t mount it on the walls because I was renting, so there was nothing to stop it from keeling over on this kid’s head. When I corrected the child with a “No” and a redirect (because mom was doing nothing), I got a lecture on how they don’t say no to their child (!!).

                They were not welcome back.

                Reply
                1. tigerStripes

                  I feel so sorry for kids who aren’t told “no” by their parents. By the time someone does try to keep them in line, the kids are likely to be very used to always having their own way, and it will be harder to change.

                  Also, from my experience working in daycare, kids tend to be happier when they know what the rules are and know that there are appropriate consequences for breaking the rules. Kids who can do whatever they want are always looking for where the boundaries are.

        2. Tiger Parent

          “Your kid needs art and gym, they’re just as important as reading and math.”
          No, they’re not. (If you disagree, fine – but please do it with your own kid, instead of mine, thanks.)

          Reply
          1. Ms. Annie

            Art and gym are how they learn fine and gross motor skills. Also, there are some kids who are visual learners and some who learn while they move. Worksheets are simply not going to work with them.

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          2. Indoor Cat

            It’s not a matter of opinion or personal preference. Visual literacy is highly promotes language literacy and critical thinking skills, which are vital in an increasingly image-oriented culture: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41482883?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

            The decline in creativity in the United States (as demonstrated by the TTCT) is making young American adults less competitive in job markets across the board, from engineering to design to healthcare to education. The TTCT has historically been a significantly better predictor of lifetime success in both careers and relationships than the SAT, ACT, or WISC: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201209/children-s-freedom-has-declined-so-has-their-creativity

            And while creative problem solving is a skill that, in theory, could be practiced in all classes, it is still predominantly honed, and most easily built, in visual arts classes in the k-6th setting: http://education.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1105881/alter-paper.pdf

            I promised in my previous post not to add a thousand links, because truly, the argument could be supported in many directions. From a purely career-oriented standpoint, at the college level, humanities degrees are significantly less marketable than degrees involving phys. ed experience (Nutrition, Public Health, Exercise Science, Kinesthology) or degrees that require a solid visual art background (any degree in ______ Design or Visual Marketing). Not that people shouldn’t get a degree in English or History if that’s their passion! But there’s a lot of growth and opportunity in the fields I mentioned, whereas jobs in most humanities-centric fields are static. Depriving a student of phys ed and art classes in K-12 means that student won’t be able to take advantage of college-level Exercise Science or 2D Design courses, because he or she won’t have the necessary prerequisite skills.

            The fact is, critical visual literacy skills, creative thinking skills, art-making skills, and personal health maintenance skills are equally valuable in day-to-day life for most people as critical reading skills and writing skills. More-so, I would estimate, than mathematics knowledge above the fifth grade level, again for the average person. A student who didn’t receive art or gym classes will be at a distinct disadvantage to a student who had specials in their school.

            Reply
            1. blushingflower

              Also, when I was a kid, recess, art and PE were times when we got to interact with our classmates in a different way, which means they are an opportunity to practice social skills like teamwork and communication.

              Reply
            2. PersephoneUnderground

              This comment is awesome! I only *just recently* discovered I LOVE graphic design and want to go into it as a career. I never thought I was “good at art” as a kid because I “couldn’t draw”. I WISH there had been more emphasis placed on art when I was younger (and I went to great, well-rounded schools, but they never got through to me that I didn’t have to be able to draw to be artistic, and that drawing didn’t have to be intimidating), I might have realized I’m good at it!

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          3. Anion

            Eh, I totally agree that schools today waste too much time on nonsense, but I do think gym and art classes are important. A whole “sports day” with no academic learning annoys me, but one hour a day for some exercise is a good thing.

            Reply
            1. Just Allison

              As a young teacher, I have to say that while a parent might not think art and pe are important they make your child a happier person. I have had many students that after 30 min of recess or arts class come back ready to tackle the math assignment they had previously stated was impossible to do and they just couldn’t understand. They make kids well rounded individuals, and help they explore healthy outlets for their emotions. These times are also important for the teacher, its the only time we have to speed to the restroom, make copies or adjust the lesson plan for the day. It can be really stressful even overwhelming going through the day without at least one of these tiny breaks. Happy students, Happy teachers, better humans all around.

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          4. Parenthetically

            Yes, yes they are. Because children, like adults, are complete people who cannot be subdivided into brains and bodies.

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          5. Jane

            I disagree. We can’t all be into STEM and if you cram STEM down the throat of a child who isn’t interested, you’re going to end up with a burned out and resentful adult. And, frankly, it’s tiresome to hear that the arts don’t matter when there are so many people gloating about being in STEM who can’t write a sentence.

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      3. Optimistic Prime

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing! Withdrawing the kid from recess and all of her special classes is unlikely to work – one, because kids need downtime, but two because if the kid really likes recess and art and the other stuff she’s likely to come to resent school a lot, and maybe perform even worse because of this.

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      4. Donnie Z

        I agree! Some parents want to point the finger at the teacher but, its not always the case. It can be issues in our own home that is the problem. Missy Honey, needs to take her time to do her lesson plans, grade test, and etc. The principle needs to apologize to Miss Honey. She should be able to take her breaks to pump milk for her baby. A matter of fact it is required now to let breastfeeding mothers to pump milk at work. I feel that parent is being inconsiderate and just want to push her weight

        Reply
        1. Sircia1215

          What weight? Tha parent is being rude and ignorant to think that any school would put his / her child above the others. Yes we all want what is best for our children. However, schools today do not have the funding or the time for special favors. The teacher, as willing as she may be to grant that request, should not even think about it. Teachers need their down time as well as the kids! It’s just common sense.

          Reply
    2. CoveredInBees

      Me too. I was in high school with a kid like that and things went from bad to worse for him academically and socially.

      Reply
      1. pope suburban

        Oh my god, I can just picture Rhea Perlman saying that. Like, what, you have the time for that? Just give her a bottle! She did such a good job in that movie, which can’t have been easy because the kids have said in interviews that she and Danny DeVito were very kind people, and like a second set of parents during filming.

        Reply
    3. SystemsLady

      My mother works as a student aide and regularly runs into parents like this, who think their students are especially handicapped (despite maybe just needing a tutor to get OK grades in certain subjects they aren’t good at), suggest specific, ineffective solutions, and get outraged when they’re told “no”.

      (Of course, there’s plenty of the exact polar opposite, too.)

      I only very rarely run into people who try to tell me how to do MY job (to help something they care about). I can’t imagine yearly having to deal with a new parent or two like this, and the ripple effects from entire online communities committed to backing up their bad opinions.

      Reply
  2. RG

    How does this parent expect her child to do homework if their reading levels take a hit because of the lack of reading instruction? Or you have homework if there’s no time to plan?

    At least you’re no Trunchbill OP.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      OP isn’t Trunchbull, but I think they could use some serious, deeply honest introspection about how they handle conflict, how willing they actually are to stand up for their employees, and what kind of culture exists around work-life balance and heading off confrontational parents in this school. You don’t “continue the conversation” by rolling over for the demanding parent and putting the teacher on the spot – that looks more like capitulation and placation to me – and if that’s the first thing that comes to mind to keep the ball rolling, you need some professional development around conflict management.

      Reply
      1. aebhel

        Yeah, it seems like OP is trying to take the easy way out by rolling over for the person who’s most likely to throw a fit–and throwing her much more reasonable employee under the bus. That’s no way to manage.

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        1. Specialk9

          Yup.

          OP, Alison said this perfectly. Please read this over and over and don’t let a bullying unreasonable parent harm a newborn and punish a great teacher!!

          “It’s really, really not okay to allow a parent’s unreasonable demands to push your employee into using formula rather than pumping. That parent telling her to buy formula was basically cartoon-villain level of not okay.”

          Cartoon-villain, that’s the parent. Are you going to stand up for Cruella, or for the Dalmatian dogs and puppies?

          Reply
          1. tigerStripes

            The parent’s suggestion is bad for the kid and the teacher. Seems like the parent should think about getting a tutor for the kid. Also, sometimes a kid isn’t doing well in school because of issues that could be diagnosed or sometimes a kid just needs a little more time to grow up.

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            1. Maolin

              It also comes to mind that children of micromanaging, controlling, and abusive parents often struggle academically. Poor kiddo has no safe haven at all now.

              Reply
        2. Teal

          This was absolutely it. If the teacher hadn’t said “and now that you volunteered me, I assume you’re going to pay me?” there would be no letter.

          It was a clear attempt to make the teacher the bad guy by manipulating the conversation… If my manager did this I’d be tempted to do something equally passive-aggressive in return.

          The problem was the action, not the reaction.

          Reply
          1. Anonymoose

            “If my manager did this I’d be tempted to do something equally passive-aggressive in return.”

            Oh yes. Or leave, and make sure my friends in the district were aware of why I was leaving. That was such a poor leadership decision. I hate to use the term cop out, but as a past leader, the responsibility for dealing with the parent was just dumped on the teacher without reason or notice.

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        3. pope suburban

          Also, I have found, as someone who has had to inhabit a lot of lowest-level roles in order to pay the bills, that people above me on the food chain do not always understand or recall what being new and relatively powerless feels like. Now I am with an agency of compassionate and relatively laid-back people, and they routinely express surprise with how thorough my work is. Not because they expect it to be sloppy, but because they have been out of low roles for so long, and because (in my specific case) they did not come of age in an economy that was as exacting and punishing as the recent recession. So I can well believe that someone who has more authority and experience genuinely looks upon a question like this as an information-gathering exercise to move the conversation along- because they don’t remember being at the bottom very well! But that doesn’t make it an appropriate response, nor should it be taken as an indication that the teacher really felt free to decline.

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      2. AMT

        Yep. I once had a supervisor who was too nice. He would tell me privately that he was going to stand up for me and then crumble once he had to say no to someone. It’s a deadly trait in a profession like mine (social work) that requires you to be firm with unreasonable people. I can’t imagine that being a teacher is any different — if anything, it’s probably worse!

        Reply
          1. Code Monkey, the SQL

            Oh yes.

            My grandboss is a deeply nice person. He’s friendly and open and smiling all the time. He really likes being liked.

            What that means when conflict comes around? You can’t trust him further than you can spit. He “had no control” over which of his direct reports were laid off. He “wasn’t sure of the status of things” when CoL raises came six months late, and Christmas bonuses never materialized. He “didn’t know what could be done” when I put in above-and-beyond OT for months and asked for compensation.

            Be very wary of someone who wants to be liked by everyone.

            Reply
      3. Lionheart26

        Yep. My jaw dropped when I read this. I have worked for some principals who I don’t think “have my back”, and it’s deeply unsettling standing up to parents (in the interest of their child!!) when you don’t think your admin will support you. But I have NEVER been thrown under the bus by admin before. OP I recognize that you are now trying to solve this mess, but please remember you have a responsibility to back your teachers

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      4. Artemesia

        This. This was a catastrophic failure on the part of the principal to be professional. To put the teacher on the spot instead of ruling that demand out was monstrous. To tolerate a parent saying ‘buy formula’ when of course we are talking about the end of nursing since the pumping isn’t just about the milk but about maintaining the supply for nursing, was monstrous. That comment should have brought the principal to her senses.

        This is an outrageous turn of events and the principal needs to fix it and vow to never throw a teacher under the bus during a parent conference again. She needs to take all the heat for the decision. ‘Teachers have mandated time for planning and we cannot commit that time to individual tutoring. Other plans will have to be made for young Fergus.’

        Reply
        1. Teal

          Yes, I love how the pumping comment is thrown in as an aside. Where does catty arguing fit into the image the writer painted of this meeting? Meaning the teacher actually did argue the point and was still overruled by parent and principal. It wasn’t some mutual agreement that the teacher is reneging.

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      5. Jen S. 2.0

        +1000.

        Saying no to a request / demand is not a failure, and giving in to unreasonable demands is not “making everyone happy.” It’s giving in to the one who yells the loudest.

        It’s your job — as the person with whom the buck stops — to know how to find a compromise if one can be found, and also to know when a compromise can’t be reached. Just because the parent was unhappy and being the loudest voice does not mean you couldn’t tell the parent no.

        We have an ongoing conversation in my office about the fact that sometimes the answer is no. There doesn’t always have to be a “how do we get to a yes?”, because sometimes we won’t. There isn’t always a compromise. There might be two sides with valid points and one side still might not get their way. The person in charge needs to make the best decision, and the best decision might involve irritating or upsetting someone. That frequently means having to tell someone that what they want isn’t possible. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong. “Not 100% ideal” is different from “wrong.”

        I also am a fan of the book Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch. The premise of the book isn’t actually about being a B-word; it’s all about saying no, even when it feels rude or mean or not ideal to do so. (They talk about the power of the phrase “I don’t think so,” because no one can tell you that you do think so, when you’ve just told them you don’t. Just because someone wants to argue that they DO think so doesn’t mean that you also have to start thinking so.)

        So, you could have made other suggestions (hiring a private tutor comes to mind). You could have let the parent come up with other solutions. You could have done several things to soften the blow for the parent, but you did not have to give the parent everything they wanted exactly as they were demanding it. When what they wanted was that unreasonable, you could have said a plain old no.

        (And please know, I have no children (not that it should matter, but just for context), and my mouth fell open in horror at the bit about the formula. Like, really? Wow. Just, wow. That parent is … totally over the edge.)

        Reply
        1. AMT

          Yes to all of this — and for some reason, this letter and your comment reminded me of the pastor who was dealing with a congregant who harassed women at church events. The letter-writer was wavering on whether to keep letting him participate, but Alison and the commenters rightly pointed out that including this guy in the spirit of being “nice” meant tacitly excluding people who’d done nothing wrong.

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        2. SP

          I try to avoid “I think” or “I don’t think” in conversations like that actually. I had an English teacher tell me that as a woman, it was important for me to state things as facts rather than as my thoughts/opinions. She believed that sort of phrasing makes it easier to discount what women say.

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          1. Jen S. 2.0

            I actually don’t disagree with you. But for people who struggle with saying no, it’s a good place to start. No for beginners, if you will.

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      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Absolutely agreed. I also hope OP takes a step back to consider how this “solution” required placing an enormous burden on Ms. Honey that extended to essential work and life issues that decent bosses should not infringe upon.

        I also have to confess that I’m having a really hard time getting over OP’s characterization of Ms. Honey’s response as being “passive aggressive.” For requesting compensation for her contractually protected prep (and human needs) time??? OP!

        OP, think of this from the framework of trying to do what’s right for all involved, not as addressing the squeakiest wheel to the detriment of the other (functional) wheels.

        Reply
  3. Justme

    Parent made it perfectly clear that her child was more important that the teacher’s, to the teacher. (And I say this as a parent who chose to use formula – I am not going to debate my choice with people I don’t know on the internet). That parent is really crappy and the school should compensate Ms Honey. And give her a freaking gold star, seriously. Sometimes parents are The Worst.

    Reply
    1. Lady Glitter Sparkles

      That’s the thing, YOU chose how you wanted to feed your child. It is no one else’s choice and this letter made my blood boil.

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      1. CA in CA

        Same here. I actually had to stop and re-read to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding. No no, I understood the first time. Ms Honey must be on the verge of quitting or at the very least looking for another job.

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        1. Amy

          That was my thought too, Miss Honey is agreeing because she knows she cannot stay in this situation and is looking for a new job so agreeing doesn’t matter. Dealing with 1 angry parent is so much better than an entire class suffering by switching teachers mid year. There are afterschool programs or alternative school options if the mom really feels her child must have 1 on 1. Don’t take away required breaks from your teachers.

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    2. Specialk9

      Exactly! I went the formula route too, but dear spudnik telling a nursing mom to give up nursing to accommodate a demand was an evil thing.

      Reply
    3. Middle School Teacher

      She also made it clear her child is more important, period. I teach 150 students. If I was told to give up every single break to work with one kid, I know exactly what i I would tell other parents who asked for my help: take it up with the principal, because unfortunately I am not available.

      Reply
      1. Amy

        The sad thing here is, they did take it to the principal (or managerial equivalent), who chose to handle it by pressuring the teacher into an untenable situation. Just…wow.

        Reply
    4. CarrotCake

      Yeah…

      Miss Honey needs to put a job request over her parenting preference, and is being PA when she wants compensated for that?

      I would never be able to say I had a good boss if that boss allowed anything or one related to work to impact how I feed my child. It takes some serious selfishness to think you can dictate or allow others to dictate how employees feed their kids.

      OP this is selfish because you didn’t want to be in a disagreement with the parent and so made it your subordinates work and home life problem. I really hope you are embarrassed. Luckily there is still time to fix this mistake and apologize to Miss Honey.

      Reply
    1. C Average

      +1.

      When I read that part, I instantly thought of something Dear Prudence on Slate (yes, I’m an advice column junkie) often says: If the behavior described in a letter would be plausible for a villain in a Reese Witherspoon film, we can pretty much all agree that it’s officially Really Bad Behavior.

      Reply
      1. Liane

        Prudie’s not wrong on this one, though my Inner Star Wars Fanwoman would prefer to phrase it as “Plausible behavior for Captain Phasma.”

        OP, since YOU agreed to Bad-Parent’s request that Bad-Parent’s Kid* should take up 100% of a professional educator’s break, planning, & personal needs time–maybe YOU should allow Miss Honey** to take all her breaks while YOU give up all YOURS to tutor the kid.

        *I feel for this poor kid & really think Bad-Parent deserves some corporal punishment with a BIG Clue-by-Four.
        **Am I the only person who winced at reading this pseudonym for a professional woman? (I *know* Alison didn’t pick this gem.) OP, if the teacher had been a man, would you have picked “Mr. Charming”?

        Reply
        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          “Miss Honey” is a reference to a specific character in a novel — who is, in fact, a lovely teacher.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth the Ginger

            Miss Honey in the book is a bit of a pushover, though it turns out it’s because she’s completely financially dependent on the mean principal. In this case, I feel like both the teacher and the OP are too Miss-Honey-ish – giving up far more than is reasonable to soothe a demanding parent when in my opinion they should politely but firmly say “No, that’s not what will happen.”

            Reply
            1. Language Student

              It’s not just financial dependence – Trunchbull was her abuser, as well.

              I don’t blame this Miss Honey too much – what else is she supposed to do when her boss cares enough about placating an unreasonable parent to basically cut her breaks and increase her workload, *especially* when that won’t actually benefit the child, *and* allows this parent to make comments on her work accomodations and feeding choices? I’d guess Miss Honey is jobsearching right about now.
              The boss should definitely recalibrate the parent’s expectations, immediately apologise to Miss Honey and ensure she gets her break time, and work on their conflict avoidance ASAP, though.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                Yeah, I don’t blame the teacher too much either. I don’t know what I would have said in a meeting with my principal and an angry parent if the principal had turned to me and said, “Ms. The Ginger, could you do [super unreasonable but technically possible] thing?” even if the principal was secretly expecting me to say, “No, I can’t.” That’s abdicating responsibility. I’m glad Miss Honey was able to come back to the OP later and advocate for herself.

                Reply
          2. Liane

            Oh. That explains why I was the only one wincing. LOL at myself. Maybe I need to read more Dahl than “Chocolate Factory.”

            I still stand by my statement that the parent needs some quality time with a Clue by Four.

            Reply
            1. sin nombre

              Eh, I got the reference (when I was a kid it was one of very few movies we had on VHS and my siblings and I watched it dozens or possibly hundreds of times), but I was still cringing. It’s a pretty infantilizing name that’s particularly icky in this context.

              Reply
          1. Ulf

            I didn’t memorize the book, myself, but I got the reference right away. Didn’t memorize Oliver Twist either, but I know who Bill and Nancy and the Artful Dodger are. “Memorize” seems like a strange expectation.

            Reply
    2. CA in CA

      My mouth hung open when I read that. Imagine having the gall to expect someone to stop breastfeeding their child so they can tutor your child during their break. Imagine being the breastfeeding mother and having to sit there and not lose your absolute mind over it because your boss is sitting right there. And that poor kid, not allowed to go out for recess or to gym class, no fun whatsoever. This letter is making me all kinds of ragey.

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        “not lose your absolute mind over it because your boss is sitting right there”

        Not to mention that your boss is sitting right there apparently agreeing to all this craziness in front of the Bad Parent! That the teacher should give up 100% of her break, planning, and personal-needs time. That the student should be robbed of all of recess, gym, music, or any kind of needed downtime whatsoever to spend 100% of her time chugging through worksheets. Absolutely rage-inducing.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          And the reason why the principal didn’t object is that *technically* she would have to protect a nursing moms legal right to pump, except that this excellent teacher doesn’t meet the exact criteria. Whew! Great, let’s rip that newborn off her mom’s breast and take away her breaks. Disgusting.

          Reply
        2. Ego Chamber

          “That the student should be robbed of all of recess, gym, music, or any kind of needed downtime whatsoever […]”

          How is this even a thing that happens? I was taken out of free-reading time in first grade to go see the school counselor because I was one of 2 kids in the school from “a broken home” (way way back in the beforetime when that was abnormal), but back in my day, art and gym and music and recess were mandatory. The school was concerned about “a well-rounded curriculum” or whatever, and no one got to skip just because their parents didn’t think those things were important, and tutoring was after school.

          Reply
      2. Optimistic Prime

        I mean, I think the gall is already enough when you expect your child’s teacher to also individually tutor your child for free during the week. Imagine if all 20-30 students in the class expected that level of personal attention?

        But it rises to movie-villain-levels of absurdity when the parent tells you to use formula.

        Reply
      3. Amy

        Not even just fun–recess, gym class, art, music, etc. are important for children’s physical and mental development! Replacing them with extra hours of math tutoring won’t do the kid any favors in the long run.

        Reply
    3. MashaKasha

      I was overwhelmed by a lot of emotions when I read that part. None of them good. What kind of parent says this to another parent??

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        One who’s so selfish that they don’t even realize how far into “cruel” they’ve fallen.

        Reply
  4. Brandy

    I hate when bosses do not back their employees. Sounds like the parent was in control of this meeting, not the LW. And the parent should have been shut down when she said “buy formula” to the teacher. Support your employees.

    Reply
    1. Muriel Heslop

      Unfortunately, not all principals back their teachers and often crater to parents’ demands. I’ve been in education over 20 years, and it’s more common than not in my experience.

      Reply
      1. Jesca

        This is why I think the OP should really draw that line in their head right now. What will you and what will you absolutely never ever allow a parent to request and receive from any of the teachers. This way, you can fight these battles without ever having the teacher be present. And if the teacher requests to tutor on her/his own, then she brought it up herself and it never came from a parent request!

        But definitely make a list of what you will draw a hard line on or maybe even speak with the parent over the phone before interviews with both teach and parent. This way you can weed out the inappropriate as well.

        Reply
      2. Fake old Converse shoes

        Yes. Parents in my school pressured the principal to get teachers fired for egregious crimes like being single moms, wearing skinny jeans, not being religious, talking about contraceptives, etc. The only time the school pushed back was when they accused a teacher of promoting “subversive” books, when in reality said books were government mandated.

        Reply
        1. Muriel Heslop

          At my first teaching job a group of parents wanted a math teacher fired because she had a nose stud. It was incredibly distracting to the school climate.

          Reply
      3. Mallory Janis Ian

        I can’t believe the lengths to which administrators will go to cater to parents’ demands, though. This is how the absolute worst bully parents get control of the school: people who are willing to do anything and everything beyond all reason to placate them.

        Reply
      4. urban teacher

        I was going to ask if this was one of my principals. In education for 20 years and had only a few not like this.

        Reply
    2. Goya

      Agree. I do think though that the bosses hands are tied to a certain extent. If this child is receiving current individual tutoring and the parent is asking for more – the child is possibly pushing the special education line. That line can be hard to deal with. The students are entitled to all sorts of special circumstances and the school district must comply (even if it means paying extra to cover free time that’s now being used to tutor said student). I agree with AMA that the principal needs to step up and tell the parent what SHE has decided not what Miss Honey will be willing to do or not.

      Reply
      1. Genny

        My read of it is less that the child really needs to the extra attention and more that the mother is a “tiger mom” type who is forcing the extra attention on a child that may not live up to her expectations of academic giftedness.

        If that’s the case, LW, you haven’t done that kid any favors. You’ve agreed to take away her recess and non-academic classes for something that will likely be of marginal benefit to her. Not to mention, the mom’s not going to stop here. She’ll keep pushing for more and more outrageous accommodations.

        Reply
        1. Optimistic Prime

          I got that vibe, too, especially since they unreasonably demanded that the kid not be allowed to do anything else besides strict academic subjects.

          Reply
        2. Jen S. 2.0

          That too. This parent is unlikely to be happy with the result even if they get their way, and that goes double if the kid doesn’t suddenly become a head-of-the-class genius. In fact, the kid could probably get straight As and be an olympic gold medalist and a concert violinist, and this parent will still not be pleased, and it’ll be all the school’s fault. OP, get off these people’s crazy train right now.

          Reply
      2. Lindsay J

        But if that is the case, the child needs an IEP and the entire team (made up of the parent, teacher, special ed teacher, s0me one legally allowed to interpret the student’s testing results like a psychologist, an administrator, other professionals such as speech pathologists or occupational therapists from the school district, I think the student’s private doctor or professionals, etc) works together to determine the plan of action that would best benefit the student.

        And that plan of action would almost definitely not be that the teacher gives up her prep period in order to tutor the student.

        The parent doesn’t just get to say, “My kid is disabled and needs extra tutoring and you’re going to provide it.”

        And if the kid is actually has a learning disability, then getting them evaluated to find out what exactly it is and tailoring their education to that disability (which is what an IEP requires) is going to be a lot more helpful than just more of the same type of tutoring from the same teacher. It doesn’t matter how much a student with dyslexia practices reading – until they get some help tailored to working with dyslexia, it’s just going to be more of the same frustration. And if the kid is struggling with ADHD, keeping them in from recess and making them repeat the same boring work over and over again is almost the worst thing for them. If the kid has a vision or hearing problem, they need glasses or a hearing aid, not more tutoring.

        You are right though that the school can’t decide to just not provide accommodations needed just because paying for it would be expensive. The accommodations just need to be determined by a team first, not just the parent.

        Reply
      3. Amy

        There’s no mention here of the student needing special education or there being any kind of formal plan for accommodating special circumstances. Even if there were, requiring a single teacher to cover all of that with no additional compensation or time for personal needs would be unreasonable…but in this particular letter’s case, I don’t think there’s reason to assume those things are applicable at all.

        Reply
    3. Portia

      Oh my goodness, yes. I don’t want to pile on the OP here, because I’m glad she’s at least realized that this was a bad decision. But you really, really needed to go into that meeting prepared to defend your teacher, especially since she has such a great track record.

      I’m a teacher, and I would be aghast if a parent made a completely unreasonable suggestion (and yes, insisting that your child needs HOURS of private tutoring every day is completely unreasonable) … and my principal asked me if I would do it, in front of the parent. It sounds like you were expecting Miss Honey to say no, but that’s shifting your responsibility onto her, and putting her in a terrible situation. If my principal asks me to do something, I assume that she has thought it through, thinks it’s reasonable, and wants me to do it — not that she’s expecting me to say no!

      One of my colleagues recently had a meeting with an unreasonable parent, and the principal ended the meeting halfway through and escorted the parent out. This principal is the primary reason I turned down a job offer at a different school for much higher pay — because she always has our backs and supports us in every way she can, even when it means putting herself in uncomfortable situations. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miss Honey, who is a great asset to your school, leaves for another job — unless you rectify this situation and vow never to put her or another teacher in this type of bind again.

      Reply
      1. Just employed here

        OP has only realized it was a bad decision because it came back to bite them when the teacher (understandably, and not at all passive aggressively) asked for compensation. So no kudos for this. Had the teacher shut up and just complied, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

        Kudos for asking Ask a Manager for advice, though, once you did end up with a problem.

        Reply
    1. Star

      Yup. I left teaching after a few years, and I wouldn’t go back if you paid me £1,000,000. Teachers need to be valued and supported (and paid!) much more than they are. A talented, well-liked, committed teacher like Miss Honey should be backed to the hilt, otherwise you risk her becoming yet another teacher who leaves the industry.

      Reply
      1. LA

        This, times infinity. I got more respect from parents as a college-going part-time tutor than I did as a certified, employed teacher. It boggles the mind until you realize that one of the biggest reasons for the discrepancy is people paying for a tutor recognize you have a skill set they value but don’t have, whereas most people for some reason think they could easily be a classroom teacher.

        A supportive administration is one of the only things that can make teaching easier/better that doesn’t actually cost more. OP, please give your teachers that.

        Reply
    2. Muriel Heslop

      I’ve left teaching twice and I am about to change schools after this year to try my hand at private school. I’m hoping the lack of bureaucracy (and the toothless adminstrators that go with the red tape) will improve things.

      That said, there are some amazing administrators.

      Reply
      1. JB

        Be careful what you wish for! My experience with private schools is that the administration frequently caves to the parents because “I’m paying LOTS of MONEY for my child to be here and get straight A’s”.

        I know of 3 horrible instances of this at 2 schools. In one instance the teacher lost her job because she would not change a grade for work the student did not do.

        Reply
        1. Working Hypothesis

          My classmate saw a version of that play out once at a school where she interned. The teacher responded politely, “Sir, we don’t sell grades here. We sell education. Your son can choose to use that education to *earn* good grades or he can choose not to.”

          It was a lovely piece of freezing dignity, caught by my classmate because the whole conversation took place at a school concert where the parent grabbed the teacher and began berating her in a public place. He hadn’t counted on a reply like that! Fortunately, in that case, the school backed their teacher up completely; I know they don’t always.

          Reply
          1. Liz T

            My HS math teacher always used to tell us,

            “Education is the only field in which customers regularly demand to be cheated.”

            …most kids did not like him but I did.

            Reply
        2. Muriel Heslop

          It’s the private school my children attend so I feel more comfortable with jumping ship. I’ve had two years to adjust and get the lay of the land. Wish me luck!

          Reply
    3. A. Non

      Started out my education to become a teacher, encountered this kind of bullcrap, and promptly switched majors. Anyone with sense isn’t going to put up with this for long, and if Miss Honey is as good as LW thinks, she may already be looking. I would be, in her situation!

      Reply
      1. Julia

        While I get your point, I feel that “anyone with sense isn’t going to put up with it” implies that those teachers who are putting up with it don’t have sense, when in fact they may be doing it because they really care for the kids.

        Reply
    4. Lunchy

      Yup. I have an English degree, and people always ask, “Oh, are you going to be a teacher?” I always say that with how crappily they’re paid, and every worse, treated, there is no way I am going to be a teacher. I would not be able to deal with parents like this. I wouldn’t SUBJECT myself to parents like this.

      Reply
    5. Shadow

      Well you have to admit, it takes a pretty strong and confident person to draw the line on your efforts when your mission is education and stand up to parents who might complain to the district about you. And we all know few managers like having their decisions put under the microscope.

      Reply
      1. Working Hypothesis

        That’s why the job of school principal requires strong and confident leaders who are comfortable standing up to unreasonable parents. It’s very much part of the job.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          It’s also a reason why, as a teacher, I have very little interest in “getting promoted” to being a principal one day! It’s not that I don’t have career ambitions, but I don’t want to lose the experience of directly working with kids and instead gain the experience of dealing with angry parents.

          Reply
          1. J.B.

            I respect my kid’s principal a lot, and he firmly backs up teachers. In one case the parents had a reasonable belief that there was waaaaay too much homework for the first graders, but I understand why he supported her and didn’t try to overturn it. (I did breathe a sigh of relief for a more reasonable homework load the next year though!)

            Reply
        2. Tiger Parent

          So much for “parents should be involved in their children’s school” and “know your kid’s school, no your kid.” I guess those are just a public service announcements.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Of course you should know and be involved in your children’s school, same as you should know your child’s doctor and be involved in your child’s medical care. That doesn’t mean you get to dictate to either the school or the doctor what they have to do with your kid.

            I’ll assume that your desires for your kid are reasonable; most people’s are, I think. But I bet you know some parents who are not reasonable–I think pretty much everybody does. It would hurt your kids to be in school with children who are being either unreasonably favored or punished because a school gives unreasonable parents whatever they want.

            Reply
          2. MsMorlowe

            There’s a big difference between getting involved with your child’s school (fundraising activities, parent-teacher meetings, volunteering to chaperone school outings and events) and what’s going on in this letter. The parent here is trying to dictate the teacher’s job to the school; they’re trying to get their child unnecessary (from what we can gather from this letter) special treatment to the detriment of the teacher and the other students in her class. That is not ‘getting involved’–it is the parental equivalent of ‘I was just taking initiative and showing gumption!’

            Reply
            1. Tiger Parent

              100% disagreed. You’re saying that I need to be a “volunteer” fundraiser,dance chaperone, football coach etc., but when it comes to real, substantive discussions about the curriculum my kid is learning, I’m supposed to shut up and accept your instructions that my kid “shouldn’t too many AP classes” (news flash: college admissions officers at the Ivies and similar schools expect you to take the most rigorous curriculum available at your high school), that “art and PE are as important as STEM and English,” etc. That’s not going to happen.

              I don’t chaperone dances. That’s not what school is about in India/elsewhere in Asia, and it shouldn’t be here.

              Frankly, this thread has been a real eye opener for me. Our kid is going to be in middle school next year, and we’re debating public versus private. There is a big part of me that wants to support public schools, and I used to be firmly in the “teachers are underpaid” camp. Now, I’m not so sure. In this thread I’ve been seeing a lot of teachers pushing lines like the above, telling me that we shouldn’t be ambitious and shoot for the Ivy League, etc. If that’s the advice being peddled I want nothing of it and would start to have a big problem supporting public schools.

              Reply
                1. SystemsLady

                  And no middle or high schooler takes remotely as much art or PE as they do other classes (and thinking that’s what’s being argued is intellectually dishonest) anyway.

              1. Former Retail Manager

                While I agree with you that art and PE aren’t as important as STEM and English, and I am terrible at both art and PE, I’d still argue that they do have some value. Your statement that school isn’t about dances seems to indicate that you place very little value on social interaction/skills and it’s all about achieving measurable results. Measurable results are nice, but kids need balance. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

                I’ve spoken with folks at length who attended school in both India and Korea…..12 hour school days, school on the weekend, play with friends was discouraged as were most social activities that weren’t somehow related to learning….the overwhelming feedback from all of these individuals is that they didn’t enjoy their education or their childhood and are not choosing to raise their American-born children in the same way. Granted, they all made 6 figures and conceded that their education enabled them to do that, but all things considered, they all said that they’d rather have had a more balanced education that wasn’t nonstop work.

                If earning potential and status is all that you hope for your child to achieve, then press on. But please, at some point, seek your child’s input. If your child has that personality and loves to work, work, work, then great. But please offer them some balance, even if it outside of school.

                Reply
                1. Tiger Parent

                  “While I agree with you that art and PE aren’t as important as STEM and English, and I am terrible at both art and PE, I’d still argue that they do have some value”

                  I didn’t say they have NO value, but the “childhood development” experts on this thread are peddling that theory.

                2. Callie

                  Some of us here ARE actually childhood development experts, so you can put those sarcasm quotes away, thanks.

                1. siobhan

                  +1. Crushing, fear-driven perfectionism is endemic in the Ivy League and it’s damaging personally, academically and professionally. Not worth it at all.

                2. Lindsay J

                  Worse were the students who were pushed hard all through school and just didn’t make the cut for the Ivies.

                  There was a girl in all my classes in high school that you could tell was being groomed for admission to an Ivy League school by her parents. All AP classes, played an instrument, president of the Key Club, etc. And she did well in all of her classes because in most of the classes if the teacher saw you were putting in the work you would get the A.

                  But she just didn’t have the intelligence to get in I guess. Her papers that I saw were never particularly insightful or well written. And she tanked in the SATs. Went to expensive private classes, took them again, saw a modest improvement but still not enough.

                  She was crushed and felt like she had screwed her whole life up. She’s now an optometrist and married and seems to be doing well for herself.

                  Another kid in my classes literally had a nervous breakdown when he didn’t get into Princeton and was out of school for a few weeks. He went to another really good college instead and from what I can tell from Facebook is some sort of venture capitalist.

                  But these parents push and push and when their kids don’t live up to their expectations for whatever reason it seems like it’s the worst thing in the world for both the kids and the parents.

              2. LadyL

                Actually, as someone who went to the highest ranking, most academically challenging, private college prep school in my state, I can tell you that colleges are looking for “well rounded” individuals. Kids who just had good academic grades were not interesting to Ivies, and our college counseling office would get on your case and make you sign up for sports teams, clubs, and art classes. Ivies wanted you to be getting all As, be captain of a sport team, be co-chair of the LBGTQ club, be an accomplished guitar player, and be cast in the school play. A lot of the friends I had that got big scholarships to prestigious schools got those scholarships based on their arts and club achievements.

                Also I feel the need to tell you that that prestigious school experience really screwed me up in some profound ways, and actually made it harder for me to be a successful adult, so it’s false to assume that “rigorous” equals better. The stress brought down a lot of my classmates, including some who ended up dropping out out of their Ivies, or worse, those who turned to suicide. Actually a lot of kids I knew from the local public high school are actually much “better off” than I am right now, financially speaking. Including some who didn’t go to any college. Life is funny that way.

                Reply
              3. sacados

                I understand where you’re coming from, but there are a couple of things you should keep in mind–
                1) This letter was about an elementary school student — and when commenters are talking about the importance of art, recess, PE, etc to child development, that’s specifically meant to be about *children* and elementary school students. It’s not meant to say that art class is more important than AP Physics for a high school student.
                2) When it comes to applying to the Ivies (and I say this as someone who graduated from an Ivy) extracurriculars and other activities weigh really heavily in applications. Schools like Yale and Harvard get tons of applications from kids who have perfect grades and all AP classes. So when it comes down to choosing between Child A with perfect grades/APs, or Child B who has perfect grades/APs as well as leadership experience in a school club/plays the violin/does school plays/is on the soccer team, or what have you … the school is almost certainly going to go with Child B.

                Reply
                1. Tiger Parent

                  “So when it comes down to choosing between Child A with perfect grades/APs, or Child B who has perfect grades/APs as well as leadership experience in a school club/plays the violin/does school plays/is on the soccer team, or what have you … the school is almost certainly going to go with Child B.”

                  This is true (it’s not particularly popular in the Asian community, and I don’t think first-generation immigrant parents get it, but that’s another discussion). However, look again at what you said — the kids who get accepted have perfect grades, taken the most rigorous curriculum available, AND extracurriculars.

                2. DArcy

                  Speaking as someone who was accepted to one of *the* most elite universities in the world (California Institute of Technology), you are absolutely wrong about that. Caltech values a passionate, well-rounded student vastly above perfect grades and/or test scores, and I know this firsthand because Caltech involves undergraduate students in the admissions process. If anything, having absolutely perfect grades and/or test scores as opposed to merely high ones is viewed as a disadvantage to our admissions process because, “We need to be concerned that this is a person with no work-life balance who will just flame out after a couple of terms.”

              4. This Daydreamer

                Both PE and art help the students to be better at learning and dealing with their stressful lives. You would do better to insist that your child have the opportunity to have both.

                If you’re hearing that your child is taking too many AP classes, it could be that she is overwhelmed. Not everyone is able to handle a bunch of extremely intensive classes that require hours of work every night. There are too many teenagers who only get a few hours of sleep every night, which leads to serious academic, psychological, and physical strain.

                You don’t want a child like me in high school. I overdosed on pain relievers. Twice. Deliberately. Both times I took more than enough to kill me without intervention. I was exhausted, miserable, and was thoroughly convinced that I would never be more than a failure and that the things I was capable of excelling at meant nothing. I repeatedly failed in my classes and hated every single stinking minute of my life. DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR CHILD!!!!

                Guess what? Now I have a job dealing with abused women and children and I do beadwork that I’ve been told I should sell in high-end art jewelry sources. And I help the women at the shelter where I work make jewelry of their own and I have heard repeatedly from the clients and the case managers that I am really helping the clients by doing so. And my heart was nearly destroyed by depression and lack of exercise and constantly being sick in school.

                Reply
              5. tigerStripes

                This isn’t about the curriculum; this is about not making a specific elementary school child miserable at school by not giving the kid any breaks to actually be a kid and to give the brain a rest. This is also about not treating a teacher like an unpaid servant who doesn’t get a break.

                Being interested in the curriculum and wanting it to be good (but not unreasonable) seems like a good thing; I don’t think I’ve read any posts that contradict that.

                Reply
              6. zsuzsanna

                Maybe it wold be best if you sent your kid to a private school, one where maybe you think you can bully the teachers and the administration.
                Because that is what you are suggesting here – bullying. There are great teachers and not-so-great teachers, but really, you seem to think you know more about *education* because you have a kid. You don’t.
                You can raise your child the way you like, of course (and “news flash” – maybe your kid won’t be able to handle AP classes. And that’s OK). But you don;t get to commandeer the entire school and teaching team to give preference to your child. One of the best lessons a child learns at school is that s/he is not the center of the universe.

                Reply
                1. wtf is wrong with people

                  They can raise their kid any way they like, and they can deal with the consequences of that. I rarely speak to my parent who was like tiger mom as an adult. She had my whole childhood to abuse me. I don’t have to live with that now.

              7. Ms. Annie

                Whoa, wait…. AP Classes – that is high school level. The OP is in an elementary school. And reading circle time is primary level – like less than 4th grade. Those are two *very* different conversations.

                I agree with you on dances at the elementary and middle levels. I think the kids aren’t socially ready for them. High School is again different.

                You don’t have to be a football coach to volunteer. My kids’ school (private/Catholic) has parents on the curriculum committee, the technology committee, Governor’s Cup tutoring (our very big, very prestigious statewide academic competition), quick recall for both the region and the aforementioned Governor’s Cup and the school board. If you want a voice in the curriculum at that PK-8, there are all kinds of ways to have an impact – a real impact.

                A lot of people here are saying that there is a lot of real, peer-reviewed evidence that kids need art, music, recess, and PE at the elementary level in order for the kid to be able to handle the AP classes once they get to high school.

                What most people here are saying is that the principal was wrong to take away Miss Honey’s planning time and recess for *1* child’s tutoring. That is the time that she needs to prepare to give the rest of the students a quality education.

                There is something else that tells me that the kid in this letter may not be comparable to your kid – the kid has an IEP. If that is an IEP for a struggling student rather than a gifted and tallented student, then that kid needs recess, art and music even more than the other kids. Recess to dump the energy, art and music to help make the connections between the spoken and written word and what they mean.

                Reply
              8. Anon Andover

                As someone who attended the number 1 high school in all of the United States, and continued from there with what I think you would consider an “impressive” or “successful” pedigree, I have to strongly disagree with your viewpoint here. The Ivies, and other top schools, are very much looking for well-rounded students. Showing commitment to extracurriculars, such as sports or volunteering, is important. My high school required every single student to participate in a sport every single trimester — this was a minimum of 4 days per week, 1 hour per day. The school also gave ample opportunity and support for the students to socialize. Networking, teamwork, etc. come from interacting with your peers, not from being isolated from them.

                Reply
              9. siobhan

                You’re reading quite a lot into what others have posted and taking it personally in a way that is, frankly, bizarre. Your specific situation isn’t what anybody is commenting on, since nobody in this thread knows or cares what discussions you’re having with your child’s school, let alone what you’re being asked to chaperone.

                Also, I work for an Ivy League university, so trust me when I say that ambition is great, but you should manage your expectations. Applicant pools are growing every year, so even highly qualified applicants are rejected in droves. Which is fine. Excellent students will excel no matter where they go, and there are plenty of wonderful, academically rigorous schools that aren’t Ivies (or Stanford, or MIT). Try not to give your kid a complex.

                Reply
              10. The Strand

                Please read “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life”.

                We have a crisis in higher education. My friend who teaches and recruits for one of the top graduate programs (#2) in her field regularly tells me about A students, who are upper middle class or wealthy and had amazing amounts of preparation paid for, and how they struggle like crazy to think for themselves. As a group, they are terrified by making their own judgments. Last week one cornered a colleague and basically said she was tired and that the colleague should just tell her what to do to get through the latest module; when the colleague said, “do the reading, it’s all there,” the response was, “I’m tired and busy, give me the answers”. This is a *graduate* program. Last semester abother grad student freaked out about a 5 question quiz and its potential impact on her GPA, going to the dean! Students will now haggle over a 97, and cheating is at an all time high – in a program that is full of 4.0 and 5.0 GPA students. Read the book to understand.

                Reply
          3. Elizabeth the Ginger

            There’s a difference between “being involved” and “being unreasonable.”

            Unreasonable parents are a very small percentage of parents in any given school, but they take a disproportionate amount of teacher & principal energy. Compare it to a retail store. The vast majority of the shoppers are reasonable and at least moderately pleasant to deal with, and the employee energy they require is also moderate: unlocking a fitting room, helping find another size, ringing them out at the cash register, even processing a straightforward return. But a disproportionate amount of energy is spent on the small number of unreasonable customers: the person who wants to return a stained shirt that was purchased seven months ago, the person who leaves the fitting room strewn with dozens of garments, the person who insists these pants should be on sale because they were wrongly hung on the sale rack and besides don’t you know who I AM?! And in a decent store, it’ll be the manager’s job to step in and deal with those customers when the regular clerks are getting browbeaten.

            Reply
            1. Tiger Parent

              My kid’s education isn’t shopping for a pair of jeans, and average isn’t good enough. I don’t care if that meets with the disapproval of the education establishment here.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                I wasn’t meaning that schooling is like clothes shopping, just that the 2% of unreasonable people take 80% of the manager’s/principal’s time and energy. And I’m not sure where you got me suggesting that average is good enough?

                You’re coming across as pretty adversarial and I’m not sure why. I haven’t seen commenters suggesting that parents shouldn’t talk with teachers and principals when they have concerns, just that demanding extreme special treatment like “the teacher will spend two or three extra hours per day one-on-one with my child” is unreasonable.

                Reply
                1. Anon for this

                  I work in education and I try very hard not to allow the 2% of squeaky wheel parents to get 80% of the grease. It is horribly unfair to the 98% of parents who trust and respect my expertise to turn around and punish them for this by giving them less of it than they deserve.

              2. HUMANities Teacher

                I’m an excellent middle school teacher at a fantastic public school in a state that is well known for its education. With your attitude, do me a huge favor and send your kid to a private school. Your public school teachers will thank you.

                Reply
                1. Parenthetically

                  I teach in a private school and I’ve dealt with this parent, who ended up completely torpedoing her kid’s education by school-hopping after it became clear that Tiger Cub wasn’t going to be pandered to or treated like the Most. Important. Student! On. Earth! that Tiger Parent thought s/he was. Six schools in six years?

              3. Zillah

                The “education establishment”??? You mean… people who have degrees and do this for a living? Do you also talk about the “medical establishment” when your doctor tells you that you’re due for a tetanus booster?

                Reply
              4. SystemsLady

                So you’re arguing that every child has the potential within them to be better than average? Because even in some magical ideal educational environment where all the kids are internally driven to perform at 100%, that’s just not going to be true.

                Reply
          4. Optimistic Prime

            No, those things are important – but obviously there’s a line. There’s a lot of middle ground between “parents should be involved in their children’s school” and “parents should demand free one-on-one tutoring from already overworked and parents, up to and including demanding that the teacher not care for their own kid the way they want to.” The second part is just not okay.

            Reply
          5. MsChanandlerBong

            Whoa, that’s not what anybody said. It’s great to know your kid and your kid’s school. It’s NOT great to make unreasonable demands. Assuming this is a public school, the teacher likely has 25 to 30 kids in her class. It is beyond the pale for a parent to tell a teacher to switch to formula so that her special snowflake can get extra tutoring. If the student has a learning disability, then s/he should have an IEP in place that spells out how the district will accommodate his/her needs. In our district, teachers provide in-home tutoring *at the school’s expense* outside of school hours. They don’t tell teachers to give up their planning time to accommodate an unreasonable parent.

            Reply
    6. mialoubug

      Seriously thought about becoming a teacher when I finally finished my degree at age 49. I then realized that with my daughter graduating high school the same year, I would soon be relieved of the school environment for good. As much as I would have loved to teach, the parents often make it impossible.

      Reply
    7. A Teacher

      Teaching shortage of 40+ teachers in my district. That is after they did a big promotional push and offered a (minuscule) bonus. More and more demands with less time and more pressure to meet common core and other challenges; plus changes to the self-funded pension system my state lawmakers keep borrowing from and its a mess. Then lets throw in unsupportive administration or somewhat supportive but if you raise concerns you are a “boobird” and called such–my reality daily. If this teacher is in a union, I’m guessing her contract requires her to be paid for taking her prep periods. The principal should have pushed back but sadly, I’m not surprised that this didn’t happen. I’ve been in education too long to be surprised.

      Reply
    8. DaniCalifornia

      My sister was a 4th grade teacher and had several parents like this each year. But the parents were never willing to take up their extra time to help their own kids. She stayed 3 years with a principal much worse than this one is acting and a horrible administration and then quit. It’s ridiculous.

      Reply
      1. Katy Kat

        I’d be tempted to say our policies are our policies because we are professionals, we have research to back up the way we do things. If you think you can do better then feel free to home-school. (Full disclosure I’m a home-school grad who believes it was mostly for the best.)

        Reply
  5. Monsters Of Men

    I would have put a stop to the situation the moment the parent tried to dictate how your employee fed her child.

    I was that kid, by the way – my mom tried to have me banned from the library (so I wouldn’t get distracted reading books) and wanted me to stay with my teacher ALL the time. I am thankful my teachers put their foot down. It is not to the benefit of the child, nor is it to the benefit of your employees. Isolating the child from playtime, and making your teacher basically babysit without extra wage, is not okay.

    If (or really – when, depending on how young their child is) the student messes up again, the parent is going to storm in demanding reasons why, wondering why you cannot help their child. They will level this against your school as much as they can.

    Reply
    1. Samiratou

      Yes, this. Though I would argue it came when she tried to get her daughter suck inside for a lot of the activities that research shows helps children succeed.

      You’re the education experts here, act like it. Kids need recess and specialist time. There is ample research coming out on that subject that you can point to if you feel like you need to bolster your case. Read-aloud time may or may not be ideal for that child (can’t see how it isn’t, really) , but the teacher has a whole class of children to teach.

      Anyway, yes, put your foot down. Apologize to the teacher. Anger the parent if needed; they’re not being reasonable. It doesn’t matter how much you give in, it will never be enough. Document everything and move on.

      Reply
      1. Gen

        Yep that sounds like a recipe for harming the child’s learning abilities even more by taking away the benefits of play, putting them off education by making the entire thing a punishment, hindering their reading, and damaging the rest of the class too. It’s not just the teachers own child being harmed in the fallout- if the teacher is using their breaks to tutor one child out of 30+ kids they’re going to burn out and not give the others the attention they need. If the parent wants more one-on-one tutoring they should pay for it to be done at home, by a tutor, or do it themselves! “There’s not enough homework being sent home” I’d have started with a list of websites and local libraries where you can get age appropriate resources.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          Seriously. I would have told that parent that at this school, all kids get recess, and gym, and art and music, because all those things are essential for a child’s growth and development. That’s the school’s philosophy, and they weren’t going to deprive a child of those things to get extra tutoring, which would also deprive the teacher of much-needed free time. If the parents don’t like the way the school does things, they have options. They can home-school the child or look into private school which may put more emphasis on academics and less on “that other stuff.”

          Reply
          1. Tiger Parent

            As a parent who thinks core academics IS more important than “that other stuff,” just be prepared for some of us to shell out for privatel school and not support your endless requests for mill levies and such.

            This may not be a popular stance but yep, it’s the one I take.

            Reply
            1. MsMorlowe

              As long as you realise that your opinion is contrary to all current research on healthy child development and best practice in education.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                To be honest, I think that “healthy child development” is a deeply culturally inflected concept with very movable goalposts, and “best practice in education” is one of those committee-made horses that is at best a camel in a lot of schools. I’m steeped in it enough to agree with you about what’s desirable, but it’s not automatically a bad parenting or education to choose a different route.

                Reply
              2. Tiger Parent

                In the US (you seem to be in the UK so that may be different) “best practice in education” appears to be endless participation in sports. That is not what education should be about and it isn’t in the culture my parents emigrated from, and it’s not going to be in our family.

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                1. Jenny Jenn

                  Tiger Parent – perhaps you should focus more on the typos and poor grammar in your posts than in judging everyone else. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They are not entitled to be an asshat about it.

                2. Ulf

                  Ah me. Veteran educator here (taught levels from kindergarten through college) and I must say I am rather enjoying Tiger Parent’s consistent misunderstanding of the American educational system. (I was going to write “misrepresentation ” but it isn’t really that…it’s plain and simple ignorance, from someone who apparently does not wish to be educated).

                  The notion that “best practice” in education somehow equates to “endless participation in sports” is a particularly revealing thing to say. Kids in my elementary school get half an hour of PE every other day, approx. I’m not aware of schools that do significantly more. On the high school level sports are almost always an extracurricular activity. It’s reasonable to argue that sports are overvalued in American life and in American schools, but your comment is not reality-based.

                  You don’t have to like sports, Tiger Parent, and you don’t have to value art class, and you don’t have to accept that Harvard or Penn or the U of Chicago might possibly admit a student with less than straight A’s or one who didn’t get a 5 on every AP test going. And on and on. But you and your kid will be better off if you educate yourself about the way things actually work.

                  As for private school–I teach in one now, and let’s be honest, the powers that be would not be doing exactly what you want them to do. I don’t think there are many that would. Really, the only way to get just what you want is to home school. I’m curious about why you’re not doing this already.

            2. J.B.

              In my experience most private schools have more emphasis on art/music/PE, because they have the time and funds to offer it.

              Reply
            3. Elizabeth the Ginger

              Research shows that “that other stuff” actually does improve kids’ learning in the core academic subjects, though. Movement like in PE class stimulates the brain and makes it easier for kids to focus in the next class. Art and music connect to mathematics, and developing skills in them can lead to deeper mathematical thinking. And developing healthy social-emotional skills helps kids resolve conflicts with friends and maintain a growth mindset about themselves, making it less likely that they’ll spend math class looking out the window worrying about whether Alex will still be friends with them.

              Reply
              1. Bibliovore

                After 15 years as a Teacher /Librarian prek through 8th grade one of my only regrets was caving when the administration took a child out of library class in the 4th grade for tutoring. I found out at the end of the school year in a corridor conversation with Matilda that she was sad and bewildered because our yearly award book discussion and vote was the ONLY thing she liked about school.

                Reply
              2. Tiny Soprano

                My mother’s currently doing a Phd on how even very simple music education in early childhood changes the brain, resulting in significantly increased social and mathematical abilities. So yes, I heartily agree with you there! An education devoid of the arts and of sport means the child will be slower to reach their full potential in other areas.

                Reply
            4. Optimistic Prime

              Private schools also teach art, music, and physical education, and they do have recess. In fact, many private schools have even better facilities for that stuff.

              There’s also a ton of research out there on how art, music, phys ed, and other special classes help enhance kids’ grasp of core academic subjects (like kids who learn to read music are actually better at math).

              Reply
            5. ST

              “As a parent who thinks core academics IS more important than “that other stuff,” ”

              You are free to “think” that, but research in early grades education disagrees with you.

              Reply
            6. Tiger Snake

              I did go to a private school, with a boy whose family held exactly the same attitude you’ve demonstrated on this thread.

              He is no longer with us. And the very last email he sent out to us all – his suicide note – made it very clear that this was why.

              Please, consider your attitude and the way you present it to your child.
              Do not give them the message that their life is not theirs to decide and chose. Do not give them the message, either with your words or your actions, that their happiness is secondary to your unachievable satisfaction, or that your love for them is conditional on goals that are impossible to maintain.

              Reply
            7. Ego Chamber

              “just be prepared for some of us to shell out for privatel school”

              I’m not sure why you’ve phrased your entire reply so aggressively when your main point seems to be threatening to do literally exactly what the person you’re responding to suggested?

              (It reminds me of working food service, when there’d be that one customer who wanted better food than we served, but they wanted to pay the prices we charged. So that person would send their order back over and over again—the soup’s too hot, now the soup’s too cold, the French onion soup is gross I want the clam chowder instead, never mind that’s gross too I want a salad, this salad doesn’t have enough croutons, there was too much dressing on the side and I dumped it all over my salad now I want a new salad—then complain to the manager and try to get free food (because our food was so bad, right?). Eventually they’d leave in a huff shouting “I’m never eating here again!” and all the waitstaff would be like ‘kay byeee!)

              Reply
            8. the one who got away

              I work in one of the most academically rigorous private schools in my state – like, more National Merit Scholars than any other school in the entire state. It’s that good.

              And the vast majority of our students are involved in multiple extracurriculars, both artistic and athletic. It is common to see kids go from playing in the soccer game to performing in the high school musical. Recess is essential. Mindfulness is a regular part of our curriculum and lower school students practice it daily. While our students are strongly encouraged to participate in activities outside the classroom, we also strive to create balance and avoid overcommitment. In fact, our school does not assign homework over school breaks because we feel downtime is critical to student success.

              Enrollment is at capacity with a pretty long wait list, so despite that pesky “focus on the whole child” nonsense, we seem to be doing something right. I’m sure there are other private schools that won’t bother you or your child with non-academic pursuits, and I guess if that’s what you’re into, good luck to you. Me? I’m lucky to work in an exceptional place, and I’d never send a child anywhere else.

              Reply
      2. Portia

        “You’re the education experts here, act like it. Kids need recess and specialist time.”

        Yes, this! Your goal shouldn’t just be to “continue the conversation,” it should be to explain to the parent what actual options and consequences there are in this situation. Even without all the teacher problems of stipends and pumping and lack of planning periods, this would be an unworkable situation from the student’s perspective.

        Reply
      3. Tedious Cat

        Preach. Honestly, OP, you let the poor child here down as much as you did Miss Honey. The child needs you and Miss Honey as advocates, because the parent wants you to do something (I’m sure she doesn’t realize) is destructive to her child.

        Reply
      4. BeautifulVoid

        +1

        This whole letter was one big snowball of nope, with the nope getting bigger and bigger as I kept reading. First of all, the parent’s request to have her daughter miss all recesses and specials was inappropriate, full stop. It doesn’t matter who would be doing the tutoring, that poor student just can’t keep going all day without any sort of break. She just can’t. That would have been the point where I (a former teacher) would have shut the whole thing down.

        Similarly, Miss Honey can’t go all day without a break, regardless of what she says. (And I agree that she most likely felt put on the spot and that she had to agree.) The teachers unions are pretty strong where I am, and this would absolutely be an issue to bring to the union. And even though I live in a fairly affluent area, I can’t imagine being able to make extra money to compensate Miss Honey for the tutoring just materialize out of nowhere, without any sort of prior authorization. It’s not going to happen, and we all know that.

        The formula comment was just the icing on the nope cake.

        Speaking of things snowballing, word is absolutely going to get around about this situation. OP, you need to follow Alison’s excellent advice, shut this thing down, and regardless of how fast you act, prepare yourself for the onslaught of parents storming your office because you let Jane’s daughter have free tutoring during the school day and now they want it for their kids, too. And I seriously doubt you have the manpower and the budget to make that happen.

        Reply
    2. Rachael

      Also, what kind of parent basically takes away all of their kids downtime in order for tutoring? That is just way too controlling.

      Reply
      1. Anon today...and tomorrow

        There’s quite a few in my area! Sometimes it’s because the kid is legitimately struggling but in most cases it’s for the kids to be their best academically. My daughter has several classmates that have absolutely no free time after school and on weekends because they’re in tutoring or private lessons for music, art, or some kind of sport. A lot of them also attend school for their culture / ethnicity (ex: Chinese school, Greek School, Indian music lessons, African dance lessons). It’s just a lot for these poor kids. They’re so over scheduled.

        Reply
      2. Tuxedo Cat

        I don’t know how prevalent it is, but it’s surprisingly and sadly not uncommon. Some parents fear if their kid isn’t a prodigy or displaying advanced behaviors, they failed as a parent and their kid won’t have much of a future. From what I’ve seen and what friends conveyed, the kids are average which isn’t a slight. They learn well and are kind kids, but they’re not going to be doing calculus in the second grade.

        Depending on the letter writer’s school, this kind of parental behavior might be more common so she should learn how to effectively shut things down when it gets unreasonable.

        Reply
          1. Pommette!

            From what I’ve seen, this attitude often reflects parents sincere love for their children, rather than those parents’ preoccupation over others’ perceptions. Parents who adopt the “no free time, only STEM and language classes matter” approach to education may be sincerely worried about their child’s future prospects and wellbeing. (Less “Will my child have access to a prestigious career that makes me look good?” than “Will my child have access to a career where their colleagues and managers treat them like human beings and give them respect?” or “Will my child be able to afford necessities and to pursue interests?”).

            (Which isn’t to say that that approach isn’t unwise and counterproductive!)

            I don’t think that it’s a wise approach, but I don’t think that the people who push for it are necessarily worried about others’ perceptions.

            Reply
      3. Nea

        Which is why I’m not shocked that the parent demanded that a breastfeeding mother use formula. It’s gross, but someone that invested in controlling every aspect of their child’s life to the detriment of that child’s mental and physical health, is simply not going to recognize anyone else’s needs.

        Reply
      4. blackcat

        True fact: I once told a set of parents that doing what the parent wanted would make their child “profoundly unhappy.” The parent responded, “Well, I don’t care about that.”

        I sat there, sort of stunned for a moment, as a I realized that my central assumption in dealing with difficult parents–that we both wanted what was best for the kids–was not always going to be true. To some parents, children are objects to be controlled or status symbols (in this case, sent into too many AP classes in the name of getting into a fancy college), not people.

        I told the parents they were welcome to go over my head to override my decision, but I could not in good conscience sign the form endorsing this plan. The next year, the kid was predictable miserable. But she did know that I cared about her happiness and fought for her, and that seemed to matter to her.

        And, if you are wondering, my boss overrode me without throwing me under the bus. He told the parents that disregarding my professional opinion was extremely risky, and that they could not complain if their child did poorly/was miserable in those AP classes. He put that in writing, bcc-ing me on the “here is what we discussed” email to the parents. I was not happy that he decided to let the parents win & the kid be miserable, but he was never going to throw me under the bus to parents.

        Reply
        1. overly produced bears

          “I sat there, sort of stunned for a moment, as a I realized that my central assumption in dealing with difficult parents–that we both wanted what was best for the kids–was not always going to be true.”

          For some parents (like mine), wanting what’s best and wanting the children to be happy aren’t the same thing. If the child is uhappy, but doing well academically or professionally, they don’t care. Happiness is less important than being able to put food on the table.

          In their defense, they practice what they preach. My dad has worked the same job for 40 years and hates it, but pays the bills.

          Reply
          1. blackcat

            I see a big difference between making sure a kid can put food on the table (which I actually see as essential to long-term happiness!) and making sure the kid goes to an ivy-league school (which was the goal here).

            I’d far prefer a child of mine live a simple life that makes them happy than become a miserable doctor/lawyer/engineer/etc.

            Reply
            1. The OG Anonsie

              A lot of parents, and this is a deep cultural thing in many groups, feel that shooting for that top is the only way to really guarantee that your kid will be ok and will always be provided for, and that their job as a parent is to make the kid slog through the educational crap to afford them the gift of that level of security.

              And they’re not really wrong, they often are (though not always) securing a level of privilege that couldn’t be had otherwise by making their kids stick to this track. It’s not hard to see how it’s an amplification of the usual parent thing and making your kids stay on task in school in general, too. When you consider the risk level to be “guaranteed security and safety” vs “probably maybe secure” and the deciding factor there to be playing around time for a couple years as a kid, it doesn’t seem so outlandish.

              Reply
              1. The Strand

                Except that they are often wrong about what will be protected and pay well. Talk to some law school graduates whose families wrongly taught them that it would provide a plush life, rather than debt and a life reading contracts. Beyond that, many of the mentioned jobs are going to be lost to automation pretty soon.

                Reply
                1. Parenthetically

                  Yeah, this is really important. If you want your kid to have guaranteed success… I mean, keep dreaming, first of all, but there are a hell of a lot of options beyond “Harvard Law degree” that are equally likely to provide job security, and many, many of those options don’t also entail *not letting your child have a CHILDHOOD*.

                  Call me crazy, but if my kid can have job security as a skilled plumber or electrician or carpenter or mason or whatever, and also have a pleasant childhood where he gets to play outside and learn how to use watercolors, and not grow up to hate me for making him freaking miserable all the time.

                2. The OG Anonsie

                  Sure, but among the specific demographics I know that are like this, a big part of it involves the parents researching job growth projections and average starting salaries and what schools feed into what major companies. It’s not “doctor or lawyer!” type assumptions, the directions they’re pointing their kids are pretty well founded.

                  And it starts when you’re really young– I know families that moved around or fudged addresses when their kids were in middle school to make sure they got into high schools that had connections to large companies and fed into universities that those companies recruited from. They made sure they got into schools with internship tracks that had a large proportion of hires at the end, specifically for jobs that had high starting salaries and good benefits and would see projected growth over the next x number of years, etc. Every single one of those (my age) kids walked into six figure jobs immediately out of college at recession height and were taking luxurious vacations and buying homes while the rest of us were scrounging around for hourly jobs and moving back in with our parents.

                  I have feelings about the methods but I can’t argue with the results. If you feel your job as a parent is to make sure your child is safe and secure throughout their life, trading a couple grinding years in high school for legitimate security that their more relaxed peers aren’t likely to get AND the lifetime impact of being financially sound with investments and property by 23… Seems pretty reasonable.

            2. Optimistic Prime

              Well, it’s not that simple. My parents weren’t this extreme, but they didn’t have much growing up, so some of their rhetoric about sacrificing current happiness for future gain or pushing through discomfort were based on wanting their kids to never have to worry about where their next meal was coming from or how they were going to pay the rent – which aren’t luxuries they really ever had. My dad, for example, insisted that I major in engineering even though that wasn’t really my interest area mostly because he worked under a lot of engineers that were well-paid and that was the best model he had of a job that made enough money to not really have to worry about money.

              I mean, there are definitely parents who are more invested in the status symbol aspect, but I do think a lot of parents think “I don’t care if they hate me now, because they’ll be happy later when they’re in their thirties and they have everything they ever wanted.”

              Reply
            3. zsuzsanna

              Also, blackcat – not everyone can handle all those AP classes! I’m amazed at these parents who think anyone can get a-pluses and go to Ivy League schools if they take the right/enough classes. Not everyone is intellectually superior. This isn’t Lake Woebegon. All children cannot be above average.

              Reply
          2. aebhel

            That makes no sense to me. For one thing, being happy and having a decent job aren’t mutually exclusive; for another, wanting your child to spend their life in misery as long as they’re getting paid well is appalling. There’s a difference between pushing a child to be self-reliant and responsible and demanding that they sacrifice their happiness on the altar of status and money, and the latter is absolutely not good parenting.

            Reply
          3. fposte

            I think this is a legitimate point that gets a little buried in contemporary life sometimes. The happiest kid isn’t necessarily the kid who’s getting best prepared for adulthood, after all, and I think we do err too far sometimes in protecting kids from challenges.

            That being said, I also think blackcat was talking about a bad decision generally, and that happiness was only one facet of it but we also weren’t talking just about a lack of joy but a possibly destructive experience for the kid.

            Reply
            1. The OG Anonsie

              Yeah, I think a lot of the tiger parent types lump all thing contributing to general happiness together as a waste and don’t seem to see the line between that and what’s necessary for mental health and clarity. That’s just a recipe for burnout.

              Reply
            2. tigerStripes

              Also, the kids who are constantly forced to study and study and never ever play and have fun – that’s not a good preparation for being an adult. Well, maybe a good preparation for being a constantly stressed adult who has stress related health issues.

              Reply
          1. blackcat

            I would have much preferred a “deal with it or take your kid elsewhere” approach since I bet the parents would have backed down. Then the kid wouldn’t have been miserable! I’m all for letting a parent override the wishes of a young kid, but I’m really against it for older teens when the teen is taking a super reasonable stance (in this case, the girl had told me “I need to have time to do at least one hobby in order to maintain my sanity.”)

            Reply
      5. Collarbone High

        Not to mention that if the child excels at art or PE, they’re taking away the self-esteem boost she gets from spending at least part of her day doing something she’s good at. It’s absurdly self-defeating.

        (While I doubt this unreasonable parent cares much about the other kids in the class, I’ll add that as a child who grew up as the reverse — great academically but terrible at things like art, music and especially PE — it was really good for me to spend time in those classes learning that people had different talents, that being good at drawing or volleyball was just as cool as being a good speller, and that being the smartest kid in class didn’t make me as special as I thought it did.)

        Reply
        1. Indoor Cat

          That’s part of it too! I kicked a** at art, was awful at PE (I mean, I have a disability, and I wasn’t penalized for that in my grades, but I compared myself to other kids anyway), was great at writing and critical reading, slightly-above-average in history because I was good at writing papers, was par-for-the-course at science. And being able to see all the other variations and combinations led to me respecting students who were different from me a great deal more than I would have if I somehow attended a school that only taught subjects at which I naturally excelled.

          Reply
      6. aebhel

        That’s appalling, and it’s also likely to backfire. I knew a lot of these kids, and nearly every single one of them flamed out dramatically in college. It turns out that forcing your child to build their entire identity around being a straight-A student is a really good way to sabotage their ability to function independently or deal with any kind of failure.

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          Exactly.
          Then there’s the worse case scenario – there was a rash of suicides at Ivy League schools last year.

          Reply
        2. Rainy

          I spent a lot of years in grad school, and it was never a mystery which of my cohort had never been allowed or encouraged to try new things they might not be brilliant at, because the second they weren’t the best in the room at something, they had outsize and counterproductive reactions. And sometimes actual tantrums.

          You haven’t seen a tantrum until you’ve seen someone in their late 20s have a complete public meltdown because they attempted to verbally align themselves *with* a professor *against* their classmates as inferior intellects and were instantly shot down by the professor.

          Reply
          1. BeautifulVoid

            I went to music school. Every school year, the first order of business was ensemble auditions to determine your placement for the rest of the year. Results were posted publicly (not like you wouldn’t be able to figure things out the first week of rehearsals). Things sometimes got ugly. Real ugly.

            I only cried one year, and to my credit, I held it together until I was in the privacy of my own room.

            Reply
            1. Rainy

              My late husband was a music performance major for one term and then switched to not!music after his first juried exam. He said he vomited copiously before the exam and barely made it through without shitting his pants, and then was like “this is clearly not my ideal course of study”. I admire your intestinal fortitude–I don’t think I could have handled that kind of pressure!

              Reply
        3. PersephoneUnderground

          This- my poor husband ultimately did well academically, but he literally had days in college where he was physically ill and unable to function or complete assignments because he was so terrified it wouldn’t be perfect, and all his self-worth was tied up in getting perfect grades. It’s so easy to freeze and be unable to do *anything* with that kind of mindset from your parents. When you are weighing the risk to your self-worth it’s sometimes easier not to produce any work at all because then you are at least in control – if you turn something in you might get a B and that means you’re stupid and worthless because it wasn’t an A, so why not just not turn anything in, then you are at least in control and know you failed the class because you didn’t turn things in, not because you’re stupid. Parents like that can do real, lasting damage.

          Reply
          1. pope suburban

            Oh, hey, it’s me! I did really well in school, college was comparatively a breeze (Because I wasn’t living with people who’d monitor and harass me, mostly), and I wouldn’t say that my transition to the workplace was particularly hard or awkward. But man, did I ever beat the hell out of myself for every single thing. I’ve missed out on more than I’d like to think because I worry I will be judged, rejected, or dismissed outright if I’m not perfect.

            The skills that have turned out to be the most useful to me, as an adult and an employee, are not ones I learned in school. Being able to communicate with people who have different styles is essential. Learning to defer to people even when I think they might be wrong (To a point, obviously, but shutting one’s trap like this runs counter to the authoritative, keen behavior encouraged by a lot of these parents) has not only kept the peace, but often taught me something. Recognizing that every job has its dignity, and that I really shouldn’t talk down to anyone regardless of title (Not something I personally struggled with, but a bad habit I see in peers fairly often) is vital. These are all skills at which some people would scoff, feeling that their degree/pedigree/major entitles them to deference and gives them carte blanche to dismiss others- but the best, most effective professionals I know have and use them. There are a few niche industries where having your hand up first, or being dismissive, might actually be useful, but even then I question if those are the best strategies.

            Reply
          2. Anonymous for this

            I was a straight-A+ student throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I took the maximum number of AP classes possible at my high school and got 5’s on every one of my AP tests. I was the class valedictorian, got a perfect SAT score, won loads of academic competitions, and got admitted to one of the best universities in the world.

            In the middle of my first semester, I came down with a very serious illness and was in the hospital for several weeks. Since I was unconscious for a lot of that time, I had no way to keep on top of my classes. When I got out of the hospital, I nearly put myself right back in again by frantically trying to make up everything I missed within the very limited time remaining in the semester. I quite literally didn’t sleep or eat for days on end – and somehow I did manage to pull out A’s in most of those classes. Most. Not all. Two just had too much stuff that couldn’t possibly be made up in time no matter what I did, so it took everything I had just to get C’s in them.

            I attempted suicide for the first time shortly thereafter. I ended up dropping out of college a year later because I’d become so convinced of my own complete worthlessness that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I am not even close to the only person I know with some version of this story – and two of the others didn’t just “attempt” suicide.

            Parents, please, please don’t raise your kids to believe that their value as a human being is determined by their academic success. Whether you tell them so outright or merely make them feel less-than if they fall short of your standards for them, they are watching you and they will absorb the attitudes you teach them. So please, teach them that what matters is trying their best and being a kind and decent person, not what it says on their report card, because a kid who’s been raised to believe that getting less-than-perfect grades would make them worthless is always only one hard test, one illness, or one difficult subject away from hating themselves.

            Reply
        4. Betty Cooper

          I *was* one of those kids, and I nearly flunked out of college in my first semester. Being good at school when nearly every moment of your day is pre-scheduled and accounted for is wildly different from being good at school when you’re expected to manage your own time, and there’s no parent standing over your shoulder keeping you on task.

          Reply
        5. Optimistic Prime

          Biiiiingo.

          I worked with a lot of these kids in college student services at an Ivy League university. It does not end well.

          Reply
      1. Monsters Of Men

        To be fair, I understood her point – I was more likely to sneak a book in my desk (remember how there was a gap where you would put all your school supplies?) than pay attention to the lesson at hand. But I was a bored kid who wasn’t being intellectually stimulated or physically stimulated at my school. Taking away what did stimulate my brain was not a good call!

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I still fondly remember the math teacher (I didn’t much like math) who caught me reading during math, took the book out of my hands and bopped me gently on the head with it, and carried on.

          Reply
  6. Max from St. Mary's

    I have several friends who taught K-12 (or the non-US equivalent) and left the profession. Most loved the kids, accepted the fact they wouldn’t be well compensated, and were OK with extended work hours. They left because of bullying parents and sycophant principals…that would be you, OP.

    Your job isn’t to make everyone happy, your job is to protect your good teachers so they can do their jobs, and to weed out the bad teachers.

    Reply
    1. azvlr

      For me it was when parent’s played the race card and the administration kowtowed to that. They backed teachers in every other way, except this one thing. These parents spoke to other parents, then no matter how fair I tried to be with students, I was picking on student because of their race. This is a big reason I don’t teach any more.

      Reply
  7. Frank Doyle

    I’m not in education either, but it seems to me that keeping this poor kid out of recess, art, PE, et al is not going to help her learning. It’s going to make her loathe school and possibly be ostracized by her peers. She’s in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL for goodness’ sake. Let her take art! Let her play at recess! Let her run around and get her energy out! Non-stop tutoring is not the solution.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That’s the part that bothers me the most, outside of the whole “use formula”. This is a child, and a young one at that, who needs breaks, stimulation, exercise… This parent is going to blame Miss Honey when her kid comes home lethargic and listless and doesn’t know how to make friends (an exaggeration, I know, but I feel for that child enormously).

      Reply
        1. Matilda Jefferies

          Yes. I’m actually thinking about having my kids put on IEPs to state that they *must* have recess, for this exact reason. If they’re getting bouncy and excited, that’s the clue that they need more exercise, not less!

          Reply
          1. blackcat

            DO IT. As a student teacher, my cooperating teacher taught me the value of silly dances and jumping jacks for classroom management. And this was in high school.

            Kids (and adults!) need a certain amount of movement/activity to do their best.

            Reply
            1. Jadelyn

              Hell, isn’t there research that’s shown that adults do better at work when they take brief breaks (5 min/hr) to get up, move around, and stretch before going back to work? Humans are not meant to sit perfectly still for hours at a stretch, no matter their age or what they’re doing.

              Reply
              1. Indoor Cat

                Pomodoro method!

                I learned this in college, and it actually helped me finish papers much faster. Literally, there were papers that would previously take me eight hours (over 2-3 days, usually) to draft, that, after using the pomodoro method, I could finish in a single, 4-hour chunk of time. Pomodoro recommends 25 minutes of focus and then a 5 minute break, repeated twice, then a 15-20 minute break at the two-hour mark. The break *must* involve physically getting up and moving around. Personally, I’ve modified it using time-frames that work better for me (more like 30-45 minutes sitting and writing, then 10 minutes break), but, regardless, the breaks meant that my overall writing pace remained steady, which meant less time spent overall on the paper.

                Reply
            2. Muriel Heslop

              Sometimes I write kids passes to the water fountain and tell them: go to the one that’s farthest away and take the longest route possible. We all need breaks and we as adults need to help kids learn how to recognize their bodies’ signals.

              Reply
          2. Anon today...and tomorrow

            The middle school in my area does not do a “recess” but they offer the students 10 minutes of outside time during the lunch period. It’s called a brain break. My son doesn’t do well with unstructured times like recess or gym and I had initially requested that he be kept inside to do a different activity with a bit of supervision. His school counselor fought me hard on it. She said that she’d prefer to have him keep the brain break and that if they noticed he wasn’t able to handle it they’d do it my way. I agreed. We’re in our third month of school and we’ve had no problem!! She knew he needed that time to reset. :)

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth the Ginger

              Good for you for being willing to give it a go, and good for the counselor for sticking firm to what she believed while negotiating with you in a way that kept the two of you on the same team. It’s so important that parents feel heard and that their thoughts are taken into account, even when the school ultimately decides not to do what the parent requests.

              Reply
            2. I'm A Little TeaPot

              It’s not only necessary to be “bored”, it’s also a skill. Do some research into development, etc, you’re going to see examples of when it’s necessary to have unstructured free time.

              Reply
          3. Judy (since 2010)

            In our school district, IEPs are only offered if the student has a diagnosed condition (ADHD, epilepsy, etc) or a diagnosed learning disability. Parents can’t just ask for one. My son was struggling with reading, and did have some extra support, but not a full IEP. We had him tested, and during the follow up meeting, the psychologist pointed to an “11” on the sheet. “See that 11? If it were 10, he’d have a learning disability. He just has learning difficulties, so he’s not eligible for an IEP.”

            Reply
              1. Judy (since 2010)

                Yes, I meant a 504. He wasn’t allowed to have a 504 without having a condition or learning disability. (I get the two mixed up.)

                Reply
            1. Not really a lurker anymore

              Interesting. We’re winding down my son’s speech IEP, after 3+ years.

              His preschool teachers were bound and determined to get him diagnosed with ADHD. His K4 teacher was a family friend. I asked for her specifically because I knew she’s tell me when I was being an ass. After the first couple of days, she confirmed a need for speech help and laughed off the ADHD part. Next up was a evaluation from the district speech person. Then came the 2x a week speech sessions in his school with a couple other of his classmates in similar situations. He shifted to once a week and now we’re going to twice a month.

              We’ve talked to the school about the ADHD stuff since then and they don’t see it in him.

              Reply
          4. None of that nonsense, please.

            I had that in my son’s IEP, but still had to go to the mat with his 1st grade teacher; she insisted he stay in for recess to finish English worksheets. Her complaint was that ‘He needs some consequences for not finishing!’ and couldn’t seem to understand that missing recess could not be one of them. I suggested that maybe if he finished half an English worksheet he could do a math(which he liked) worksheet and her response was ‘Do math! But it’s English time!!’ We battled over the recess thing all year, even when we pointed out that he did much less if he didn’t get enough physical exercise.

            Reply
      1. Observer

        This is actually totally NOT an exaggeration. I’m unfortunately not surprised that a principal put a teacher in a ridiculous spot, and is not blaming the teacher. But how does any educator think that this is going to not seriously damage the kid?

        Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      Yes!!!

      The whole situation is completely ridiculous. Unless the child has an IEP, there is no reason to pull her from the regular curriculum.

      Reply
      1. Kj

        Even IF she has an IEP, pulling kids from class takes CAREFUL planning and kids are rarely pulled from specialists or recess, as both are important in different ways. Elementary schedules for kids with IEPs are very complex due to all the things the kids need to not miss. And lots of IEP learning these days is done push in (with a special ed teacher in the regular classroom helping the regular teacher) instead of pull out.

        Reply
        1. Persephone Mulberry

          At my son’s fall IEP meeting, we started discussing the transition to middle school, and one of the things that came up is that kids on IEPs in middle school typically miss out on at least one optional course (art, music) in order to accommodate one on one support time. We didn’t get into it right then, but I could tell that my son’s dad and I were both thinking “nope, not acceptable.” So that’ll be interesting.

          Reply
      2. Tuxedo Cat

        If the child has an IEP, there needs to be an expert present to discuss options. It can’t just be the parent making blanket demands.

        Reply
        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          This is what I thought of too. We had a meeting for my son’s IEP / 504 plan for his transition to middle school last year and there were at least 6 people present. I’ve yet to have a meeting with the school that didn’t include at least 2 other people.

          Reply
    3. Mike C.

      Seriously, art is really important. Holy crap, what the hell. I still remember the symphony I performed with in college was a full third STEM majors. That stuff is interlinked.

      Reply
      1. Slow Gin Lizz

        There was a strange plethora of neuroscience majors in my college orchestra. No idea what that was about but it was neat to play with them. I was one of only a couple of actual music majors in the group.

        Reply
      2. ZK

        Yep. It’s better called STEAM. My daughter excels in math and sciences and is going to study chemistry in college next year. This year she’ll graduate with a special high school diploma from her arts program at school. They integrated art in to most of her classes. The requirements to get this diploma are pretty high, with most of the classes being college level.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          I actually really disagree. Not because I disagree in any way that they’re complimentary and mutually reinforcing, but arts and STEM really diverge in terms of how they’re taught and even in the underlying philosophies that inform the fields. Arts and humanities and STEM are coequal in terms of their importance and the respect that they deserve from intelligent people, but they come from different places and I don’t think either is served by “STEAM.”

          Reply
          1. Aardvark

            Yeah–I kind of feel like calling it STEAM is just a cheap way to avoid saying that kids benefit from a well-rounded education. Which is important, but doesn’t require a new term!

            Reply
          2. FormerEmployee

            I can’t even begin to understand this comment. It sounds as if you are saying that math-science majors should be banned from participating in the orchestra. I guess the corollary would be that an art major wouldn’t be able to take classes in physiology, something that might be important to an artist.

            Reply
            1. Frank Doyle

              I don’t think that’s what Snark is saying at all. The term “STEM” describes a particular group of academic disciplines, and adding Art to it would dilute the meaning of the term. No one is suggesting that people ONLY study STEM or non-STEM subjects.

              Reply
            2. Snark

              Boiled down: Arts and humanities are important. STEM is important. Arts and humanities and STEM are important to each other and reinforce each other in critical ways. But I think lumping them together into “STEAM” is off base, because they’re really two different types of discipline that are substantially different from each other and are taught and learned in different ways. They’re equally important but not the same thing.

              And Christ, come ON. Get real. Even if my writing were so unclear that it could be interpreted as I’m saying STEM majors should be banned from the orchestra – and SPOILER ALERT, my writing was clear to any reasonable reader – no informed, intelligent person would suggest anything of the sort, and most particularly not this ecologist, cartoonist, and photographer. The benefit of even a shred of doubt, please.

              Reply
                1. Ego Chamber

                  I know, right? This is the only place on he internet where I’ll read the comments (because the majority of internet comments are trash) but every now and then there’s some mundane-style flaming/trolling/etc showing its face around here and I gen an object lesson on why I usually stay out of the comments.

            3. Teacher1234

              STEAM is kind of a weird buzzword in education at the moment, and as far as I can tell is usually talking about interconnecting all the areas (science, tech, engineering, arts, math) into projects. There’s definitely a sort of cross-curricular intent with it. I’m kind of in Snark’s camp on this — these things have very different philosophies and I don’t know that combining them in the same class/project serves anything.

              Reply
          3. fposte

            Yeah, “STEAM” to me is just weird me-tooism. Isn’t that just basically school? Though I guess we should get history in there too–SHTEAM.

            Reply
            1. Indoor Cat

              Also English. SHTEEAM. Oh! And social sciences. SHTEEAMS. And phys. ed. and health! SHETHEMAPS.

              SHETHEMAPS! Mandatory!

              Or, uh, just call it education? And fund all of it?

              Reply
            2. Ann O.

              What STEAM signals to me is something more specific. I see STEAM used for technology-based-art… light-up costuming pieces, 3-D printing design that type of thing. I think it makes sense as a descriptor for extracurricular programs, but I don’t think STEAM or STEM need to be used for core school classes.

              Reply
          4. Optimistic Prime

            I don’t even believe in STEM in general as a byword, and I work in technology. The ways in which chemistry and biology are taught, for example, are very different (and have different outcomes) from the ways in which physics is taught, which is different from math, which is different from engineering, which is different from the earth sciences and agricultural sciences…and sure, they’re interconnected, but if you think about it at a certain point so are a lot of the other sciences too. There’s probably about as much overlap between biology and psychology as there is between biology and physics.

            I think using words like “STEM” or “STEAM” teaches people that there are these artificial divisions between areas/fields of study that don’t actually exist. It hinders them from seeing the connections and really thinking broadly, which I think in turn hinders our ability as a people to problem-solve.

            Reply
      3. Brett

        Yep, my wife is a violin teacher for PK-12, and the majority of her top students go into medicine or dental school, but also continue to play for their college orchestras.

        One of her best students ever almost ended up at Case Western specifically because they were allowed to cross enroll at Cleveland Institute (and he passed the addition to be in their orchestra). He choose a different school, but he is concertmaster there as a non-major.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          There’s a famous mid-20th century essay by C. P. Snow called “The Two Cultures” about the problematic gap between scholars in science and humanities. Wayne Booth once noted that one problem is that scientists often, as you note, have a humanities interest like music, but it’s less likely that somebody in humanities is going to dabble in chemistry. I think specialization has tended overall to increase since then, with some bridges that are exceptions.

          There was a fascinating piece in the Atavist called “Promethea Unbound,” about a girl who’d showed remarkable signs of early genius and had had an super-accelerated career. Among the roadblocks she’s hit as an adult is that she doesn’t want to focus and specialize because she finds the greatest value in the cross-field connections.

          Reply
          1. MsMorlowe

            I never noticed before you said that how easy it is to access hobby-level classes in arts programmes (music, art, language learning), while there’s nothing I can think of that’s STEM-related in the same way–at least, not for adults.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              Oooh, not necessarily! The science museum I used to work for and occasionally volunteer for offers field trips, events like star parties and fossil unveilings, and classes and seminars (some taught by yours truly!) for members. Most similar institutions do the same. And some universities offer seminars for the community free of charge too.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                I love stuff like that and they’re high on my list of “things I want to do a lot of when I retire,” but those are pretty passive–the issue isn’t that humanities people aren’t interested in science, it’s that they’re not skilled practitioners of any aspect of it, whereas you can be, as noted, a skilled musician and a physicist.

                I think some of this is the professionalization of science–the days of gentleman scientists with their hobby labs are long over–and also, I think, the level of proficiency required to get you recognized as “doing” science. I approach subjects with a logical and quantitative rigor that’s unusual in a lot of humanities and love my projection spreadsheets, so I’m pretty sciency for a humanities person, but I don’t think that’s viewed as the same proficiency as being able to violin your way through a Mozart quartet if you’re a microbiologist.

                Reply
                1. Optimistic Prime

                  Well, first of all, that’s assuming that the skilled musician and physicist is first and foremost a “science person” who “dabbles” in the humanities, rather than a whole person who has interests in both physical sciences and humanities and has developed a deep skillset in both (that probably influence each other).

                  But even if we assume that a person’s primary orientation is the day job they get paid for, humanities people CAN become skilled practitioners of science. They do have to tackle it the same way that a physicist who wanted to become an elite musician would, though – lessons, practice, time invested. But an English professor could also become very skilled at software development and web design, or a historian could be very good at data science and algorithms, or a philosopher could become an amateur ornithologist and citizen scientist. The lab work is very expensive but there are other ways to contribute to the enterprise besides lab work.

              2. Dawbs

                Places like “the action potential lab” and good museums do stuff; I’d love to see more though, and don’t even have a clue where to start at doing that for grown ups

                Reply
          2. Snark

            Yeah, almost all of my scientist friends had some kind of arts hobby – I’m a photographer and (bad) cartoonist, my wife is a singer, my buddy is a landscape painter (and landscape ecologist), another friend does metal sculpture work. Scientists tend to be incredibly visual people. But, and this is totally aligned with Booth’s observation, humanities folks tend not to dabble the other way. Part of it is that it’s not actually all that easy to dabble in, say, chemistry, but fields like natural history are much more open.

            Reply
            1. aebhel

              Honestly, I think a lot of it is that ‘hobby’ level science is generally not as visible as ‘hobby’ level arts–and also, IME, people who are in the humanities tend to perceive STEM as being less welcoming to dabblers. It’s considered pretty normal for non-artists to take a drawing or sculpting class, with no expectation that they’re ever going to be professional artists, but with STEM there’s often a degree of gatekeeping leveled at people who aren’t ‘serious’ about it.

              Reply
              1. Snark

                I’m not sure that it’s conscious gatekeeping; astronomy and archaeology, in particular, attracts a lot of talented amateurs, some of whom make pretty significant discoveries! But in general, it’s just sort of the nature of the two beasts. It’s damned near impossible for a talented amateur to participate in, say, molecular biology, or evolutionary-developmental biology, or radio astronomy, or high-temperature chemistry, because really addressing new questions in a lot of fields requires lots of funding and lots of time or both. And unless you’re addressing new questions, generating new data, new analysis, it’s not terribly productive to run an experiemtn. Whereas I think arts hobbies are easier to enter and less contingent on novelty.

                Reply
                1. Ann O.

                  However, it is easy for a talented amateur to dabble in engineering or coding. I know a number of costumers who have learned basic electrical engineering skills to make light-up or animatronic costumes. Likewise, I know people who have learned some basic coding for both professional reasons and hobbyist reasons.

          3. anonanonanonymous

            Re: it’s hard to dabble in science: There are some exceptions, though! My dad is an avid birder, and one of my friends is really into amateur astronomy. Their dabbling is unlikely to contribute something new to the field, but neither does the dabbling of people who play the piano or paint for fun.
            And people who bake bread or brew beer at home definitely deserve credit for dabbling in chemistry (and microbiology!).

            Reply
      4. Sputnik

        Hah, my college orchestra was *all* STEM people – undergrads, grad students, postdocs, faculty, researchers from the neighboring research institute. We literally had geology professors playing next to virologists playing next to honest-to-god rocket scientists. And we were a damn good orchestra too :P

        And now I’m in grad school and singing with an a capella group composed entirely of med students and biologists. It really does colocalize to an astounding degree.

        Reply
      5. Optimistic Prime

        I went to grad school in a medical center – I have a public health degree and the medical center was made up of med students, dental students, nursing students, occupational and physical therapy students, nutrition, biomedical sciences, neuroscience, and other health sciences degrees. Hard stuff, lots and lots of natural and life and physical science majors.

        We had a full symphony orchestra made up exclusively of health sciences/medical sciences students! A good one – we put on 2-3 performances a year. The conductor was a med student who had also been a conductor for a few years before going to med school and many of the organizers were musicians who decided to go to medical school but wanted to hold onto that artistic part of themselves.

        I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that there were so many musicians at the center.

        Reply
    4. LadyL

      Yup, tons and tons of studies show that young kids need more playtime, more running and art and music, and less (or no!) homework. Their brains do not learn best by forcing them to sit still and work independently at a desk, they learn through play and socialization. Forcing K-5 to get more and more rigid and extreme is not at all improving our schools, it’s doing the opposite.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        I know one study, a few years back, found that replacing instruction time with recess (unstructured run around time) had no effect on test scores. Replacing it with gym (structured run around time) raised test scores.

        More Test Practice No Physical Activity just is not demonstrated to help elementary age kids learn better.

        Reply
        1. LadyL

          And that’s not even getting into whether or not we should give a flying you-know-what about testing in the first place. In my teaching program our director believes that standardized testing is a form of child abuse. I know that is kind of an extreme/inflammatory thing to say, but really, I do believe that focusing so hard on achievement actually hurts the process of learning.

          Reply
          1. SarahKay

            Could be worse – here in the UK we had the Government minister for Education state that his goal was for all schools to be above average. Hmm, great to know that our Education Minister doesn’t understand the meaning of average, while condemning schools for not doing better on standardised testing :( :(

            Reply
              1. Thlayli

                It reminds me of how the UK government is trying to “end child poverty” while simultaneously defining “poverty” as being in the lowest 10% in income.

                Reply
            1. NF

              Laughed out loud at that one. Reminds me an American radio show about a fictional Midwestern town “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” But of course, that’s fiction.

              Reply
    5. CBH

      I was just thinking this as well. The student is a child, there needs to be some fun time.

      I was going to add, that maybe there is another class that would be more suitable for the student – special ed for certain subjects; another teacher whose teaching method is more inline with what the parent wants; after school general help; some kind of parent training teaching the parent to help the student academically; to an extreme if the student is struggling that much maybe hold back a year. It sounds like the student needs an extra help in some areas but it is unrealistic for a teacher to devote all her time to one student. What happens what another student needs some extra help.

      In addition the Ms Honey needs time to formulate her lessons. I’m not saying the parent is wrong, but I think the parent has an unrealistic view of the situation.

      As for OP I think Alison is giving good advice on going back to the parent and explaining what can / can not be offered to their child. You want students to learn and enjoy school, but you need good teachers. I think the teacher felt pressured maybe even feared job loss or being repremanded. In my opinion Ms Honey did what she could to keep the peace but it seems like this situation is too big for anyone to handle. I’d ask Ms Honey for ideas that don’t involve her giving up her own spare time ever moment of the day.

      Reply
    6. Slow Gin Lizz

      Absolutely agree! Let her go to art class, recess, gym class, etc. Maybe she’s not a stellar reader yet but perhaps she’ll be the next Shalane Flanagan or Pablo Picasso. She doesn’t need to be reading Hemingway in elementary school, for crying out loud.

      My brother was a terrible student but is a terrific musician and if he’d been forced to skip music classes to go to special tutoring…well, who knows what would’ve happened, but it’s safe to say that without his music classes he would never have graduated from high school. I, on the other hand, was a good student but also a good musician and if it weren’t for my music classes, I would have been pretty miserable in high school despite getting decent grades. Let the kid go to her non-core classes and maybe she’ll get better at reading by doing more art or whatever.

      Reply
      1. Editor Person

        YAY Shalane Flanagan. I was watching on tv with friends and we were all screaming. First American woman to win the NYC marathon in 40 years.

        Reply
    7. Muriel Heslop

      This is what gets me. Why is the parent driving the educational agenda? No matter what the parent suggests, she shouldn’t be dictating classroom plans.

      I’ll spare everyone the data about how the parent’s suggestions are anathema to best practices.

      Reply
    8. Nobby Nobbs

      I nearly cried when I saw that the parent wanted to get rid of read-aloud time. As if reading to children doesn’t have value if you don’t attach a worksheet to it! That poor kid.

      Reply
    9. oranges & lemons

      When I was in elementary school, because I was ahead academically, one of my teachers decided that whenever our class had games or free time, I should be sent to another class in the same grade, to basically repeat the same lessons we had learned earlier that day. I was picked on in the other class because they all thought I was there for remedial reasons. Even as a six-year-old I thought this made no sense.

      Reply
      1. SystemsLady

        Wow, that definitely makes no sense. I was on a similar plan and pulled out of class, but they instead alternated between taking me to the library to play higher level educational video games or check out a book and, when the teacher had time, having me come to her desk to learn something above my grade level. (She really was a great teacher!)

        I wish I’d stayed at that school, as they would’ve had the history to catch my ADHD – the research was starting to grow the definition at the time.

        Reply
  8. Sargjo

    I am a teacher who has experienced this kind of meeting (but without these consequences). I’d soften the blow to the unreasonable parent by offering an alternate tutor. In fact, can you work with the PTA or similar to create an informal tutoring staff? I’d also return to the teacher and, if you can, really own the fact that you put her on the spot. I have always appreciated administrators who recognized mistakes and told me so. If she’s as valuable as you say, you don’t want to lose her. This type of overcommitment is exactly why good teachers leave.

    Reply
    1. Bagpuss

      Not just teachers. I agree. Speak to the teacher, apologise, and make clear that you are going to speak to the parent and explain that it will not be possible to accommodate their request,
      I’d suggest that you speak to Miss Honey and ask her what she thinks might benefit the child – and take that into account in speaking to the parent. That might include stressing the importance of the child having some time for fresh air, unwinding etc so she can go into the next lesson refreshed and ready to learn, it might also involve relatively simply ‘tweaks’ – a homework diary, suggestions of resources parent could use to support their child etc.
      Then when you meet with the parent, be clear that this is your decision – e.g use language like “despite Miss Honey’s willingness to try to offer little Verruca extra help, *I* have found that it will not be possible, due to Miss Honey’s existing responsibilities towards Verruca and all the other pupils, and her lesson planning , marking and other tasks.”

      Then go on to offer solutions, whether this is tweaking the existing extra help being provided to focus more on the specific areas, suggesting resources the parent can access themselves to help little Verruca at home, etc.

      Reply
    2. Jessica

      From the phrase “to continue the conversation,” I got the impression that the OP might have expected Miss Honey to say no, playing out something like this:

      OP: Miss Honey, are you willing to provide this [very unreasonable thing]?
      Miss Honey: I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.
      OP: Well, Unreasonable Parent, as you can see, this isn’t possible. Now, let’s move on to talking about what we CAN offer (such as an alternate tutor).

      I still think this strategy was a mistake on the OP’s part (she should have just said it wouldn’t work, without putting it on Miss Honey to answer), but I don’t think she was necessarily trying to put pressure on Miss Honey.

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        In this scenario, the principal is still trying to make someone else the bad guy instead of taking a leadership role herself.

        OP: Miss Honey, are you willing to provide this [very unreasonable thing]?
        Miss Honey: I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.
        OP: Well, Unreasonable Parent, as you can see, I’m the good cop who is willing to help, but Miss Honey over here is the Bad Cop who won’t help, so I guess that buys my passive ass a continuance until the next time.

        Reply
        1. Dankar

          Yes, exactly! The OP is putting the onus of “managing” the teacher’s workload and the parent’s (honestly, ridiculous) expectations on the teacher herself! If you’re not doing those things, then how exactly are you the manager?

          Reply
        2. MsMorlowe

          The description of the conversation in the letter and as you’ve described it here really remind of strategies that teachers learn in order to mediate conflict between students. I feel like the principal unconsciously fell into that pattern instead of what she should have done.

          Reply
          1. Jessica

            Exactly. I agree with everyone that this was the wrong move, but the sense I get is that the OP saw herself as more of a facilitator/mediator (versus a manager) here. This seems more like a strategy for letting the unreasonable party feel like they’ve been heard and then moving things along, rather than a strategy for deflecting blame. (I agree with everyone that it was a bad strategy, I just don’t see the motivation as trying to make Miss Honey the bad guy.)

            Reply
          2. Observer

            Actually, good teachers don’t always mediate. Sometimes mediation is appropriate, and sometimes it is NOT. You don’t mediate between a thief and their victim or a bully and their victim and their bully – not in the classroom, nor in the workplace. Anyone who “unconsciously” falls into the pattern of mediation is irresponsible and actually is not mediating, but pressuring victims to acquiesce in their victim-hood.

            Reply
            1. Julia

              I 100% agree. Assuming both parties are always equally at fault is infuriating.
              That said, I have seen it way too often, unfortunately.

              Reply
      2. Observer

        It doesn’t matter that she wasn’t trying to put pressure on the teacher. She WAS trying to make the teacher the “bad guy” who “won’t” help the kid. The OP should have put a stop to that and continued the conversation by explaining that this is just not possible nor beneficial to the child, but this is what we can try.

        Reply
    3. Optimistic Prime

      I lived and worked in a small college town for a while that had a program like this. I think it went through the PTA, but basically they had a volunteer tutoring program where they matched up tutors with students for a long-term engagement to work on specific subjects. Obviously there were a lot of college students who signed up – the university was a very large one and had a great education school, so they mined a lot of aspiring teachers who wanted to work one-on-one with the kids, but also lots of other people volunteered as well.

      Reply
    4. Kyrielle

      OP, this. And in that spirit, does this girl perhaps qualify for an IEP? Is there a disability in play, or might there be one? Pull-out one-on-one work with the goal of moving her forward (during instructional time) might be more appropriate than tutoring during recesses.

      Reply
  9. LawyerMom

    I can’t believe that you would agree to this. This is not in the teacher’s best interest nor is it appropriate for the student. Kids need breaks and art, P.E., music. I can’t imagine a parent being granted such an outrageous request in my kids’ school. Poor Mathilda, poor Miss Honey.

    Reply
    1. Brandy

      I didn’t realize PE, Art and etc were Opt in/Opt Out. Id have loved that but I had to go to music and other classes whether I liked it or not.

      Reply
        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          True. My son has all kinds of behavior issues but they refused to pull him from any of his “specials” in order for him to get more support.. They did allow us to take him out of chorus and band which were electives, but his regular music class? He’s still in that. Art, Music, PE, Library Science, and world languages are all required. There was no discussion about adjusting his schedule to remove any of those (on either side). It’s crazy to me that a parent would want to take these away from her child.

          Reply
    2. MashaKasha

      I had to go back and re-read. I hadn’t realized on first read that the parent had pulled the child out of art, PE, and music. What on earth!

      I am already worried for this poor kid when she is in high school. Mom will micromanage her to death. Also, as someone who struggled through the first year of college, because in high school, my mom had insisted on checking my homework and explaining the material to me ten times over, and I had not developed the skill of planning my work independently, I am already terrified of what may happen when this kid gets to college.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        This kid won’t get to college, if mom has her way. I have no idea whether the child has the capacity, but even if she did, she would have to be exceptionally brilliant AND resilient to be able to make it to college under these circumstances.

        Reply
  10. Anonymous Poster

    My wife is a teacher and has been in a similar situation, where the headmaster had a similar conversation with a parent about her planning time. My wife outright said no, and Alison’s right – it was the headmaster’s way of getting my wife to agree to giving up planning time. It caused tension, and my wife and the headmaster eventually talked about it and the headmaster backed my wife, but the original situation was as Alison described in her response.

    You’re different! But your employee had a reasonable reaction since your understanding of the situation and what you wanted was out of the norm here. Tell your employee your plan and then talk to the parent. Parents should be pushing for their kids, but often their desires are unreasonable in a mass educational environment. They don’t realize it quite a bit, and that’s just… the way it is.

    Good luck with the parent! I have a lot of respect for schools, since the hard job appears to be managing parents, not kids’ educations.

    Reply
    1. Software Dev Manager

      And this was ONE parent demanding ridiculous things. Can you imagine if more parents get the whiff of whats happening and come around demanding the same? It would be mayhem at school!!

      The best thing to curb such demands is to nip them in he bud, not pacify the parent.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Poster

        Yeah, you’ve hit on what can happen once one such request is made. Suddenly the child is in for recess with a half dozen of their classmates for ‘personal’ tutor time, until a parent demands that their personal tutor time now goes from 3-4, then another from 4-5…

        Honestly, most teachers don’t get enough planning time anyway. I know parents don’t like it, but teachers really need that downtime for the naggy little things that can only be done in the classroom while it’s empty. You don’t want your staff there until 6PM doing those things, since they’ll be burnt out within a semester.

        Here, though, I think it really sounds like the principal just doesn’t understand the dynamic they walked into. I really try to find a way to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I really think the OP just didn’t realize how this would be perceived and the downstream effects. It sounds like this parent will be very difficult to manage as the child grows, but it’s better to establish those boundaries now and protect your teachers’ sanity then kowtow to silliness.

        Reply
        1. SignalLost

          Burnt out and with a UTI. Not that I have ever taught to a schedule that did not leave me time to go to the bathroom or anything.

          Reply
        2. LA

          “You don’t want your staff there until 6pm doing those things”

          Sorry, former teacher here laughing my head off because 6pm was a pretty routine time to stay until. Then again, I got burned out really badly after a couple of years of that (I had 4 different preps, but only 1 50-minute planning period), so…yeah. It’s not an untrue statement, but it’s the norm at many schools.

          Also, planning time is emphatically *NOT* downtime. Every teacher I know worked their butts off during planning time.

          Reply
          1. Anonymous Poster

            Yes, sadly I know many teachers stay until 6PM or later to do these things, and it’s simply the way many districts and institutions are set up. It’s not right, and leads to burnout, given the early arrival times in many places also. My wife generally opts to take most of her stuff home if she can, but I know that’s not typical.

            My phrasing of ‘downtime’ wasn’t correct either. My wife teaches science and generally is working her rear off during her planning period setting up labs, cleaning up from the previous classes, and generally making sure things are set for the next group of kids coming in.

            Point is, asking teachers to give up planning periods is a huge ask. Something most people don’t understand unless they’re exposed to the educational environment.

            Reply
            1. JN

              Yep. My last year of teaching, I left nightly at 5 or later (with the custodian). And took work home to grade or prep. Surprised I didn’t end up with an ulcer. No wonder that was my last year of teaching.

              Reply
              1. Bibliovore

                I never got home before 6:30. And about that prep period. That is just time to set up for the next class. Weekends and nights were for prep and evaluations.

                Reply
    2. Kelly

      My late mother taught elementary school and commented that the hardest part of her job was dealing with pushy parents and administrators that didn’t back up the teachers in their building. She made several comments, including that American education would be improved if more than P.E. and pre-school teachers became principals and administrators. Her and several colleagues nicknamed the last principal she worked under Umbridge because of her uncanny resemblance to the Harry Potter character.

      She did say that there were several words and phrases she couldn’t use when dealing with pushy parents like the one Miss Honey and the OP have been dealing with, including home schooling.

      Reply
  11. Jane!Jane!

    I agree 100% with Alison’s solution. The principal needs to support her/his teachers better and this often means not catering to unreasonable demands of parents. I am a former teacher of many years and a lack of support was one of the major reasons I left the field.

    Reply
  12. BeepBoop

    I just wonder how the meeting might have been different had someone asked the mother, “and what are you doing to help further your child’s education at home?”

    I don’t have children, I don’t know this family or their situation, but if you don’t think your kid has enough homework to do, then give them something to do. My parents made me read when I didn’t want to/have to and my father-in-law made my husband do those (awful) multiplication/division worksheets.

    Reply
    1. anon24

      This! Why should the teacher neglect the needs of her child (not getting into a debate about whether formula is just as good as breast milk, this is her call) to pick up the slack of another parent? It’s not college, it’s not even high school. What is the child learning that the parent can’t help tutor? And if the parent doesn’t have the time to help why should they force the teacher to help? That’s what private tutors are for.

      Reply
      1. Justme

        My kid has done some math in elementary school that I didn’t understand (mostly the process of it). But that’s what Google is for.

        Reply
      2. blackcat

        Well, and there have been TONS of studies recently that basically say that homework before age 11 or so just isn’t that helpful. All it seems to do is set kids whose parents can’t help them up for future problems in school (not because these kids learn less per se, but because they end up being labeled as “problem students” who don’t do homework. That creates a feeling of failure, which is really toxic to learning.)

        Reply
        1. Slow Gin Lizz

          THIS, what blackcat said. Little kids need less structured time to go be kids, not more useless worksheets to do when they’re not in school and where they’ll get in trouble for not doing them. If they don’t get the materials after six+ hours they are at school, doing a worksheet at home without teacher assistance isn’t going to help the kid learn it better.

          Reply
        2. Kyrielle

          Yes! If you want to help your young child in school – do things with them in the real world that are fun and relate to where you think they need to grow, and oh yes, READ to them. A lot. A lot a lot a lot.

          Reply
    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      A woman I know loves that her daughter’s school limits homework… and the kid wants more to do. :) The daughter is a science nut, so her mom went out and found workbooks and activities.

      Reply
      1. Kimberly

        She would do better by her daughter if she went Steve Spangler’s website and others like it and found hands-on projects. Also, there are tons of citizen science projects out there for many interests that help science by collecting data. My family does inaturalist, because we have a wildlife refuge exemption on some land we own. I post pictures from our wildlife cameras with all the metadata. Scientists and teachers can use the pictures and data as they need. All the pictures are from our cameras are posted CC Noncommercial, Attribution and Share/share alike so students can use them for free in reports, papers, presentations.

        Reply
    3. Anonymous Poster

      Yeah. Maybe the child is doing fine enough for that classroom, but if a parent wants them to do more, the onus then goes onto the parent. Teachers simply aren’t free resources to educate your child from 7-7 every single day. They have lives outside of that classroom, and I know of too many that had to take up second jobs during the week to simply make ends meet.

      Maybe a solution here is to have a list on hand of private tutors and after school businesses that do enrichment activities, like a language or mathnasium or something. That way, the teacher and principal can give that to the parent and explain, “For us to give your child that level of attention, we would be stealing it from another parent’s child. That isn’t right, but these services can provide what you’re looking for.”

      Reply
      1. Foreign Octopus

        Also, this is one student in a class of what? 20-30? It’s just not possible, or fair, to have that much focus on one child, however much we wish it would be the case.

        Reply
      2. Kimberly

        US/Texas retired teacher here. We can’t do that.
        1. We are not allowed to endorse a private tutor
        2. If we imply that a child needs extra help then the school can be held liable for the cost. Same goes if we say “Johnny needs to be tested for ADHD” We have to pay for the test. This is especially true if the child already qualifies for an IEP or 504.
        3. If the tutor ends up being abusive in any way we can get dragged into it.

        A bunch of us have been using IEP and 504 very basic definitions

        IEP individualized education plan for students who are operating below grade level and qualify for Special Ed.

        504 means the student has a medical condition that can interfere with their learning and need accommodations but they are on or above grade level. This can be vision or hearing impairment, learning disabilities. But other conditions (Cancer, life-threatening allergies, diabetes, seizure disorders) can result in 504 paper work.

        Reply
        1. SystemsLady

          I have heard this can also apply for medication – for example, if Mom or Dad suddenly decide Johnny should be treated “naturally” for ADHD, and the school notices a decline in his symptoms and decides to comment on it.

          Reply
    4. BananaPants

      At a public school, there are limits to what is reasonable for a parent to expect. As a parent of a child who needs more than what’s delivered in the public schools, my response to this crazy mother would be, “Suck it up, buttercup – start supplementing at home or pay for a private tutor.”

      Reply
      1. Muriel Heslop

        There are limits to what parents can reasonably expect but a lot of parents aren’t reasonable. (I’m reading this with my 3rd period class of 15 eighth graders and five of them believe this letter could be written about their mom.)

        Reply
        1. Kelly

          At least the kids by that age are aware of how pushy, obnoxious, and aggressive their parents come across to teachers.

          Reply
        2. MerciMe

          Ha, your kids are amazing. But yeah, even my educator Mom fell into the trap of making a “no fun reading until homework is done don’t read those books they’re garbage” rule, then admitted she later wished she’d left well enough alone because I was doing fine. (She actually had me take a learning styles test too, which again, accomplished basically nothing because I was already learning.)

          Reply
      2. blackcat

        Even at a private school, my headmaster regularly told parents to go shove it. He joked that that was roughly 50% of his job.

        Reply
    5. Jules the 3rd

      Please don’t judge the parent for this. You don’t have any idea or clue about her situation. There are *so* many reasons, of class, race, divorce, disability, that can limit what people can provide at home. Being compassionate about this, here, will help the next single mom with dysgraphia or dyslexia or just three low-end jobs that you meet.

      Judging her for ‘buy formula’ – that’s fair. Totally fair. I’m doing that a lot over here….

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Poster

        There’s a difference between demanding a teacher give up their planning period to do extra tutoring and not being able to provide things at home because of personal circumstances.

        This teacher cannot dedicate the amount of resources the parent is demanding. It would be unfair to every other child in that classroom for them to do so. I’m judging the parent for refusing to acknowledge that other students are harmed by their unreasonable demands of extras for their child.

        This has nothing to do with what a parent can provide at home. The parent is expecting ‘extras’ from a school system that cannot be reasonably provided. If the parent wants those extras, at this point it is up to the parent to provide them. If the parent cannot provide them, their child is still on the same footing as other children in the same classroom.

        Reply
        1. zsuzsanna

          Totally. And I *do* judge the parent – not for (maybe; we don’t know) not having the time or ability to help her kid at home, but because she think sit’s OK to ask the school and a teacher to put her child above eery other kid in the class – and even ask the teacher to put the student before her own baby!
          My sister is an 8th grade teacher, and gets parents like this a lot. At one point, my sister said, once your daughter leaves here, she is your responsibility – you need to make sure she actually does her work at home. The mother became indignant and said, “I have FIVE children!” Resisting the temptation to say, who’s fault is that? – my sister informed her that she has an eighth-grade daughter too, and needs to tend to her at home. I just wonder where people get the idea that teachers are 24-hours slaves there to serve their kid, and their’s only. Also, for some kids all the tutoring in the world isn’t going to make them A or B students.

          Reply
      2. Observer

        I’m judging the parent big time. Because what she is asking for is totally, completely unreasonable. And, it’s not just about the formula. But totally ridiculous in ALL respects, for both teacher and student.

        Reply
      3. Kate 2

        I don’t know, I sort of have to disagree a bit. I ride public transportation a lot, and the differences in the way some parents is huge and amazing. Some parents chat with their friends or talk on the phone, or stare vacantly into space, which is fine, but ignoring their kid/s, who are desperate for their parent’s attention, which isn’t okay.

        Some parents talk to and entertain their kids on the trip. They don’t do anything big, they just talk to their offspring. They ask them about colors and numbers, and naming things they see out the windows. They talk to them about school and ask about their day and so on. You really don’t need much of an education to talk to your elementary school kid about what they are learning. I mean, if you graduated high school, you went way beyond where they are at. Plus, even if you can’t explain things to them, most little kids *love* getting to teach adults.

        Reply
    6. neverjaunty

      And if the mother had rattled off a list of all the things they were doing, would that have made the LW’s position reasonable?

      The issue here isn’t whether the child needs more tutoring. It’s that Miss Honey is not the person to provide it, and the parent’s insistence that she is, is ridiculous.

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        Somehow, there’s no doubt in my mind that she would’ve rattled off a list. And then what? I’m in agreement with your comment.

        Reply
    7. Foreign Octopus

      Thank you, BeepBoop! I was coming here to make this comment.

      I’m not what you’d call a “proper” teacher. I work in ESL where there is a lot, lot more flexibility in how things are done but I’ve noticed that parents will talk themselves up onto Mount Olympus about how they want their child to have the best education but when it’s asked what they’re doing at home to further their education, they don’t have an answer. Obviously, this isn’t all of the cases but there has been a trend over the last twenty years where teachers are seen as the ultimate font of all knowledge and it’s up to them to fill the heads of their students.

      I disagree with this. Teachers are there to guide and point in the right direction and to give their students the tools they need to continue learning. Parents should also be the ones encouraging them along, giving them the opportunities to learn.

      This parents is out of line to suggest that Miss Honey buy formula. If she wants her child to get the best education, knobbling her teacher into resentment isn’t the way to do it. Try private tutoring outside of school if the need is so desperate.

      As for LW, follow Alison’s advice and give Miss Honey her planning time back. Teachers shouldn’t have to spend excess time planning/marking at home.

      Reply
    8. OlympiasEpiriot

      There are reasons that this wouldn’t be appropriate, either. I mean, the parent could be working split shifts and just not have time to play WffNProof or the modern/age appropriate/skill appropriate equivalent with their kid, for example.

      This principal should just have held the line about their own scheduling and letting the teacher have their contracted breaks. If tutoring is needed, there are other ways.

      Reply
  13. Software Dev Manager

    Poor Miss Honey.

    She had to alter her choices for her own kid so she could satisfy the choices of another parent’s choices for their kid.

    Reply
    1. Escapee from Corporate Management

      With a principal who said NOTHING at the time! My father was a principal for 20+years in an urban school district with many challenges–and he always had his teachers’ backs. They weren’t always pleased with him, but they knew he was looking out for the interests.

      OP, the only person who is passive-aggressive in this situation is you. Miss Honey is acting responsibly and completely within her rights. You need to stop being the passive pleaser, apologize to Miss Honey, back your employee, or have the difficult conversation with the parent that you avoided last time. Moreover, this conversation should be 1-on-1, without Miss Honey in the room.

      Reply
    2. Liz Lemon

      As a breastfeeding working mom of a 10 month old…this fills me with so much rage on behalf of/sadness for the teacher in this situation.

      Reply
      1. CubicleShroom#1004

        This.

        All of this.

        I find it amazing that most of the comments are people debating about what is best for the lunatic parent’s kid, and totally by passing a nursing mom being told basically, “Um…You need to get the kid off the breast, and start using formula. This is cutting into us keeping the customer happy.”

        A call to LeLeche League with a request for a recommendation for an attorney would have been my first move after that meeting. Especially, since I would feel the principal is totally spineless away.

        I get the US barely tolerates breast feeding after 4 weeks, but for the principal basically say, “breast feeding/pumping is really a nice to have but you don’t need it anymore.” takes my breath away.

        If this occurred in Multi-National Teapot Corporation, it would be all over the news. The principal should be grateful if this teacher doesn’t do more than just quit the next day.

        Reply
  14. The Strand

    Absolutely agree – cartoon-villainy was in play here.

    Were you ever a teacher before becoming a principal? This parent overstepped – a lot.

    If Miss Honey has no time to plan her classes, during their “specials”, this impacts ALL of the students, not just the student whose mother is unhappy and wants her to have more homework and tutoring.

    The parent has no business telling Miss Honey to use formula, so that her child can receive special tutoring! I’m just trying to understand your frame of mind in allowing this parent to mistreat your employee.

    Reply
    1. rubyrose

      And are you new to being a principal? Perhaps you need a mentor to guide you on a more day to day basis than writing AAM can do? I’m really glad you wrote in. This situation is obviously over the top. Are there any other incidents that are less obvious where some gentle guidance could help you?

      Reply
  15. calonkat

    If the student is needing this much supplemental service, it might be worth looking at evaluation for special education. That way the student could get services tailored to whatever issue he/she has without impacting their PE/Art/Recess. All of which are IMPORTANT for a student! Geez, this parent couldn’t do a better job of getting their kid to hate school/education if they tried!

    But I don’t see how a parent can insist on private tutoring in every minute that a student isn’t in a content class! That’s just not possible in a school.

    Reply
    1. FCJ

      When a parent’s complaint is that their elementary-aged kid doesn’t have enough homework, my guess is that the problem is not with the child’s development or learning capabilities.

      Reply
      1. Working Hypothesis

        It may be both. A parent with no clue or empathy knows their child is doing badly in school and has no idea why. So they ask for really horrible things which 1) they’re not entitled to; and 2) will make the situation worse even for their own kid (not to mention the teacher or all the other kids she has to have planning time in order to teach. But they may have seen something real in the way of a problem that drove them ballistic, or they may not.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          This is why I am blaming the OP as much as the parent. The parent MIGHT just be clueless. But there is NO excuse for any educator to be unaware of how utterly inappropriate these suggestions are for the child.

          Reply
    2. Liane

      And then OP’s update for us would be:
      “Bad-Parent is demanding the board fire me or there will be a lawsuit because I suggested their child be evaluated for learning disabilities and they say that is discriminating against their child!”

      :(

      Reply
      1. Backroads

        Last year: I had a student who desperately needed evaluation. Mom was on the board. Now, as parent she has the right to refuse an evaluation. But, oh, the threats she made!

        Reply
  16. Leatherwings

    I worked in the school system for a short time. I’m not an expert, but at my school the demand that a teacher provide that much extra hands on tutoring would’ve caused a big laugh. There are other resources available, and teachers have limited free time as it is! I think you did a real disservice to the teacher by even entertaining this as a possibility.

    Reply
  17. namelesscommentator

    Suggest the parent pursue a 504 if their kid needs one-to-one assistance.

    I would also not be sure at all that the teacher CAN chose to spend her breaks on instruction so I would double check that premise before going with it. (And regardless, she should be paid for time already dedicated to it moving forward).

    Apologize to the teacher – explain that it’s not her role to tutor this kid during her breaks – and she doesn’t have to feed her kid formula (W.T.F) and document every interaction you have with this parent.

    Reply
  18. LadyL

    Also this is terrible for the child! Children *need* recess, it HELPS THEM LEARN! They need less homework not more! Play is a crucial way for young children to process the world around them, increased play time ALSO HELPS THEM LEARN! And they need to be read to! GAHHH!

    Sorry, I got so enraged reading this from my teacher-in-training perspective that I think I blacked out from fury. LW I feel you, parents are scary sometimes. We talk a lot in my teacher classes about how crucial parents are and how we need to loop them in and that we’re all on a community together, but also our job is to stand up for their kids and say what we think is best for the kids. I’m still struggling with that last bit (fear of confrontation), but I’m hoping more experience will get me there. I completely understand why you made the call you did, but it’s in the best interest of the teacher and the kid if you go back to the parent and tell them “no”.

    Reply
  19. Esme Squalor

    Oh my goodness, poor Miss Honey. The letter writer really put her in an awful position here, but at least the letter writer has the self awareness to realize she screwed up.

    To the OP: Going forward, remember it’s OK to kick a can down the road to give yourself time to reflect if you’re not willing to commit to something during a parent meeting. If you’re finding yourself flustered in the moment, you can say something like, “thanks so much for coming in and expressing your concerns! I’ll need to check with [stakeholders] about what our options are here, and I’ll be in touch by [specific date].”

    Alternatively, if you have an idea going into a parent meeting of what their beef is, plan in advance what solutions are acceptable to you and fair to your teachers, that you’d be willing to put forward in the moment. This is a good teachable (no pun intended) moment for yourself to develop strategies for handling conflicts like this going forward.

    Reply
    1. Doodle

      Yes! Don’t “continue the conversation” by putting someone else on the spot. Oftentimes the *best* response is to wait a few days to let things cool down and consider the issue.

      Reply
    2. NW Mossy

      The “I’ll check back in with you” approach is so useful in so many work applications. I’ve used it with customers and colleagues alike to very good effect, and it has more than once saved me from committing to something that would be regret-inducing later.

      Reply
      1. Esme Squalor

        Yes, this was a lesson many of us had to learn the hard way, and I’m glad I was able to learn it before ever being put in a management role. It’s an important tool to have in your back pocket.

        Reply
    3. Sara

      I’m not a teacher, but this is good advice for any job! I was in the habit of offering a solution in the moment myself earlier in my career and it definitely got me into a few stressful situations where I’d promise something and later find myself scrambling because I hadn’t thought the implications through. Nothing quite this bad happened, it was more just causing me personal stress, but it was an epiphany when a co-worker kindly pointed out that she’d noticed this pattern and suggested it was okay not to respond right away. Seems like common sense, but sometimes we need other people to tell us these things :)

      Reply
    4. palomar

      Wholeheartedly agree. Learning how to deploy the “let me get back to you on that” is a crucial skill for, like, every possible career field. It’s so, so, SO much better to buy yourself a little time to research/think of alternate solutions/verify schedule availability/whatever the situation calls for. For one thing, it makes you look like you really care about getting the thing done right, and it eliminates the thing where you agree to something that’s not possible and then you have to go back to the person looking foolish while you explain how you actually can’t do the thing you just agreed to.

      Reply
    5. Elizabeth the Ginger

      At my school, if there’s a parent-teacher-principal meeting coming up that we think will be tricky, the teacher and principal meet ahead of time to talk about the kid and what they think is best for everyone involved.

      Reply
    6. Emmie

      Think about the kinds of services you’re willing to provide to each of these parents. What is a reasonable request, or attention devoted to one student? It’s helpful to have that baseline. Providing this much attention to one student may create a de facto IEP. You may want to – at some point – work with your school attorney to define harder lines using this example as one that may have gone too far. It seems like an unreasonable parent already, and a parent who expects a Cadillac of educational services when a Chevy will do. (I recommend you use the Cadillac / Chevy reference when talking to your attorney. It’s actually legal jargon in these cases.)

      Reply
  20. Brandy

    If the mom wants extra tutoring, she can pay for it in the evening like other parents do. We have people in my neighborhood who will come by your home to tutor.

    Reply
    1. Blue Anne

      Yes, seriously. My parents did this for me and it really helped, even though I felt guilty about the expense. Parents pay for tutors outside school hours all the time, lady…

      Reply
    2. MashaKasha

      Exactly! Or a tutoring center. My younger son worked at one for a while. (And was highly unimpressed – but the mom would’ve probably liked it – the kids were getting lots of busywork and lots of worksheets.)

      Reply
  21. VintageLydia

    Poor Miss Honey and truly poor child. I wouldn’t consider this passive aggressive. What was passive aggressive was you forcing her to make that decision on the spot and are now frustrated that the decision that she was pressured to make has negative consequences on you and trying to blame her for them.

    Reply
  22. fposte

    OP, you say, “I’ve prided myself on keeping both teachers and the school community happy.” That’s good that you’ve been able to do that, but I think it’s possible to get overly locked into a definition of success that isn’t the main one and is only made possible by fortunate circumstances. The goal has to be effective management of the school, even if somebody’s unhappy; that’s better work on your part than people being happy because the school didn’t stick to its guns.

    Reply
    1. Manders

      Yes, this is a really important point. I’m not a teacher, but I live with one and I’m friends with many others, and they’ve made it clear that pretty much every decision that happens at their schools comes with the possibility of making someone unhappy. Good school managers focus on what’s best for kids, not what will grease the squeakiest wheel.

      Reply
    2. J.

      I’m also really skeptical whether the teachers are actually happy if the policy is to do whatever the parents want regardless of whether it’s reasonable, or if they just don’t feel like they can speak up.

      If your goal of to “make everyone happy” is apparent to your subordinates, they may be willing to pretend to be happy to keep the peace and their jobs. (And yes, maybe they have a union contract, but making the parent happy in this case is wildly violating the teacher’s contract, so what’s the guarantee they won’t get fired somehow for complaining?)

      Reply
  23. Snark

    Just in general, whether you’re a parent or a teacher or an admin: this is not a reasonable request for anybody to make of most teachers. We have several teacher friends, and my wife and I have both taught middle school science at various periods. Taking away planning time means planning happens late at night, on weekends, or not at all, and that means time away from family (particularly given that Ms. Honey is a mother), friends, and sanity. Teachers need MORE paid work and planning time, not less, and demanding that she be available to tutor one particular student is ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. Ann O. Nymous

      Right? If Miss Honey starts giving all of this extra attention to one student, what’s to stop other parents demanding the same thing? At a certain point, it has to be on the parents of kids who need this much extra attention to go out and seek afterschool solutions (if they can afford it — obviously this may not be an option for low-income parents, although there are definitely free programs out there).

      Reply
    2. Matilda Jefferies

      +1. The customer is not always right.

      Thanks for writing in, OP. You might get a bit of a pile on here, but it’s good that you’ve recognized your mistake, and that you want to take steps to correct it. Let us know how it works out.

      Reply
  24. Doodle

    Oh my gosh you have to go back on this and back the teacher. Immediately. Don’t allow these extra tutoring sessions to begin. If I were Miss Honey, I’d be looking for a new job right away — you are genuinely risking losing one of your best teachers (mid year!) — and many others once word gets around.

    One of the cardinal rules of being a principal (or a teacher!) is “praise publicly, discipline privately.” If you thought Miss Honey should do something differently about homework, tell the parent you’ll look into it and then let Miss Honey take the lead. If you think read aloud time is valuable (and it so is!) *defend your curriculum.* Setting aside the contract and the pumping and the planning, you’ve created a situation where your parents and teachers know that you won’t back the teacher *even when you think she is right.* That’s absolutely untenable for a school — and will create a dozen more angry parents.

    The best principals see teachers and parents as a team working together for the kid. By not defending the current program (of reading and homework and having recess/PE/music) you’ve created a situation where the teacher was on the opposite side and had to give up all her planning time (making the class worse for all the students) in order to get back on the team.

    You can fix this — but Alison is right: it *has* to be you “re-thinking that course of action” with *no* blame on Miss Honey.

    Reply
    1. Trig

      Yeah, the correct response to “X activity is a waste of time” is “I think Ms. Honey is the one here who most recently got a teaching degree, so as the expert in childhood education, we’ll let her decide on what is and isn’t a waste of time in the curriculum, ok?”

      But, like, tactfully, I guess.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        “You might be surprised what the pedagogical research says about read-aloud time! It’s been shown to be really effective not just in development of reading comprehension, but also auditory processing and visualization. And it exposes students to literature they can understand read aloud, but lack the reading skills to tackle alone.”

        Tricky pronunciation there – the “so sit down and let the teachers teach” is silent.

        Reply
      2. MonkeyPants

        Agree entirely with Doodle… the job of the principal is to make the parents think that the parents and teacher are the team, and it’s the administration setting rules that the parent doesn’t like. Which means I disagree with Trig… the correct response is to not let the parent think that Ms. Honey has any power to give in to their unreasonable demands, and to do that by saying “state and district policy is that all students should have access to art, music, and recess. There is a considerable amount of research about the importance of recess, physical education, and the importance of reading out loud. Miss Honey is following school policy, and I’m afraid that it’s not possible for her to change these things.”

        Of course, the principal needs to work out, privately, ahead of time, with Miss Honey exactly how she wants to pursue the situation. Perhaps, in specific cases, she WOULD be willing to go far above and beyond. But there’s no reason for Miss Honey to go above and beyond in this situation, and the principal needs to confirm that with her in a private meeting. And THEN the principal takes the blame for the decision that makes the parent unhappy.

        Note: I am a school principal.

        Reply
  25. Ann O. Nymous

    If the kid is already receiving additional tutoring at school and the parent still wants more tutoring, wouldn’t the onus be on the parent to hire a tutor outside of school? Maybe some sort of afterschool thing? I’m not an educational professional, but it seems like it should be on the mom to work out an afterschool solution if the kid needs this much individual attention, not to overload the teacher.

    Also, I would think that having the kid stay in at recess/lunch would only serve to demoralize her and ostracize her from her peers who do get to go outside and play.

    Reply
  26. I get that

    If the student in question is also ready getting individual tutoring and is still struggling there is something else going on. You either have a child who needs to be evaluated for learning disabilities, or an unrealistic parent or both. The question I have is the child struggling and have there been any referrals for evaluations?

    Reply
    1. JD

      I agree, although based on the “then buy formula” comment I am going to guess it is unrealistic expectations from the parents.

      Reply
    2. Jessica

      I’m guessing this parent has a normal 10-year-old whom she forces to do nothing but study, and restricts from physical activity and creative ideation. Poor kid. God only knows what happens in their house. Mother, your 5th-grader is not going to grow up to be a healthy, well-rounded, successful adult if you force them to sit at a desk with a book 16 hours a day. Get your priorities straight.

      Reply
  27. Mallory

    ummm…you’d still have to pump even if you bought formula, at least for a while. you can’t just have milk in your breasts for an undue period of time.

    Reply
    1. NLMC

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. As someone who got mastitis there is no way I would give up my pumping session cold turkey.

      Reply
    2. Half-Caf Latte

      I’m really hoping that this happened REALLY recently and Ms. Honey will be able to resuming pumping/feeding, if that’s what she wants.

      I also think that the school needs to pay for lactation services if she does resume nursing.

      Reply
    3. Friday

      OW I know! OP, you seriously gambled with your teacher’s health. Pumping can only safely be dropped gradually. If one stops cold turkey, they are risking a very serious infection. If your teacher managed to drop pumping and escape infection, it’s probably permanently damaged her supply. No matter how well you can restore her breaks, if she has to use formula from here on out then you had better pay for it.

      Reply
  28. Regular reader who rarely comments and is a teacher

    As a teacher (not in the USA), I’d also like to point out that no recesses for the child is a terrible idea and the fastest way to make them hate or fear school and learning. Children need down time and play time.

    Reply
    1. Leatherwings

      Yep! This can affect long term social skills and it doesn’t actually help kids learn any better either – their brains learn when they’re healthy and recess is an important part of that.

      Reply
    2. BananaPants

      This would not be allowed in my kid’s public school district in the US. Kids have a prescribed number of minutes of recess as well as instructional minutes in each special, and even kids with IEPs/504s have to participate in art, music, PE, etc. in some meaningful way.

      No principal or teacher here would agree to take specials and recess away from a child to meet the parent’s unreasonable expectations for extra tutoring.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        I’m just curious how much federal control there is over school curriculums? I know there’s lot of state differences and I don’t know about the federal level.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          It varies. The feds don’t control individual public schools and can’t insist the states do anything, but they can tie other things to the the states’ adoption of national standards; adoption of Common Core was a get-out-of-program free card for No Child Left Behind until subsequent legislation precluded that, for instance.

          That’s not a situation limited to schools–another version of this relationship between federal and state was the raise of the drinking age to 21. The feds couldn’t require states to raise the drinking age, but they could reduce highway funding to states that failed to do so.

          Reply
  29. MommyMD

    Imo this is borderline abusive. To even consider this parent’s unreasonable request was a failure of duty let alone asking Miss Honey right in front of them which implies you thought this idea reasonable. I would tell parents you made a judgement error and you never should have agreed to it from the start. Give the parent contact info of local tutors. These parents are c razy. Poor kid. But you created this problem so it is incumbent on you to fix it.

    Reply
    1. mouseking

      +1. This isn’t just an inconvenience–not allowing pumping time (or the time during the day to eat, etc.) can have real health consequences on this employee. Poor Miss Honey. I hope she finds a better place to work. :(

      Reply
  30. Cait

    I’m a full time working mom who also needs breaks to pump. If someone said to me to instead buy formula, I would be seeing RED. You are seriously lucky that your employee was so calm.

    I am so mad on Ms. Honey’s behalf that you did not protect her from an obviously ridiculous parent. You set a ridiculous precedent for all other moms by taking away a choice to pump, which is not easy. Major fail on your part.

    Reply
    1. Durham Rose

      Oh my gosh me too re: seeing RED! Pumping absolutely needs to be protected time and space, in every workplace, in every situation, period. Lack of supportive managers such as in this situation contribute to women feeling they can’t go back to work after having a child, or can’t move into more senior positions etc. I get SO worked up about this topic!!

      Reply
    2. Snark

      The offer could have, and should have, been refused right there. “Ooooh, okay, sorry, that’s not a reasonable demand to make, breastfeeding is very important to me. I don’t think this is a workable situation, you’ll have to find another solution.”

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        Yes, and this should have been said by the OP. “Protecting our teachers’ ability to balance work and their own families is important to [School]. We support Miss Honey’s right to take care of her child in the way she chooses just like we recognize how important [Student]’s well-being is to you.”

        Reply
      2. Half-Caf Latte

        In a meeting with a parent who has a track record of being unreasonable, and when the request was seconded by the boss?

        I don’t think it’s fair to Monday-morning QB Ms. Honey when she was backed into a corner by her boss.

        Reply
        1. aebhel

          Exactly. Ms. Honey had no way of knowing whether her boss would back her up if she refused. Personally, I would read that as an oblique order, or at least a strong suggestion from the boss.

          Reply
    3. Marley

      Me too. Given that pumping is a biological need–it will hurt if you don’t and possibly lead to plugged ducts and infections–I just…wow.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        Yes, shame on the manager. The teacher should not even have been put in that position. The manager should have told the parent directly that that would not work. And why did this teacher have to provide tutoring?? Couldn’t they have looked at other resources for tutoring?

        Reply
  31. NyaNya

    I chock a lot of this up to your failure to communicate, OP. Before the meeting, you should have met with Ms. Honey and discussed the situation and what you (as in you and your employee) hope to accomplish in the meeting. Instead it seems like you hoped she’d guess what you were going for without being told which isn’t a reasonable expectation. If your role wasn’t to step in when the parent became unreasonable and rude, I’m not sure what exactly you thought you were supposed to be doing at all.

    Reply
  32. BananaPants

    Assuming this is a public school in the US, the parent needs to recognize that their child is NOT entitled to special tutoring or teaching unless required by an IEP or 504 plan. If the student is on an IEP, then provision needs to be made at the district level to provide the necessary services, including a tutoring stipend (and it doesn’t have to be the classroom teacher doing the tutoring).

    Our older child is a gifted learner (determined through actual testing; this is not a “special snowflake” situation). Technically she isn’t entitled to ANY instruction beyond the district standards. We do appreciate what her teachers do to provide her with a more appropriate education, but they don’t *have* to do a damned thing. There are limits to what is reasonable to expect a public school educator to do within the constraints of district and state policies, and if we want a more tailored education, we’d have to pay for it.

    Frankly, OP, when the parent told the teacher to buy formula and stop pumping milk for her baby in order to tutor the student, that was when YOU should have stepped in to defend your employee. You need to apologize to the teacher for putting her in a situation where she felt she had no alternative but to give in to this absurd expectation. Get Miss Honey out of this and deal with the pissed-off parent not being happy. I suspect that she won’t be happy with ANYTHING that you and your teachers do.

    Reply
  33. Antilles

    What it came down to was that the parent wanted her daughter to stay in from all recesses (including lunch recess) and specials (art, PE, etc. classes, which also happens to be Miss Honey’s lesson planning time) in order to have personal tutoring time.
    Apparently the parent has never actually been a kid (and/or forgot what it’s like) because most elementary kids I’ve ever seen basically *need* recess and specials to burn off the extra energy so that they can sit still and pay attention to the classes like math and history.

    Reply
    1. Emmie

      Plus, there are State obliga that the student engage in all these aspects of her education. PE, Art, and music are required subject areas in many states. The OP has authorized an exception to state academic requirements. This could cause more problems than an angry parent. Without a formal IEP or 504 plan, an academic administrator or principal shouldn’t make these blanket exceptions. It’s not too late to correct this.

      Reply
  34. Sabine the Very Mean

    As a former teacher, I want to suggest you get support with learning to stand up to parents like this. This is why teachers quit, including me. This makes me so angry on behalf of Miss Honey.

    Reply
    1. MonkeyPants

      If this meeting happened at the school I’m the principal of, I would expect the entire staff to know about it by the next morning, and for all of them to start sending off resumes by the end of the weekend. A couple of the more outspoken teachers would be in my office the next morning demanding my head on a platter. And I wouldn’t blame them at all. This is terrible management, and a terrible way to run a school.

      Reply
  35. Star

    This seems terrible for the child and for Miss Honey! I used to be a teacher (secondary school, and not in the US, so there will be obvious differences), and if I had lost all of my planning sessions – and lost them to do more tutoring, and so probably creating additional planning – I don’t know what I would have done. Teaching is already a job that demands long hours, with teachers having to take planning and marking home to ensure they’re up-to-date, and losing planning sessions is just not tenable. Especially if Miss Honey has a small child to care for!

    The little girl in question surely, like all children, needs time to have a break and run around, to spend time with her friends, and to engage in creative sessions like art and reading. Those things are absolutely necessary. Of course, if her parent is insisting on all of this then the OP can only do so much, and it’s not OP’s job to change someone’s parenting style, but it does make me sad.

    Please advocate for Miss Honey, OP. She should be able to have her planning time, or be compensated for the additional work she now has to do. I’m glad you are so supportive of her choice to pump rather than use formula, and a parent should not be able to dictate how she feeds her child. I know how stressful it can be to deal with a pushy, unreasonable parent like this, but I hope you can stand firm with them to help out Miss Honey.

    Reply
  36. Teacher'sKid

    OP, you need to back your employee on this one. The student is already receiving tutoring so it really doesn’t make since to ask Miss Honey to forgo her breaks to this student can have additional tutoring. If you are going to ask her to sacrifice her break times, yes, she needs to be compensated for that. Whether that’s monetary or other designated breaks. But you to 100% be on the side of your employee because she is being totally reasonable here. Also this parent seems like she might cause other problems in the future so it’s best to nip it in the bud now.

    Side note: Love the choice of alias – Matilda is a favorite of mine :)

    Reply
  37. MuseumChick

    Yeah, you gotta fix this mess and take the heat for it. Write up a script before you talk to the parent, something like, “After our last meet I took a hard look at the logistics of the plan and found that it is absolutely untenable.” Then, offer whatever you can offer (the student is already getting tutor, is the tutor able to provide additional time to the student? Has the student been assessed for any possible learning disabilities?).

    Be prepared to take a huge amount of heat from this parent. But don’t back down.

    Reply
  38. Tuxedo Cat

    I hope the letter writer really thinks hard about how this could play out in the long and short term. My first thought was whether this is going to be a union issue with Miss Honey. In the long-term, how will this look to the other teachers in the building WRT the letter writer? Will Miss Honey leave?

    My second thought is what if other students’ parents insist on this kind of treatment? What if the parent becomes more outlandish in requests? I know we can “what if” ourselves to the end of the time, but with the response that Miss Honey should use formula, I wouldn’t put it past the parent to start making worse demands.

    If I were the principal, I’d consider whether there is a volunteer program set up to help students who are having challenges. Without knowing more about these challenges and what they are, is it worthwhile to have the child tested to see if they should be in special education?

    I understand education is a strange business because the services received rely effort on the student- it’s not like going to the store and you walk away with some given product. The expectations of parents need to be managed, and the principal needs to make sure that the expectations are reasonable.

    Reply
    1. AndersonDarling

      I agree with your first statement. When reading the letter and Miss Honey agreed to the crazy suggestions, the first thing I thought was that she is documenting it all and will turn it into the union. Then the OP will be facing disciplinary actions.
      Clean this up fast!

      Reply
    2. Thing1

      My sister is a public school teacher, who spent her first year teaching at a school where she didn’t have usual contract protections, which led to things like having no planning time. It was hell. She left. After a year. And has a very strong anxiety response whenever anyone even mentions her former principal. Since then she’s been very sucessful at her new school, but still gets nervous whenever there’s a change in the administration. OP, if you keep doing things like this, your good teachers will leave. Probably starting with Miss Honey, but if anyone else hears about this kind of thing, they’ll probably leave too. Please, stand up to parents like this one. It’s for the good of all the students (including this one!) and the community as a whole. You really can’t make everyone happy, that shouldn’t be your goal.

      Reply
    3. Not That Jane

      I agree. If this school has unionized teachers (which most traditional public schools do), then Miss Honey may not even be ALLOWED to give up her paid breaks / planning time. If I were her, I’d be going straight to my union rep to explain what was proposed, and get their support.

      Putting aside the whole “just buy formula” issue (which is a deeply, deeply unreasonable solution IMO), suggesting this extra tutoring time in the meeting with the parent really put the teacher on the spot. You definitely need to go back to the parent and rescind the offer, and YOU (not Miss Honey) need to take the heat for that. BUT, if the parent is this concerned about their kid, then either the parent is being unrealistic about their kid’s performance (in which case there isn’t much to be done on the school end), or the student is truly struggling and should perhaps be evaluated for SpEd or a 504. I know at my school, the teacher/mentor of a student can suggest to a parent that they put in a request for such evaluation. Not sure how it works at traditional public schools.

      Reply
  39. Shadow

    I think you screwed up by meeting with them together as if they couldn’t get along and you had to moderate. If I had a great teacher I would have just gotten some background on the student, met with the parent alone to hear her concerns, then consulted with the teacher again to see what resources we could offer.

    Reply
  40. Sarah M

    I second what Allison said. Also, there is no “passive aggressiveness going on” here. This is Miss Honey using her teaching skills to demonstrate the true costs of this problem to you, which was created when you: a) put her on the spot in front of an unreasonable and overly demanding parent, without b) considering the obvious logistical problems with your proposal. I have to say, I am really surprised to hear that you didn’t think of all these (very obvious) issues when you asked Miss Honey to do this. I don’t understand why you didn’t give a version of “we’d have to look into that” as a response to the parent’s demands, given that you hadn’t thought through the logistics beforehand, although perhaps I just answered my own question. Your best move forward is to follow Allison’s advice, along with a very sincere apology to Miss Honey and a promise to yourself that you won’t make this mistake again – as in, you’ll have to make sure that _____ proposal is in fact a workable solution before you suggest it.

    Reply
  41. OP

    Op here. Thanks for the slaps of reality. I need them. I have already called the mom in question and said everyone spoke too soon with promises they just can’t keep. She wasn’t pleased, but… it was sufficient damage control.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Poster

      From what I understand those conversations are always, always awful.

      Keep at it. You’ll end up with happier parents whose eyes aren’t rolling out of their heads over some of their compatriot’s over-the-top demands, and staff that can balance all the things they need to do.

      Maybe suggest an after-school enrichment program in the area, if there are any, and if the parent is so inclined. My area has language and math ones, so I’d hope you could find something similar that might mollify the parent and not divert your resources away from the rest of the student body.

      Reply
    2. MuseumChick

      Good! Parents like this man…I used to work more in Educational Programming for museums and I was amazed how entitled some parents can be.

      I hope (for the kids sake) that there is a positive outcome to all of this.

      Reply
      1. Hey Karma, Over here.

        I came back to post this, too.
        LW missed the part in Alison’s reply about taking responsibility.
        Promises were made by LW. The teacher, on the other hand, said she could do what LW asked because as an employee, sitting in front of a client, with a manager giving in to every request, she had no choice.
        Afterward, teacher explained what was needed to make this even partly work. LW determined that it was unrealistic.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        In fairness, the teacher did make the promises originally. Under duress/while being put on the spot, but she is the one who said she’d be able to meet the requests.

        Reply
            1. Shadow

              The blame is squarely and wholly with the principal. She sat by and failed to intervene while a parent took advantage of a teacher. what was the teacher supposed to do? Was she supposed to be the bad guy and take a chance the that the principal would come in and save the day for the parent?

              Reply
              1. LBK

                I don’t disagree with that. My only point was that “we spoke too soon” isn’t an inaccurate statement, because the OP herself didn’t actually agree to anything.

                Reply
      3. Green

        OP: sometimes you just have to embrace conflict and accountability.
        “*I* spoke to soon. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to accommodate your requests.”

        Reply
      4. McWhadden

        Isn’t not nitpicking an OP’s word choice part of the rules here?

        Miss Honey did agree to it in front of the parent so the parent would ask about it if the OP didn’t acknowledge it.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          This isn’t nitpicking. It’s highlighting how OP’s decision to spread/deflect responsibility has recurred even when trying to fix the fallout of doing it the first time. When it reflects a real issue, it’s not nitpicky.

          Reply
      5. sstabeler

        lets be charitable and assume OP is trying to prevent the parent pressuriisng the teacher to give the tutoring anyway, ok? yes, OP could perhaps have worded it better, but the important thing is that OP is correcting their screwup.

        Good on OP for taking the advice given- while it was a screwup (and I would apologise to Miss Honey for putting her in the position you did as well, OP) it’s clear they intend to learn from it.

        Reply
    3. Star

      Good job, OP! Telling unreasonable parents “no” is never easy, and sometimes damage control is the best you can hope for, at least at first. I hope she’ll back off a bit.

      Reply
    4. animaniactoo

      Question: Is the child really struggling more than other kids at her age? Would it make sense to suggest having her evaluated and explaining the additional resources that would be available to the parent to help her child if she needs something more that what you guys are able to offer?

      Reply
      1. Snark

        From little snippets of context, it sounds like a parent cracking the whip on a struggling student. If I were OP, I’d be strongly considering ways to make the school a safe and loving place to succeed, not an extension of the overbearing parent’s micromanagement.

        Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          I could see it running either way, which is why my first question is whether she really is struggling more than other students her age.

          Sometimes parents are overbearing because they see their child not succeeding and they are DETERMINED to do whatever it takes to fix child, but are focused on temporary additional help not the idea that there might be something bigger wrong (because it’s also scary to some parents that their child might have a problem).

          Reply
    5. CBH

      That’s great OP! Were you able to offer additional ways to support the teacher and student? Is there a brainstorming meeting in the works?

      Reply
    6. Snark

      I don’t want to pile on you, but you need another slap here: everybody didn’t speak too soon. YOU did. The correct phrasing here was “I spoke too soon with promises I couldn’t keep.” There was no “everyone” here, this was on you. You decided to placate this overly forceful and demanding parent by making an offer on behalf of your teacher, who was put on the spot and couldn’t say no. And then you made sure she got a portion of the blame when you realized it wasn’t sustainable. That’s not cool.

      I think you need to very carefully consider how you manage conflicts between parents and teachers, and how willing you are to shelter your teachers from unrealistic demands and undeserved blame, because right now it feels very much like you threw Miss Honey under the bus twice.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        +1

        If I was Miss Honey, I’d be looking for a new job. A principal having your back is SOOOO important as a teacher. I didn’t particularly like my headmaster when I taught (he did a lot of things I thought were crappy/bad for teachers/bad for students), but I would put up with all of his flaws because I knew he would always have my back with parents. That was the #1 thing that mattered to me about his management.

        Reply
        1. LA

          Yep. Having a supportive administration is one of the main reasons I stayed in teaching as long as I did. If I hadn’t had a supportive admin, I’d have been gone a lot sooner.

          Reply
        2. LizB

          Yep, I’d be gone. Administrators that won’t back me up in the face of a parent’s patently absurd demands are worse than useless.

          Reply
      2. Sarah M

        Yes, there definitely seems to be a motivating desire to avoid taking the blame and/or deflecting it here, and I’m guessing it’s probably more of a general character trait vs a one-off.

        Don’t get me wrong, OP, no one likes to be at fault, and no one likes having to face the wrath of a crazy entitled person. But sometimes we *are* at fault, and we *do* have to deal with angry people, and if we’re “where the buck stops”, we have to learn to manage that. Some others have suggested conflict resolution workshops. I think this would really be worth looking into as well.

        Reply
      3. palomar

        +1. OP, in the future, please remember that asking an employee if they can acquiesce to a parent’s unreasonable demands *in front of the parent who is being unreasonable* is not a good thing to do. You created a situation in which your employee clearly felt that you were pressuring her to agree to do a thing that would be detrimental to her ability to do her job properly (giving short shrift to all the other children in her classroom), and would negatively impact her ability to care for her own child. Now you’re implying to the unreasonable parent that “everyone” spoke too soon… which will definitely leave that parent thinking that Miss Honey agrees to things without thinking and then tries to weasel out of them when she’ll be required to make some effort. You threw Miss Honey under the bus again.

        As others have stated, this is why good teachers quit teaching. Do whatever you can to work on your communication and conflict management skills, as managing conflict from unreasonable parents is likely a HUGE part of your job. If you keep managing conflict in this way, you’re going to alienate your good teachers very quickly.

        Reply
      4. LBK

        Can we not nitpick the wording here for someone who’s trying to do the right thing? She literally says “I need [the reality checks]” – that sounds like accepting culpability to me and understanding that she didn’t handle the situation the right way. We don’t need to double down on every single detail of what she did wrong. Saying “Miss Honey made promises she’s not actually able to keep” is not inaccurate, either. It’s certainly leaving out the subtext that the OP pushed her into making those promises by putting her on the spot like that, but the OP herself didn’t promise anything.

        As a former teacher yourself, I’m sure you know the type of self-involved parent described in the letter here. You certainly seem very assured based on all your comments here and able to do the right thing in the moment, but if you don’t have practice standing your ground against such an aggressive person it can jar you into acquiescence (which is kind of the whole point of why people do it).

        I think the OP probably does need to practice handling those situations since I’m sure they’ll come up again, but to suggest she needs some kind of deep introspection about her moral character is a bit much. Managing is hard and it’s easy to get thrown when you encounter a situation like this that you may not have encountered before, it doesn’t make you a bad person.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          I’m so, so very much not just nitpicking wording. In this case, the wording is communicating critical things about how OP views the situation and their role in it and it absolutely deserves to be discussed. It’s not technically inaccurate to say that Miss Honey made promises she’s not actually able to keep, but the “everyone” wording says “if a parent gets mad, it’s each of us for themselves, and I won’t necessarily have your back 100%,” and that’s not what a principal should be communicating to their teachers. Just saying “I need the reality checks” doesn’t mean you’ve gotten all the necessary and actionable feedback about a situation you’re going to get.

          Also, no, I’m very much not sure that I could do the right thing in this situation. That’s why I was never a principal and why I very quickly decided that K-12 teaching was not a profession I should be in. But having been a teacher, I am pretty certain about what a teacher needs in a situation like this, and it’s not “well, mistakes were made by everyone.” We all step wrong, but I think OP does need to really reevaluate the roles they instinctively take in conflicts if they’re going to continue being a principal.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            I just plainly disagree that parsing it so finely is going to tell you anything useful. It’s a one-liner follow up, not a sworn testimony. The OP doesn’t owe us her most thoughtful and carefully edited response. It’s not even written as thought it’s a verbatim quote of what she said to the parent, so who knows how the conversation really went.

            I think it behooves us to assume that if someone has taken the time to write into an advice column, that means they know they’re in over their head to some extent. Save for the few people who are clearly just looking for validation of their bad behavior (like the truck sticker guy), I think you get points towards the benefit of the doubt just by nature of having asked for help.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              I don’t think this is really a question of the benefit of the doubt, and I doubt that wording was accidental, but I’ll consider your point.

              Reply
            2. serenity

              Although yes, we shouldn’t nitpick an OP’s word choice, it doesn’t feel like Snark was doing that here. In fact, it feels as if you are nitpicking a fellow commenter.

              The tenor of the letter (and something definitely addressed by Alison) was that OP did not have her teacher’s back in this instance. The use of “everyone” in her follow-up seems to be in line with that, and while many commenters praised OP’s update and resolution of this situation, Snark not unwarrantedly pointed out that it felt like OP was still not taking full ownership of the situation in her response to the parent. A valid, constructive criticism to make and not really that harsh, IMO.

              Can we give Snark the benefit of the doubt too?

              Reply
              1. Green

                Yes, and the advice was that if there was a hit to be taken, the OP should step in and take it, not roundly disperse blame with an “everyone.”

                Reply
              2. LBK

                FWIW, I have a much greater history of Snark’s comments to form understandings about how she writes than I do of the OP, so I feel more comfortable in my interpretation.

                Reply
          2. Snark

            Hit submit before I could finish: Because if your instinctive go-to is “grease the squeaky wheel” rather than “have your teacher’s back, don’t commit to anything you don’t want on an IEP, and be ready to say no” then that will be a problem moving forward. As you say, these parents are everywhere.

            Reply
            1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

              This is an extremely good point. You have to figure out what your lines in the sand are going to be before you talk to a demanding parent. Because they’re not going to be the last demanding parent, and you can’t plan on all your teachers bending over backwards all the time. It’s not tenable. Or fair.

              Reply
            2. LBK

              It feels to me that the OP has acknowledged this and understands that she needs to be able to handle these situations better, but I guess we disagree. I think that’s everyone’s instinctive reaction to situations like this until they’ve practiced dealing with them more assertively.

              Reply
              1. LBK

                In other words, I read the OP’s (again, very brief) follow up to mean “Wow, I was very unprepared to handle a situation like this and it’s a wake up call that I need to do better”. I don’t see how saying “Yeah, you’re right, you do” does anything but make the OP feel worse in a situation where it seems she already feels pretty bad and guilty and is trying to fix it.

                Reply
      5. Merci Dee

        At some of my previous auditing jobs, this would be a fine example of what we call “weasel words”. They let you weasel out of an unpleasant situation without directly coming out and saying that you screwed up.

        “The dog ate my homework” — weasel words.
        “The check is in the mail” — weasel words.
        “Everyone spoke to soon with promises they just can’t keep” — weasel words.

        Reply
      6. Nursey Nurse

        Yep. OP should have taken the hit for this as it was she who put the pressure on Ms. Honey to agree by asking her in front of a parent. Now you’ve just given the parent a way to blame Ms. Honey for the problem. Respectfully, I don’t know how long you’ve been a principal, but IMO you need to learn that keeping your teachers happy is just as important as keeping your parents happy, if for no other reason than that it’s a lot harder to find good teachers than it is to find angry parents.

        Reply
      7. MsMorlowe

        I agree for when OP apologises to Miss Honey, but I don’t think there’s a need to be nitpicky on this when speaking to the parent.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Neither do I. “I’m sorry, I made some suggestions on a way forward that I realized were unworkable” would be fine.

          Reply
        2. Green

          I don’t think it’s nitpicky since the advice was (1) for OP to take the hit here, and (2) the teacher still has to work with the parent and parent’s child.

          Reply
    7. Interested Bystander

      I know how it is. I work in a school. Twice in the last year, there have been groups of parents demanding that teachers get fired for being “ineffective.” (In reality, these parents were offended that the teachers weren’t allowing their child to do as they wished.) It took an enormous amount of time and energy to shut these groups down, and half the parents from each group pulled their kids out of school. Good for you being strong the second time. Your job isn’t really keeping parents happy. What angers some parents is what’s keeping some parents happy.

      Reply
    8. Bagpuss

      It’s good you’ve spoken to the parent, but speaking to Miss Honey and explicitly apologising and letting her know that you understand that you put her in a difficult position and will aim to do better in future,. I think it would be helpful to say to her, specifically – “I realise now that when I asked you about the extra tutoring Mom was requesting, it put you on the spot and that you may have felt that I was indicating I thought you ought to do that, can I see that I put you in a difficult position where it would have been very hard for you to say no. That wasn’t my intention and I apologise. In future I will try to be clearer and to ensure that I don’t put you on the spot in front of a parent, but if I do, please no that it is OK for you to say no, or to tell me you need more time to consider what might be possible” – I do think that an explicit apology and acknowledgement to Miss Honey that you made a mistake is really important here

      Reply
      1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

        This exactly! Please don’t neglect the next step of speaking to Miss Honey. The hard part is over (speaking to angry parents sucks), so now you have to make things right with your teacher.

        Reply
      2. Sualah

        Yeah, I agree with this really strongly. OP didn’t say, “OK, Miss Honey will do all that,” the OP asked if Miss Honey would be willing to. I absolutely agree that Miss Honey was in an awful spot. It would have taken a lot of presence of mind (that I’m not sure I would have, so I’m not throwing stones here) to gracefully say something like, “I suppose that is something we can look into” while the parent was there, and then when they were alone say, “Principal, you realize that’s not possible, right?”

        OP has the lion’s share of even getting into the situation, but Miss Honey agreed to it, so it’s not just the OP who “misspoke.”

        (Again, I get that the OP put Miss Honey in that position, and if it had been me, I probably would have agreed like Miss Honey did, or would have totally been unprofessional like, burst out laughing or, “What did you just say? Is that a joke? No, that’s not possible, you’re kidding right?”)

        Reply
        1. Sualah

          Ugh, so somehow edited out the part of my comment where, YES, the OP needs to talk to Miss Honey and apologize for her role. Absolutely. It would also be helpful, especially if Miss Honey is a new teacher, to give her scripts about how she can push back to a principal/parent if a situation like this comes up again.

          Reply
    9. LCL

      Thank you. Better to push back now on the demanding parents.
      I know you can’t tell us anything about how the child is actually performing, because you are protecting the child’s privacy and wound up parents like to sue. But from here, it sure looks like helicopter parenting. Mom doubling down on a little girl who isn’t a perfect student makes me want to cry.

      Reply
    10. Jules the 3rd

      Good job! Keep it up, and know that there are a lot of parents out here who support you. It’s important to end up with the best situation for everyone, which means keeping good teachers and helping them not burn out. And doing what you can to find the balance of academic and non-academic time that’s best for the kid, even if it’s not what the parent thinks is best.

      Maybe a compromise could be to ask Miss Honey to provide some homework? Or recommend a supplement book? My kid loves the Brain Quest series and is able to do most of it on his own.

      Reply
    11. another teacher here

      OP- I have been in this exact position at this exact level (3rd grader, to be specific). What ended up working best was calling another meeting with the parent, the teacher, the principal, the special ed teacher and THE CHILD all together to ask the child what’s going on. The adults met together first to discuss a plan of action for the meeting, and then we brought the child into the meeting to ask her what’s going on with her school work and why she thought she was having so much trouble. Was she put on the spot? Yes. Did she cry? Yep, because she, like all of the adults, was really frustrated! Did we find a solution that worked? Absolutely. My student said she was struggling because A. she couldn’t see the board (she got new glasses after this), B. she said she was so afraid to be called on that she forgot to pay attention (we worked on a secret signal), C. she knew her mom was mad about her grades, which made her more nervous (mom gave her a hug and explained that she wasn’t mad, just wanted the best for her), and D. her friends never asked questions when they didn’t understand, and some had made reference to being “dumb” if you ask questions (8 year olds lack some tact and perspective- don’t we all?) so she was afraid to ask when she needed help.

      Some may thing 8 years old is too young to have a child speak for him/herself, but honestly, I’ve had more success with this strategy than any other. It can also bring out information if the child or parent is saying one thing at home and another at school. So many kids will call out their parents in front of the teacher/admins because they don’t have the filter that adults do!

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Not with the parent there!

        This is NOT a reasonable parent, or one who has any understanding of education and the needs of her child. Do you really think this kid is going to say anything that “gets mom mad”?

        Reply
        1. Optimistic Prime

          Right! The child should be given the chance to give voice to their concerns without their parent there, much less 3 adults staring at her at the same time.

          Reply
    12. PredNation

      EVERYONE? No, it was actually YOU that spoke to soon. I hope you will clarify that to both the parent and the teacher. It’s an important distinction. But kudos to you for letting the mom it wasn’t going to work :)

      Reply
    13. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Hooray!

      As a fellow educator (and in a private school, where we get our fair share of demanding parents! 98% of them are great, but that 2%…) I really, really recommend Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s book The Essential Conversation as a way of thinking about parent-teacher(-principal) meetings. She writes compassionately about how to get everyone on the same team to take care of the student.

      You may not be able to make this parent happy. No matter what job you’re in, you can’t make everyone happy. That’s okay.

      Reply
    14. Escapee from Corporate Management

      OP, that is “sufficient damage control” with the parent, but what about Miss Honey? There is no mention here of any effort you have made to fix that relationship. You need to take action on that ASAP. She was also hurt by your actions, and by the tone of your letter, you seemed to have no indication that occurred.

      Reply
    15. Marley

      Thank goodness.

      Did you apologize to Miss Honey? Thoroughly? Putting her on the spot like that was terrible of you. And particularly when she’s just back to work after maternity leave–that’s a period of enormous stress for many women.

      Remind her how highly you think of her work, which you mentioned in your letter.

      Reply
      1. Steph

        And had Miss Honey been able to start pumping again or has her supply diminished too much? (Sorry, I know this is off topic and unlikely to be answered but as a lactation consultant I have a one track mind)

        Reply
        1. Jenny Jenn

          Not entirely off topic. Impacting her ability to feed her child the way she wants to forever mar the relationship she has with that employer. Take it from me. I was nearing the end of breastfeeding my daughter when a week of unexpected (but absolutely preventable) nights of late work in a row caused me to miss bedtime, and there was nothing left. Suddenly, it wasn’t my choice any more and I still hold it against my employer.

          Reply
    16. Pomona Sprout

      Glad to hear this, OP. I commend you for listening to what has been said here. The pile on has been pretty brutal, and a lot of prople moght have become defenseless and backed away. You didn’t do that. Good on you for that and for standing up to this horrible sounding mom!

      Reply
    17. K.

      I’ve read all the comments up to this point and I don’t think this point has been mentioned. You are LEGALLY REQUIRED to provided breaks for pumping to employees if they want them. Your letter questioned whether you were required to do that. You are. It is one of the provisions of Obamacare and so far hasn’t been taken away. I’m a teacher. I get that arranging breaks and coverage is difficult. You are still required to make it work.

      Reply
    18. Amy

      I’m glad you’ve called off this untenable plan with the mom.

      I’m concerned that you did so by saying ‘everyone’ spoke too soon. Regardless of who spoke, it was on you as the manager to determine what was and wasn’t reasonable, and you were the one who abdicated that responsibility.

      I’m also concerned that you don’t mention any kind of damage control with Ms. Honey. Did you apologize for her for asking such an unreasonable thing of her? Did you explicitly tell her that you will have her back if/when she says no to future unreasonable requests? You say she’s a well-liked teacher in your school, and you did some things here that could have seriously damaged your relationship with her; what are you doing to make her want to stay here, rather than finding a job at another, potentially more supportive school?

      Reply
  42. JokeyJules

    Does this parent not understand that their child isn’t the only student at the school?
    I understand wanting the best for your child, I will always advocate for my children and ensure they are getting the best out of their education. But that will NEVER involve telling ANOTHER PARENT to CHANGE THE WAY THEY ARE CHOOSING TO FEED THEIR CHILD. Or asking and expecting a professional to give up their PERSONAL PREP TIME (which one might dare to consider a break) to further tutor a child who is already receiving tutoring.
    My point is that this parent is very clearly out of line asking (demanding) this from Miss Honey. I’m with Allison. LW, you have good intentions, but you were not mediating this meeting. As much as you need to help the parents, you need to provide support to your staff too! I did an internship in the american school system working directly with students, parents, and teachers. While this was only a 5 month internship, the most overwhelming aspect of the job was mediating between what the student needs, parent wants, and educator can provide.
    You need to tell the parent that you’ve decided miss honey is not going to be able to accommodate that, and offer alternatives you can find.
    And honestly Miss Honey (who sounds like an angel) deserves an apology for being put into that position. Miss Honey isn’t being passive aggressive for asking for compensation for making these accommodations for the student. Sure, she physically could have said no. But honestly, when you are sitting in a meeting with a parent like that, you’d need a lot of bravery to put your foot down.

    Reply
    1. blackcat

      In my experience, parents who ask things like this absolutely do not understand that there child is not the only child who deserves teaching/attention.

      Also in my experience, it’s the principal’s job to shut this attitude down. Harshly. Otherwise, it creates an entitled parent body, which in turn creates serious moral issues among the teachers.

      This is no good.

      Reply
      1. JokeyJules

        Exactly!
        In my internship, we had to have a sit down meeting with a child who was failing their classes, their parent, and an educator. The child wasn’t doing their homework, but the parent blamed the teachers for not making him do their homework. She demanded they call (!) the student at home (!) nightly (!) to remind them to do their homework. This parent did not work an evening job, was always home, but she said it wasn’t “her fight to fight”. My supervisor immediately said “I cannot have all of them call 150 kids at home every evening to remind them to do their homework, and I will not have any of them call one student at home any night to do their homework.”
        The parent was furious, but somehow miraculously the kid started doing his homework.

        Reply
  43. fond_of_jam

    Finally, an education question!

    So I’ve worked as a teacher and administrator in public and independent schools, and I have to say this situation was pretty badly mishandled. Whether or not you, as the principal, believe that Ms Honey is an effective teacher (“effective” is different than “popular”), the amount of homework she gives and other aspects of her practice should never be the subject of a meeting between you, Ms Honey, and a parent–UNLESS it is to offer Ms Honey your full support. If YOU think she’s not giving enough homework, or that her read-alouds are a waste of time, that’s a conversation between the two of you.
    As far as recess and specials go, surely there is a school or district policy that points to the importance of these parts of the day for a well-rounded (or “whole-child,” or whatever your particular jargon is) education for children. Instead of asking Ms Honey if she’d be willing to do private tutoring during that time (which is totally inappropriate, and has put you in a real administrative bind because you’re denying her contractually obligated breaks and/or planning time), why not point the parent toward the research-supported educational benefits of music, art, PE, and recess? Why act like they’re optional?
    Maintaining positive relationships with families doesn’t mean giving parents everything they want. Alison’s read on this is correct. The only course of action here–especially if you want to retain Ms Honey, who sounds like a great employee–is for you to tell the parent that the situation that you originally proposed is untenable and that the student needs to attend music, art, PE, and recess with the other children. And then apologize to Ms Honey for putting her in this bizarre position.

    Reply
    1. CJM

      ‘Aspects of her practice should never be the subject of a meeting between you, Ms Honey, and a parent–UNLESS it is to offer Ms Honey your full support’ – this, so very much. I’ve taught in a number of private schools, under a number of heads of department, and occasionally encountered unreasonable, demanding, or even downright aggressive parents. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that every single one of my HoDs, regardless of the strength of our working relationship, has always been incredibly willing to support every member of their department.

      In the words of my favourite HoD – ‘if you’re messing up, that’s my mistake too as your manager, and it’s my job to take the flack for that from parents’. From experience I can tell you – teachers who get thrown under the bus, in the way – to be frank, OP – that you threw Miss Honey under the bus; they tend to move on quickly. And the negative word of mouth will be damaging to you personally, and your school in the long run. Depending on the locale and the sector, teaching can be a surprisingly small world.

      Reply
  44. Hey Karma, Over here.

    LW,
    Not even going to touch the breastfeeding part of this.
    You need to rethink what happened here. You went in with the idea of mediating a situation between a parent and a student. You created a plan for giving the parent everything requested. Actually, you created a plan for the teacher to give the parent everything requested. And when parent was content, you felt it was over. Now that you’ve created a game plan, you are calling the teacher passive aggressive for asking for real and specific tools (time and money) to make your plan happen.
    You didn’t tell the parent to hire extra tutors. You didn’t tell the parent to come to the school at recess and use what is probably her lunch hour from work to teach her child. You told the teacher to do it. To use her time and her money (and her mental recharging time) to execute your plan.
    Who will you tap when the next parent comes calling?
    Because you’ve set a precedent. There will be more.

    Reply
  45. Backroads

    Wow on the formula thing.

    But I’m a teacher too and have been told that by no less than three parents who also wanted recess-tutoring. It’s sort og a culture thing in some areas.

    Reply
    1. Mallory

      but your milk just doesn’t dry up…..you’d still have to pump during the transition period…it isn’t a silver bullet for the problem and it’s a really fucking dumb and rude suggestion

      Reply
    2. Manders

      Out of curiosity, which areas have this in the culture? I’ve never heard of recess tutoring before, and I know some teachers who’ve worked with kids who are high needs or under a lot of pressure.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        I think it is common in upper-middle class schools. And when I taught (at a private school), I generally had 1-2 hours/day spent one-on-one with kids who were struggling for whatever reason.

        There were a few caveats: I had plenty of *other* prep time (I taught for 4-5 hours/day, depending on the schedule), and the school-wide guideline was if a kid needed more than 1hr/week from a particular teacher, the parent should seek private tutoring (so I was generally meeting with a dozen or so kids for a half-hour or so per week, not one or two kids for multiple hours).

        When I did my student teaching in a public school, it was definitely expected that teachers spend time before school/after school/during lunch helping kids individually.

        Reply
  46. Q

    My first thought was the parent should pay for a tutor out of her own pocket if her child needs extra help. I don’t want this to come off sounding mean but if the majority of the students in Ms. Honey’s class are doing well, then the issue is with the student and not her teaching. Sounds like the parent wants to blame the school for her own child’s shortcomings. Ms. Honey sounds like a true professional.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      In the U.S., there’s no federal law requiring breaks for exempt employees. Presumably the teacher goes to the bathroom between classes same as the students do.

      Reply
        1. fposte

          I didn’t hear anything non-U.S. (though I could have missed stuff), but the procedures suggested it might not be a public school.

          Reply
            1. blackcat

              No, this is due to teachers being exempt. Technically, the time/space to pump law only applies to non-exempt workers.

              Reply
      1. JD

        I recall our teachers had rooms with connecting doors. Once in a while teacher would ask the neighbor to watch her class for 5 mins while we worked. I would put good money on bathroom breaks being the reason. Also elementary students do not have “between classes” other than recess or lunch so those times as well.

        Reply
      2. Artemesia

        When I was a new high school teacher, teaching 6 classes a day with a 4 minute break between classes, my classrooms were at opposite ends of the building (newer teachers didn’t get their own classrooms but had to use classrooms of students on their breaks. Try to get to the teacher’s bathroom and be on time to greet students coming into class and start the class competently in 4 minutes when you have to wrap up at location one, grab your giant cart or bag of materials and run to the opposite end of a sprawling school building. Working conditions for teachers are appalling.

        Reply
      3. zsuzsanna

        No. I mean, yes, technically but that’s not the way it works in reality. At many schools, according to teacher friends and family, teachers are expected to give up their lunch periods, breaks and after-school periods to tutor one on one. Then they’e up late at home planning.

        Reply
  47. Temperance

    LW, it sounds like that parent is a bully. I can just picture her screaming at her child about the kid not understanding something … which is what causes anxiety around learning! She’s teaching her kid to hate school and to be afraid of failure. I have very vivid memories of being forced to sit for hours at the kitchen table, with both parents screaming at me because I wasn’t understanding some math concept. (I am actually awesome at math, btw … but not when two jerks are screaming their head off at me for not getting it!)

    I like the advice given here, but I think you also need to find out what they’re doing at home, and why this momster is trying to take all the joy out of her child’s school experience. It’s certainly NOT going to transform this kid into a high achiever, and it’s unfair to the teacher and the innocent child.

    Reply
    1. CBH

      I was also thinking what happens when Ms Honey is no longer the student’s teacher? Is the parent expecting this year after year? It sounds like an overall plan is needed at home and school

      Reply
  48. AnotherAlison

    I also hope the OP realizes this parent will have to be carefully managed for the duration of her child’s attendance in the school district. Every time her child doesn’t get something she wants her to have, she will be there complaining.

    Reply
    1. BananaPants

      Talk about shooting yourself in the foot…she’s tagged herself forever as “that parent”. Even if mom stops acting like a crazy entitled witch, the reputation will follow the family.

      Reply
      1. Starbuck

        Yikes, she’s unreasonable and overzealous for sure, but gendered and ableist slurs aren’t helpful or constructive. It’s a bummer to see comments like that.

        Reply
    2. Serin

      Yes, and she’s also shown that she’s not interested in teamwork with teachers — she’s not saying, “This is the problem, as I see it — if you agree, what do you suggest?” She’s just saying, “I’ve decided what the problem is, I’ve decided what the solution is, and educators are merely puppets who must bend to my will.”

      Reply
  49. Birch

    Wow. The bit about formula is egregious at best, but it should never have gotten that far. The parent has NO BUSINESS knowing how the teacher uses her planning/break time! “Sorry, I can’t do that” is a full sentence. She owes no one an explanation. Someone needs to mentor her to get her to realize she does not need to sacrifice her own wellbeing for her job. Holy cow. Not okay at all for the school, not to mention the parent, to even think of taking advantage of her like that.

    Reply
  50. VermiciousKnit

    As someone with a special-needs kid who needs accommodations, AND as a person who has worked in the education world (though not as a teacher), I agree you need to immediately put the kibosh on this arrangement. It’s bad for everyone, the individual student, all of Miss Honey’s students, Miss Honey, Miss Honey’s child, the parent (because they now think they can get away with completely ludicrous demands), and the school admin staff having to deal with this parent.

    Miss Honey needs pumping and planning time. Students need physical activity, play, and arts to learn properly. Constant tutoring isn’t going to catch that child up, it’s going to make things worse in the long run. There most certainly are other tutoring options, or looking into an IEP or 504 if the student really needs different services. The parent needs to know that she cannot demand that Miss Honey sacrifice her worktime or bond with her own child, or the wellbeing/education of Matilda’s classmates.

    Call up the parent TODAY and tell her that after further investigation, tutoring during recesses and specials will not be possible, but you have XYZ alternatives. If they balk at those, offer to start the process for assessment of learning disorders instead.

    THEN, I would develop a script for yourself when a parent gets riled up or asks for something unreasonable, ranging from “I will investigate what our available options are here” down to “I understand your concerns/desires, but that would simply not be possible. Let’s investigate what some other options are that would accomplish the same goals!”

    Reply
  51. blackcat

    Woah, as a former teacher, I think LW was WAAAAYYYY out of line. This parent’s demands aren’t at all reasonable–extra tutoring time once or twice a week would be reasonable.

    In addition to hurting the teacher here, this principal is setting herself up to be pushed around by parents in the future. Word WILL get around about this, and soon there will be more parents pushing for similar accommodations. No teacher can do this for every kid! And so setting the precedent that this is an okay thing for teachers is really going to backfire.

    LW, I think you need to call the parent and say that, upon further reflection, this is untenable. Recess tutoring 2x per week (or some other compromise) is fair. And this is 100% your job, not the teachers.

    Reply
  52. Infinity Anon

    How can a principle not put a stop to unreasonable demands immediately? Students can’t be held back from recess and specials to be tutored individually. That is how the teacher gets breaks! The parent should have been referred to outside tutoring resources if they insisted that their kid needed more tutoring.

    Reply
  53. CityMouse

    OP needs to also learn to go in with a plan. It was foreseeable that a parent would make an extreme request like this, you needed yo have a plan to respond to it, including a pre-meeting with the teacher. Putting the onus in her to say no was not okay. In the future you need to have these discussions with staff about expectations before a parent comes in. As the boss, even if the teacher agrees, it is on you to enforce reasonable boundaries and protect personal time, not the teacher.

    Reply
  54. CleverGirl

    Asking the teacher “Are you willing to do this?” sounds like you are asking them to do it. If you really wanted to “continue the conversation” you could have asked something like “is that feasible with your schedule?” or “does that seem to be the reasonable route to take?” or anything that actually asked for the teacher’s input rather than basically saying “The parent just requested this, will you do it?” You should NOT have been “surprised” that she said yes, since most people are extremely hesitant to say no to a direct request from their boss. You need to realize that you basically strong-armed the teacher into committing to do this by siding with the parent in front of her, and step in and fix it immediately.

    Also it is unhealthy and unfair to the child to be deprived of recess. The kid will start viewing tutoring, studying, and learning as a punishment, and will hate it. Do not allow this to happen.

    Reply
    1. Tuxedo Cat

      I don’t think the teacher should’ve been asked to take on or comment on an unreasonable request in front of the parent. The principal should have said that she’d look into whether that works for Miss Honey’s schedule.

      Opening the discussion up with a question like that I can’t see going well… “Is that feasible with your schedule?” opens up a strong possibility of Miss Honey’s time usage being analyzed and criticized by the parent who already seems to have “solutions” to the situation. “Does that seem to be a reasonable route to take?” also seems like it’s putting pressure on the teacher to say yes.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        Well, and the request was so wildly unreasonable, LW should have shut it down immediately. If LW doesn’t think that request was so wildly unreasonable, she’s got much bigger problems as a principal….

        Reply
    2. Sualah

      Yeah, I am just shocked. I mean, the letter says that it was during the parent conference, that the parent told Miss Honey to buy formula. And OP asked Miss Honey if she was willing to do that? Like, the conversation seemed to go:

      Parent: My daughter needs to be tutored by Miss Honey all the time–no electives, no recess, no lunch recess.
      Miss Honey: Well, I use recess to pump milk for my baby.
      Parent: Buy formula, then.
      Principal/OP: Miss Honey, are you willing to do all that?
      Miss Honey: OK, I will.

      I…what?

      Reply
        1. Sualah

          Well, I figured it was in that order because the OP said she “left out a part of the parent meeting: When Miss Honey explained to the parent she used her recess time to pump, the parent told her to buy formula.”

          So I can’t see when else that would have come up in the meeting. The parent asks for recess to be used, Miss Honey presumably doesn’t agree right at that point since she has to pump, but then after the parent says to buy formula, the OP wants to continue the conversation and asks if Miss Honey will do that.

          But I could be wrong, obviously I wasn’t there!

          Reply
          1. LBK

            It’s not totally clear but my guess would be that she agreed to the original request for tutoring (probably mostly due to surprise at being put on the spot), then in the course of the conversation after she had taken in what she’d actually just agreed to and was thinking about logistics, she realized she wouldn’t be able to pump and brought it up.

            Reply
    3. Junior Dev

      Sounds to me like the OP was in a conversational flow designed for reasonable people who all want what’s best. “ok, A wants X. Let’s figure out how to make X happen.”

      Maybe OP needs to work on developing and practicing scripts for when people want something unreasonable, because that’s going to come up a lot in this line of work.

      Reply
    4. Tiger Snake

      Seems to me the best response would have been “Miss Honey, do you believe that X (extra tutoring instead of lunch and recess, extra tutoring instead of arts and PE lessons, whatever the suggestion at the time was) will help the child in this case? Or can you foresee other problems this would cause?”

      Basically, deferring back to the teacher’s opinion – she gets her say, and you support her/back her up whatever judgement she has. She’s the one who deals with the child day to day, she’s going to know better than you in this case – and making the sure the focus on the discussion is whether this will actually benefit the child. Because all of the concerns – whether Miss Honey gets her breaks, how it affects her own ability to pump for her own child, etc. – none of that matters if this option isn’t actually going to help.

      Reply
      1. Amy

        Considering the contractual limits on how teachers spend their time at this school, I really think the manager should have responded with a clear “That’s not feasible. Let’s discuss other options.” It’s not just about Miss Honey’s opinion on whether this is feasible; her prep time and breaks are contractually guaranteed, and need to be taken as fact, not negotiable details.

        Reply
        1. Tiger Snake

          Sure, but my point is that is that the feasibility didn’t even need to be discussed if the parent’s idea wasn’t actually going to help the child or their aims.

          If Miss Honey had been given the opportunity to say “No, Child needs the downtime of recess and the other classes; their attention shows drop off in the hour leading up to lunch, and significant improvement after they’d had an opportunity to take a break. They also have difficulty interacting with other kids, and limiting their socialisation is only going to cause them significant harm when trying to interact with co-workers and clients as an adult.” then the rest didn’t even need to be debated.

          Being able to keep focus on how this plan won’t produce the outcome you want, and the school is not going to hurt a child in its care (by using a damaging education plan), then they never even have to discuss how it affects Miss Honey’s work – and prevents arguments like the “so switch to formula” from happening in the first place.

          Reply
  55. fun fact

    All the evidence shows that homework at elementary school level actually detracts from academic and personal outcomes for the students.

    Reply
    1. VermiciousKnit

      +1

      If a child is a bookworm who WANTS more enrichment, there are plenty of workbooks and educational games online, and Kahn Academy and the like. For the most part, though, young children’s brains develop better through play, activity, and being read to in an environment that encourages curiosity and where they feel safe to make mistakes.

      Reply
    2. McWhadden

      And parents mistakenly believe that all education is the responsibility of the teacher. Depending on ages, reading to/with your kids, doing fun math or logic puzzles, and/or doing educational games at home is much more rewarding and enriching.

      Reply
  56. Alton

    I feel terrible for Miss Honey. What an awful position to be in. But I also feel terrible for the poor kid.

    What’s more important than making everyone happy is advocating for the best interests of the students. They’re ultimately the ones the education system is supposed to be serving. And that shouldn’t mean treating teachers like Miss Honey is being treated, especially since one teacher may not be able to adequately address a student’s needs without support, anyway. It’s not in this student’s best interest for Miss Honey to take full responsibility for her progress. And giving up recess and any classes the mother seems unessential will probably do more harm than good.

    Sometimes parents demand things that aren’t reasonable or realistic, either because they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re simply unreasonable people. Sometimes trying to make the parents happy will directly hurt the child.

    Reply
  57. mouseking

    If you can’t manage, you should be a manager. Full stop.

    And OP, you have just shown, in glorious technicolor, that you can’t manage.

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      It’s not like managing is a mysterious quality you either have or don’t. The OP mismanaged in this one situation it doesn’t mean she always does. As long as she fixes it she is still managing. And it’s a lesson in management learned for her.

      Reply
      1. Shadow

        On some level it is. If you are the non confrontational type or have a habit of blaming others for things that don’t go right you are going to fail as a manager.

        Reply
        1. McWhadden

          I’m generally non-confrontational in real life but am perfectly capable of stifling that and being direct when my job calls for it.

          That is not only inaccurate but a very unhelpful way to think about managing.

          Reply
    2. Amber Rose

      This is way too black and white. Most employers push people into a managing role without any particular training or mentorship. OP has some learning to do, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that one bad situation means they are completely unsuited to their job.

      Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s way too harsh, and frankly unrealistic. Even excellent and experienced managers don’t get it right every time. We know about how the OP handled one situation, now how she operates more broadly.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        In general, I totally agree with you. BUT there’s a lot here that suggests that LW isn’t prepared to be a (good) principal.

        She doesn’t seem to have a good approach for dealing with parent/teacher conflicts. This is principal-ing 101. Strategy should be 1) talk to parent. 2) Talk to teacher, settle on plan WITH TEACHER. 3) communicate plan to parent, either with or without teacher present.

        She seems to have a “tough cookies” approach to teacher’s losing planning time.

        She put her teacher in a bad spot, and then accused the teacher of being passive aggressive. She hasn’t issued an unconditional apology to the teacher.

        All of this sounds to me like someone who has gone into school administration before they were ready. She needs a few more years as a classroom teacher to be an effective principal.

        As I said above, as a teacher, this incident would 100% prompt me to job-search. It would also prompt me to job search if it happened to a coworker.

        Reply
      2. Shadow

        Is it though? I mean:
        1. bad idea to “mediate” between a good teacher and complaining parent
        2. Really bad idea to make teacher choose between being the bad guy or taking away the little “free” time she has
        3. Really bad to insinuate teacher made a mistake by making promises she couldn’t keep.

        She tried, but I’m not sure she did anything right.

        Reply
        1. McWhadden

          Mediation isn’t always a bad idea. Most parents are reasonable and communication can make all of the difference. This parent is unreasonable but it doesn’t mean mediation is automatically wrong all of the time.

          Reply
          1. Shadow

            Of course it’s not. Mediation is good when the teacher is struggling to come up with an acceptable outcome. There’s no indication the teacher needed help with anything other than telling the parent no.

            Reply
      3. TeacherNerd

        Not only that, but whenever you’re in a position of dealing with a lot of people, like in education, many times how you think something will work winds up not working out that way. You may think, even with some experience in the field, that the parent may do X, but they wind up doing Y. The situation can take a completely different turn.

        Reply
      4. I'm Not Phyllis

        I agree with you. The LW made an error in judgment – no question – but this doesn’t necessarily make her a generally bad manager. If we told every manager that messed up that they should no longer manage, would any of us be here?

        Reply
    4. Katie the Fed

      The OP had the judgement to write in and ask for advice. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step – most bad managers don’t have the self-awareness to know they messed up.

      Reply
      1. Sketchee

        That’s very true, Katie! We have no evidence that this LW is incapable of learning. A good manager isn’t a perfect human being. That’s something that doesn’t exist. Great managers I’ve worked with are people who are able to handle, fix, and adapt to mistakes. This one incident is completely correctable.

        Most great managers weren’t the “managing type”. As this site frequently tells us, a lot of managing (and being an employee) is learned behavior and not innate personality.

        Reply
    5. Muriel Heslop

      Hey, OP came here for help! Principals are administrators and definitely get training for things like this but not nearly enough. I’ve had my share of wonderful and terrible administrators but I’m the first to admit that’s it’s a job I would NEVER want because it’s really, really hard. People are unpredictable, unreasonable and ridiculous and they all end up going to school at some point. And if it’s a public school, you have to make it work because it’s the law. So, go easy on someone who’s looking to get better.

      Reply
  58. McWhadden

    OP I’d take this as a really great learning opportunity. Specifically, learning to be disliked by unreasonable people. You have to be the bad guy to the parent here. You have to say “Upon reflection, we believe this is not an appropriate use of resources. We can refer you to a tutoring service for after-school hours.” (If you know of such a service.) The parent will probably yell. The parent will likely say that a promise has been revoked (it has.) But this wasn’t an enforceable contract. You are entitled to change your mind. And you really must do it. Just think of them throwing a fit as valuable expertise as a principal. Because this will happen again. Maybe not exactly this set of facts but similar situations will arise.

    I think it’s important to remember that this arrangement is also bad for the child. It makes learning a punishment (and missing recess is a classic punishment.) And those “extras” and recess serve valuable functions in learning. Your responsibility as a principal are to 1) the students and 2) the teachers. Both the student and the teacher are hurt by this arrangement. The parent will never be reasonable enough to see that. But your obligation is ultimately not to them.

    If the parent tries to go above you to the superintendant or the school board or however your school system is set up just tell whoever that is that this arrangement would violate Miss Honey’s (union?) rights and would cost money.

    Miss Honey is being a tad passive-aggressive in that request for formula money (ha). But she’s been put in a difficult position and it’s more than understandable. Just tell her you were completely taken off guard by such an unreasonable request and didn’t handle it as well as you wish you would. But that you will take care of it from here.

    Everyone has situations where they don’t do exactly the right thing. Don’t beat yourself up over it. No one has been hurt by this yet (the tutoring sessions haven’t started.) Just go forward from here.

    Reply
  59. Amber Rose

    OP, there are classes on management you can take. Failing that, there are usually podcasts and youtube videos and other free online resources.

    This experience should hopefully have shown you that you have some studying to do. Please work on your managing skills, because this is not going to be the last time you encounter an unreasonable parent, and this situation really can’t happen again. It’s not fair to anyone involved.

    Reply
  60. Anony McAnonface

    I feel bad for the teacher, but tbh I mostly feel bad for this kid. Miss Honey is stuck with this parent for one year, the kid is stuck with that parent for the rest of their lives. No art, PE, or recess in middle-school does not suggest this parent has a healthy attitude to education or balance in life. But just to echo everyone else, you broke this OP, you need to fix it.

    Reply
  61. krysb

    It makes me feel old to remember that, in my day (I’m all of 32), if your child wasn’t performing to your expectations, you would hire a tutor and/or help the child with his/her homework. You didn’t force the child’s teacher to do take more time out of his/her day to give your child extra instruction. Teachers aren’t paid enough for that crap. Personally, had I been in OP’s position, I would have handed the parent a card to the homework helpline or sent her a link to online tutoring programs – in addition to coordinating efforts with the teacher to determine why the child is behind and help create an action plan with the parent to help the student catch up – but I wouldn’t force the teacher into all of those roles.

    Reply
  62. The Person from the Resume

    LW, you did not deal with the situation properly in the moment. This patent will be unhappy with you because this parent has crazy demands.

    #1 This is terrible for the child missing recesses and all non-academic classes.

    #2 Also sounds like the parent may have unreasonable demand. IF (big if) the child needs that much extra tutoring / hands-on-time then your school may not be right for the child. Or she needs an aide just there to help her. But most likely the parents unreasonable demands should be shut down.

    #3 even if the child needs this one-on-one attention you can’t ask the teacher to do this in her “free” time. That free time is for her to get a break from kids, go to the bathroom, eat lunch, PUMP, etc.

    #4 Ask yourself why did you ask the teacher to do this in front of the parent? You never should have. I think the answer is that you didn’t want to be the “bad guy” and have a parent mad at you but you were perfectly happily to have the teacher be the “bad guy” and take the parents’s anger.

    You need to fix this by telling the parent what they want won’t be possible and it was your mistake thinking it was. Now you need to shield the teacher from the parent. Again that PARENT is unreasonable. You can’t protect that poor child all the time but you can protect your employee and the child while she is at school by letting her be like the other students and get a break from academics now and again.

    Reply
    1. The Person from the Resume

      Also you should ponder what your job was in the meeting. I disagree that your role is to”moderate” a meeting between parent and teacher. You should be there to support and if necessary defend your employee and deny unreasonable requests from parents.

      If it’s a case of the teacher being in the wrong, you have a different role.

      Reply
  63. Katie the Fed

    “When Miss Honey explained to the parent she used her recess time to pump, the parent told her to buy formula.”

    Oh hell no.

    The problem isn’t anyone being passive-aggressive. It’s with you being passive and the parent being aggressive. Fix this now by going back to the parent and saying that YOU have made a decision that Miss Honey will not be providing tutoring during recess, period. Don’t back down.

    Reply
    1. Sabine the Very Mean

      Absolutely. Also, demands about how one handles feeding her child are unwelcome and damaging, full stop.

      Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        Seriously. Anyone with an opinion on how I should feed (or otherwise raise) my child will be invited to make a $500 donation to his college fund.

        Reply
  64. Sue

    Research supports everything the teacher is doing now. Recess time, no homework, and reading aloud are all essential to childhood education. The parent is pushing for methods from an opposite (and outdated) education philosophy. The principal is being bullied by the parents and the teacher was in the right. The principal needs to contact the parents and reverse this irrational decision. The principal has compromised the teacher by letting these parents think they know more about educating children. This has a lot of consequences for this child, this teacher, and all of the other children in the class– cuz when THEIR parents find out about it, they will be asking questions. The principal needs some leadership training and also to learn how to support employees and the school’s own educational philosophy.

    Reply
  65. Nita

    Wow. So my kid has just started public school, and I’m dreadfully unhappy about how far some of the instruction is from his ability, but I recognize this is on me as his mom. The teacher has a full class and can only do so much to give everyone individual attention. If they’re overall happy and enjoy coming to class, that’s already a win. Any extra tutoring? I’m going to have to work on that at home myself, or hire a tutor, again on my own time.

    Throwing a teacher who is a young mom under the bus is not the answer. She’s probably already struggling to prove she is still reliable and committed to her job, and felt like she could not say no. Never mind that if OP’s school is like ours, the parents have a way to contact the teachers directly, and if she said no in front of the parent, she would have to deal with that parent’s harassment afterwards.

    OP, you probably didn’t think this through, but now that you have realized you’ve created a problem, you should also be the one to solve it. Apologize to both parties, but tell the parent the teacher was only offering out of the goodness of her heart, but on further review it became clear that “other obligations” make the special tutoring impossible.

    Reply
  66. Rusty Shackelford

    I suspect there is some passive-aggressiveness going on.

    Yeah, there is. But it’s not coming from the teacher, who assertively told you what she needed in order to accomplish this new task you just sprung on her. I think you’re being a lot more passive-aggressive than she is, by asking her – in front of the parent – to do something, and claiming you were “just keeping the conversation going.” What did you expect her to do? Did you want her to be the one to say no, so you didn’t have to? That is passive-aggressive.

    (Honestly, I get so tired of people who label “anything I don’t agree with” as passive-aggressive.

    Reply
  67. Manager-at-Large

    So – it seems like the parent came not with a problem to be solved, but with a solution to be implemented – all involving things that were out of her expertise and pervue.
    My background is in IT not education, but the situation is eerily familiar. I will remark as if the two fields are parallel.

    Why did the parent come in? What was the actual issue to be solved? Is her child not doing well? Is her child on an IEP that needs adjustment? Performing below grade level that needs to come up? What is the short-fall in the tutoring already being received? Is this an issue to be solved or is a level-set of expectations needed?

    You need to drive these conversations around the requirements and the situation to be solved not around the solution that the business (parent) brings to the first meeting. It seems like your job (like that of a business analyst) is to work with with the teacher(s) and other professionals to come up with solutions – not implement goodness-knows-what-ideas the well-meaning but not-education-professional parent happens to demand.

    Reply
    1. Manager-at-Large

      to add: I realize we are talking about a child here – I don’t want my analogy to seem like I don’t know that and have compassion for the child, the teacher or the situation – I’m just saying to refocus on whatever the actual issue is and steer away from the seemingly blind acquiesence to whatever scheme is brought forward by the parent. And in this case, it puts the child’s actual needs (educational, social, recreational) up front and center.

      Any solution has to be examined as to how it will actually solve the original issue without creating others – and this one (stay in during recess and specials) does not seem to be a good fit for the child (or Miss Honey).

      Reply
  68. it_guy

    This is the Sole and ONLY purpose of an IEP: Get the student the resources that they need! If this student is struggling, then Special Services needs to step in and have a qualified/certified/trained professional determine what the kiddo needs, not an armchair expert (parent). In every case of an IEP, the state will provide extra funds for this.

    Reply
  69. cornflower blue

    That sound you just heard was the sound of thousands of union reps’ heads exploding.

    If this child needs that much extra attention, the child need to be evaluated for an official IEP, or possibly a 504 plan. Occasional tutoring is one thing, but this is above and beyond that level. Pushing special needs like this under the radar is exactly opposite what a principal should be doing.

    Fix this, OP, and loop in your union ASAP, or you may find yourself with a (justified!) grievance.

    Reply
    1. serenity

      Pushing special needs like this under the radar is exactly opposite what a principal should be doing.

      Bingo. I’m concerned that principal is more concerned with placating parents than ensuring compliance with basic student support service needs and requests.

      Reply
    2. Muriel Heslop

      If this is in the US, there are a number of states without collective bargaining for teachers and I’m in one of them. There would be no union blowback at my school.

      Reply
      1. Rhonda (but only for this reply)

        Oh Muriel… I’ve been admiring your username for a while and thinking that you were a fellow Aussie! My heart just broke a tiny bit.

        Reply
  70. boop the first

    It seems like this is too much control given to people outside of the industry. The way the letter is written makes it sound like educators there are just winging it, or treating it like one would treat an hourly part time job (clock in, clock out, forget about it). It sounds like education is just a service to be purchased by parents. Maybe it should be more rigid and thoughtful than that?

    Like any other “service”, Parent has many options, one of which is homeschooling. If she homeschooled, she could give her kid all the homework in the world. If she can’t trust a trained professional, why hire them?

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  71. Observer

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but I do want to point out that there are in fact educational concerns here that play into the issue. And they are concerns that should have kept you from even PRETENDING to consider this “solution” to “keep the conversation going.”

    1. When is this child supposed to eat lunch? Either the parent thinks that it’s ok for the kid to skip lunch every day in which case what in heavens name were you thinking?! That’s simply abusive. Or she’s going to bring lunch every day and eat during tutoring time. How much do you think is going to be accomplished.

    2. Skipping all breaks and recess is a well documented way to tank a child’s capacity to learn. The parent may not be aware of this, but you should be.

    3. PE, Art, etc may be “specials” but they are NOT items that a child should be denied – ESPECIALLY if she’s already struggling!

    4. Why would you think that turning this kid into a pariah is going to improve her academic performance? She’s going to be isolated from all the other kids, and you can be sure that at least some of them are going to have very unkind things to say. What is the benefit here?

    5. You asking your teacher to give up breaks and prep time for ONE child. Have you thought about the impact on all of the other children? How is this fair to them?

    I would also ask you why you didn’t “continue the conversation” by making the obvious suggestion: If this child is already getting lots of individual tutoring and is still struggling, it’s time for an educational evaluation. As an educator, you should be aware that tutoring only goes so far, and if it’s not helping just adding more tutoring is not the answer.

    I know this sounds harsh. But, aside from how unfair you are being to the teacher, my heart simply breaks for this kid.

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  72. Robin