Lack of confidence is the main reason parents constantly second guess teachers, senior staff and even their child’s principal.
It’s not only educators who are constantly put to the sword. A quick look at our political scene with leaders of all political parties at both Federal and State levels being constantly put under the microscope shows how fickle people can be. This fickleness is a reflection of our lack of confidence in our leaders.
Here’s the rub. People follow people. They inherently want to trust others to do the job they are meant to. In schools, as in politics and others areas of life, people will follow and listen to teachers and principals when they trust your intentions and feel confident in your ability to do your job. That means giving children the very best education that you possibly can. But, first you need to inspire confidence in parents that you can
do a first rate job of educating their kids. Here’s how:
1. Be good at what you do
This is basic but vital. Whether you’re visiting a doctor; hiring a plumber to repair a leaky pipe or taking your car to a mechanic for a service, you should expect each to do an excellent job. That means you are counting on each of these services to be up-to-date with the latest techniques, and to know what they are doing! Parents have the same expectation of their child’s teacher and principal so wherever you may be on the experience curve continually strive to get better and be good at your job. Competence inspires confidence.
2. Develop a marketing mindset
Most teachers I know are modest by nature. Modesty may well be virtuous, but it can stop you not only from putting your best foot forward, but from letting others know about your strengths and abilities.
My son was taught by a geography teacher who knew the value of marketing. True, this teacher ran an innovative program and he was able to motivate my son as a teen, which few teachers could do at that stage. But it wasn’t until I’d learned that he’d won numerous national teaching awards that I truelly valued this teacher. He didn’t hide his light under a bushel. He matter-of-factly highlighted his awards in a parent meeting. He did this, not to boast, but to let sceptical parents know that our kids were in good hands. In this teacher I trusted!
3. Do as you say you will
One of the quickest ways to erode trust and confidence is to neglect to do what you say you will. If you tell parents that you’ll phone them if something goes wrong at school, yet they hear second hands accounts of some difficulties their child is having then they’ll begin to lose faith in you. Always do what you say you will, otherwise you give parents a reason to doubt you.
4. Avoid the sin of overpromising
It’s tempting in the heat of the moment in parent meeting to get carried away and promise too much. “Of course, I’ll look out for you son and make sure he eats his lunch every day.” Say something like this, and you’d better deliver. Nothing erodes confidence than your inability to meet these promises. It’s better to bite your tongue and not get carried away during meetings, no matter how much good will you are trying to foster.
5. Explain yourself when things get tricky
Despite the best intentions things go wrong at school. Kids will misbehave; they won’t try as hard as parents and teachers would like; and despite the most caring culture you can establish kids will be mean to others. When the you-know-what-hits the fan then it’s smart to contact parents before they hear it from anyone else. A quick phone call; a note home and even an apology can maintain parent confidence in you. Most reasonable parents will be happy to know that you are on the case when their child experiences difficulty at school. This client care
mentality is an underestimated way to inspire trust and faith in you.
6. Stick to the party line
Some parents will try to co-opt teachers, and occasionally principals to be free agents for their child. They’ll want their child to have very special treatment, that you know you can’t provide. Alternatively, they may want you to act in a way (e.g. change classes half way through the year) that you know isn’t in the best interests of the child. In this case, it’s important hold firm by sticking to the school line (philosophy or policy) about the issue at hand. There is a confidence that comes from knowing that you are representing something bigger than just yourself.
7. Be professional
Despite being a frequent flyer I’m always reassured when I see the pilot board the plane wearing a uniform. The day I see him or her board the plane wearing jeans and a t-shirt is the day I stop flying. Pilots wear uniforms because they inspire confidence. Their uniform has military overtones, which says ‘we are methodical’, ‘there is a chain of command here’ and ‘I know what I’m doing.’ Every profession has its' own dress code which conveys messages of trust and confidence. Similarly, different professions have their own behavioural codes that say ‘we are professional. You can trust
us.’ Be professional in how you act, dress and behave and you’ll inspire parents' confidence in you.
There is no doubt we live in sceptical times, which can make life as teacher or other professional more challenging. I believe it’s smart to acknowledge this and work hard to inspire confidence and build trust from your parents that you are doing a great job, and that you (and your staff) know what you are doing because when parent confidence increases second-guessing, challenging behaviours and conflict inevitably decreases.
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