How to Deal with Uninvolved Parents

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By  Andrew Pillow

If you are a teacher, then chances are you have dealt with many different types of parents. There are many actions parents take that teachers find annoying. You have the parents that never think their kids do anything wrong. You have the helicopter parents that are over-involved. By far, the most difficult parents to deal with are the ones from which you hear nothing at all.

Uninvolved parents are the bane of many teachers’ existence. It’s hard enough to reach children as it is. It gets significantly harder if you can’t reach their parents.  Parents who don’t answer calls or show up to conferences leave a bad taste in the mouths of teachers, but dealing with parents is part of the job. So how exactly do you effectively deal with uninvolved parents?

1.       Don’t assume it’s because they don’t care

Often time teachers make the mistake of assuming parents that are uninvolved don’t care or are uninterested. There are some parents who don’t care, but most want to see their children do well in school, even if they don’t show it the way teachers feel like they should.

2.       Examine the barriers stopping them

There could be any number of reasons parents are “uninvolved.”  They may not have a working phone to answer your calls. They may not have adequate transportation to attend school functions. They may work multiple jobs or the night shift which makes them unavailable at normal times.

Some of these obstacles, such as needing a phone, are actually quite fixable, but schools and teachers have to examine the barriers preventing parents from participating to remedy the situation.

3.       Be more flexible

Sometimes a school’s systems and methods are too rigid to accommodate parents with unusual circumstances and conferences are a good example.

Can you really hold it against a parent if they can’t take off of work in the middle of the day to show up at a parent-teacher conference? Why not allow the conference to be scheduled at a different time more conducive to their schedule? Do meetings have to take place at the school? If parents don’t have transportation, doesn’t it make sense for the teachers and admin to visit them?

These are the kind of actions schools need to think about if they really want to include uninvolved parents.

4.       Leverage other people

Sometimes that parent that doesn’t answer your calls has a great relationship with a teacher from last year or another class. What did that teacher do that you didn’t?

The father who doesn’t show up to a parent-teacher conference may occasionally show up to basketball games and has a good relationship with the coach. Why not ask the coach to pass on a message to the father?

Trying to get your disinterested parent to show up for literacy night, but can’t reach them? What about asking the parent that goes to the same church to relay the invite?

Unfortunately, varying degrees of parent involvement is simply part of being a teacher, but schools need to make sure they have exhausted all options before they declare a parent “uninvolved.”