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Parent(s) of the Week

Parent Issue 

Angelo

Senior Member
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a POTW, but I got a doozy…

This week’s nominees: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (the mom signed off the emails from both of them so I have to nominate both… ha ha)

Parent e-mails me (assistant head… but I guess me because I was the kid’s counselor in his freshman year??) to request a change of school counselor for their son. Writes a long diatribe about all the alleged shortcomings of the current counselor. The general thrust of it seems to be that the counselor “hasn’t reached out enough” to the student or parents.

I seek clarification. You mean you or your son requested appointments that were not fulfilled?

No, the parent replies. That’s not the point. He point is that they pay a lot of money to send their son to a top-notch prep school, and they shouldn’t have to initiate appointments. The counselor should be proactive and checking in regularly and initiating more contact and providing more guidance. It should not be the student’s or parent’s responsibility to arrange this.

I replied, so… your son didn’t have his Junior-year conversation with the counselor regarding test scores and college admissions?

Parent response: Yes, he did have that meeting, but you’re missing the point. That’s a standard meeting all the students have. Our son needs more guidance than he’s been receiving, and he’s very shy and not likely to ask for it or initiate appointments on his own.

Me: Well, that’s a skill set you’re going to have to encourage. He’s going into his senior year and off to college a year after that. It is not standard practice for counselors to initiate appointments except for specific purposes or if a student needs extra support because of a specific struggle they’re having in their lives. Is there a concern with your son? His grades appear to be excellent. His attendance is outstanding. He’s involved in quite a few clubs and societies… Is there something more going on we should know about?

Parent: Well, frankly, that’s the point. He’s a high flier. Very bright. Gifted even. We would expect a top student at an expensive prep school to get a lot more attention from his counselor. What is the counselor doing for him? He’s not checking in. He’s not promoting our son’s interests. He’s not nominating him for top awards.

Me: Which awards are you talking about?

Parent: Cites a highly-competitive school award that requires a student application and counselor recommendation.

Me: I don’t understand. Did your son put in an application?

Parent: No! He didn’t apply. That’s the point. The counselor should have encouraged him to apply! The counselor should have called him in and helped him complete the application. If anyone matches the profile of this award, it’s our son. How did his counselor should have recognized that and prodded him to seek the nomination. The counselor dropped the ball.

Me: Counselors assist with the recommendations, but they can’t be seen to push the interests of one student over another. It’s a process.

Parent: Agree to disagree on that. At our daughter’s boarding school, the school counselor met with every student once a week and definitely promoted the interests of the high fliers.

Me: How many students were the counselors responsible for?

Parent: Well, it’s a different set up. I don’t know if they’re officially called school counselors. They’re like resident advisors. Teachers who advise the students who live on their floor. There were 14 or 15 girls per floor.

Me: Well, that’s a pretty key difference. Our school counselors are actually qualified academic counselors and have 130+ students on their caseloads.

Parent: Also we weren’t very happy with the tone of the Junior-year college prep meeting. The counselor discussed some schools with our son that are frankly insulting. Lower tier schools.

Me: I expect the counselor will talk with you about any schools you wish.

Parent: But that’s the point. Knowing the caliber of student our son is, the discussion should have started and ended with Harvard, Yale, MIT… thats where our son should be setting his sights.

Me: That’s fantastic. Hope he makes it. But any school counselor would be irresponsible not to talk about strategies and backup plans.

Parent: There shouldn’t be any need for a backup plan. Frankly, if our so doesn’t get offers to the top schools, that would reflect pretty poorly on a school thar charges as much as yours and bills itself as a top private school. Oh… and why wasn’t his counselor encouraging him to run for senior class President or Vice President? Wouldn’t that help with schools like Harvard and MIT?

Me: You say your son is pretty shy. Does he even have any interest in running for senior class leadership?

Parent: That is the point! He needs encouragement! And actually… we’d like to talk to you sometime about this senior class “election business”. How is this sort of popularity contest fair to top kids like my son who happen not to be the most outgoing? Being introverted isn’t a crime. The senior class President should be chosen by the faculty based on performance and character, not elected based on personality.

[I don’t bother mentioning at this point that both the current President and VP of the senior class have higher GPAs than their son]

Parent: We just feel that, in our son’s case, more attention and counseling should be part of the service. We shouldn’t have to beg for it.

Me: Well, if your son truly wants to change counselors, he can reach out to his current counselor to start the process.

Parent: This is our request, not our son’s. He doesn’t write the tuition check.

Me: Fine. Then YOU reach out to the current counselor to start the process.

Parent: Frankly, that would be very awkward for us and our son. We would appreciate it if you could handle the switch.

Me: No, there’s no reason for me to interfere in your son’s counselor assignment. The academic counseling department can handle this request.

Parents: That’s disappointing to hear. Actually, if you are open to it, we are rather hoping you will agree to serve as his counselor given the importance of the senior year.

Me: I’m not a school counselor any longer. I’m the assistant head of school.

Parents: But you were his counselor in ninth grade…

Me: But I’m no longer a school counselor. It would be inappropriate.

Parent: So you won’t even consider making an exception? Not even for a top student? This is very disappointing to us. It would have meant the world to our son for you to take a special interest in him at this critical juncture. He thinks very highly of you. He admires your writing ability and wants to eventually earn a PhD like yours.

[Gimme a freaking break!]

Me: Nope. [remember that I’m paraphrasing here]

Parent: Fine. Then assign him to one of the other counselors. But we do expect you to arrange this for us. We do not wish to call academic counseling, and we’d appreciate your discretion in not sharing this exchange with our son. It would embarrass and upset him. Please simply inform him of the switch once you’ve arranged it. You can make up an administrative reason for it if he asks. This really is the least you can do for our son.

[Incorrect. The least I can do is absolutely nothing, which sounds pretty good right about now.]
 
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Keltikmom

Senior Member
Potw

holy mother of Pearl!!! Can we just assume Mr. and Mrs.Smith will be accompanying shy, introspective, thin skinned Junior to college? Child will never learn determination, grit, responsibility, endurance…..

When I read your insane stories I can only think: what stories do the college counselors have now?
 

travelingfar

Senior Member
It was nice of you to devote all that time to those parents. I would have engaged with them for 5-10 minutes and then referred them to the counselor.
 

Ruby tunes

Senior Member
Angelo

I hope you put these parents’ request in the round file. Wanting to change an election to an appointment because they think it would benefit their “shy” son is ridiculous. Expecting you to “make an exception” is totally arrogant and entitled. And I doubt another counselor would please them any better unless he scraped and bowed to their giant egos. :rolleyes:
 

WordFountain

Senior Member
Oh, Angelo how I’ve missed your stories! Thank you for sharing.

Also, how exactly will their “high performing shy introverted” son carry out the very *ahem* extroverted duties of Class President or VP? <!--eyebrow--> geez Louise :rolleyes:
 
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apple annie

Senior Member
Sounds to me like the kid is perfctly happy with his situaton as is. She just wants you to be the bad guy/enforcer. Mom needs to leave him - and you - alone!

Not that you should, but if you called a conference (taking the initiative to reach out and read minds and all) with both parents and the kid, the mom would be exposed for trying to go behind her kid's back. I wonder if the dad knows about that phone call.
 
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sonoma

Senior Member
I feel your pain. But I am totally entertained by reading your posts. I think about you whenever I miss teaching at a prep school. If you were ever to write a book I would definitely buy it.
 

cruxian

Senior Member
I'm shaking my head with your stories and it's a good reminder of "well at least I don't have to do that." Your point about the caseloads was a good reminder. I feel like I'm constantly trying to explain to my dad the difference between his ideal of a counselor (which sounds like what the boarding school person does, with caseloads of like 12 kids) and the reality of my DD's counselors (first in high school, now in community college). I keep trying to point out that they have like 50 bazillion kids to work with and the idea of them being able to sit down regularly and do stuff with individual kids is unrealistic.
 

Gogogo

Senior Member
You have the patience of a saint.

Such projections on what they want their child to be, instead of embracing the wonderful child they have. I feel sorry for that boy.

I wish I had admin who stood their ground like you do.
 

Angelo

Senior Member
“Hired Help”

Yeah, that’s probably right. There are some parents (I wouldn’t say all or even a majority) at our school who lump private school teachers in with the gardener, pool boy, contractor, etc. “I pay good money, so if I say I want those hedges trimmed, they better be trimmed the next day.” With this type, everything is a power move. I am important, and I want it my way. And I expect you to prioritize my demands over those of others.

You also get another type of wealthy parent: the anxious, fearful, neurotic, helpless one. They worry about everything (not least image and status) but are so used to paying others to do everything for them, they are completely helpless when they have to do something for themselves (like sign up for classes, fill in a form, make an appointment). They get exasperated with school counselors in particular because counselors will help direct you to the information or resources but won’t act as your personal assistant in the matter.

Some of these parents want school to work like a law firm. When they buy a summer house and go into the lawyer’s office to sign the closing agreement, someone shows them to a seat, takes their coat, and offers them coffee. The lawyer comes out and kisses them on both cheeks and ushers them into an office area. Someone freshens their drink and a law clerk comes out and places the papers in front of them. Everything has been filled in, and the clerk has placed little sticky arrows indicating where to sign and initial. The lawyer says, “I think it’s all pretty straightforward, but I’m here if you have questions.” They sign where indicated, get updates on one another’s kids, promise to get together for a game of squash soon, and then part ways. This type of parent doesn’t want to be sent the link to the summer school registration form. They want to come in, be offered coffee, and have a school counselor present them with the already-completed summer school form and shown where to sign.

For some people, influence and wealth are all about access. Lesser rich people go to a Lexus dealership during dealership hours, take a test drive, and haggle a bit over the options. People with real status set up a quick round of golf with the owner of the Lexus dealership on a Sunday morning. They talk a bit about the Dow Jones, sports, and maybe politics. Then they grab a table at the clubhouse and look at pictures of the newest Lexus models on an iPad. Owner calls to arrange delivery of the car. Purchaser pulls out his phone and dials up a contact. “Hey Steve. Sorry to bug you on a Sunday. How are Susan and the boys? Great, great. Listen, Mikey McLexus just kicked my ass at nine holes and then talked me into a new Lexus. *chuckle chuckle* If I text you the amount, can you wire it to him first thing? Yeah. From the Pacific account. Right. Thanks, Steve. Let’s get together for drinks soon. Yeah, okay. Tell Susan to text Marilyn and we’ll set it up.”

Again, they don’t like being told to call a school counselor or teacher at their desk during school hours. They want the counselor to take their call on a Sunday morning on a personal cell and do their bidding. “Hey Angelo. Dave Smith here. Sorry to bug you so early on a Sunday. Listen… bit of a situation. My son Justin has a couple of tests and a project this week. Right. Right. So here’s the thing… his grandfather… yeah, Kellie’s dad… wanted to take him to try out the new boat this weekend. Yeah. And I don’t think he’s gonna be back until late tonight. Right. Yeah… kids. *chuckle chuckle* What can we do about this test and project business? Yeah? Push everything back a week? You’ll let the teachers know? Perfect. Appreciate it. Listen, if you ever want a day golfing, just say the word and I can get you a day pass to the club. Thanks again.”

The biggest source of tension for the counselors is trying to explain to parents that “homework monitoring” and “homework help” aren’t part the counselor’s job. No, the counselor will not sit beside your kid while they do their homework and then look it over for completion and accuracy. That is not what counseling is.
 

jazzer

Senior Member
Wow. That last post sounds like rich people in movies I have seen. I always figured the scenarios depicted in movies were at least slightly exaggerated. Who would have thought that this was actually closer to real life than I thought.
 

TchrFvr

Senior Member
This sounds almost too privileged to be real...but it's real. A different world then most of the rest of us, for sure, but real...sigh... Your specific scenarios make it easier to see how the privileged act.

Those entitled people do think/know they are better than you, they do think of/know you as "the help," and they really do think/know that since they are "paying your salary" that you will jump to do their bidding at the proverbial (and sometimes real) snap of their fingers. And they really do not understand why you don't. And how frustrating it is for them when you don't. I feel sorry for them.

All wealthy people I know (from having taught in a private school) aren't like that, but I've sure run into a few.

It's not good for their children to see/learn/think that the way they are doing things is the way things are being/should be done. Maybe learning what you are trying to teach those children is not relevant to them, because in their world, it IS the way things are done. But if they ever have to leave their world of wealth and privilege, where their money and position buys them everything, including that superior entitled attitude (that they might not even be aware that they have!), how will they have the tools to make it in "our" world if we don't help them? How will they have the opportunity to learn how to follow rules and conventions, to be compassionate, grateful, and appreciative, if we don't give them that opportunity?

Keep on helping them, Angelo...hold that line. What you are doing is right and will be so helpful to those kids in the future, if they are willing to learn what you are trying to teach them.
 

Angelo

Senior Member
But wait… a new contender enters the field.

Had a 15-minute call with a parent that felt like an hour. Just talking in circles. One of these parents who kept beating around the bush and took forever to get to the “ask” because she hoped if she kept talking in circles, I’d eventually volunteer her preferred solution without her having to be the one to ask.

Story: her son sees a counselor or therapist or something once a week virtually during school hours. Last year, we agreed to provide a quiet space and excuse him from class during that one-hour period. Where we placed him was a small seminar room with a Vacant / In Use sign (mainly used for departments to hold meetings). Well, apparently on exactly ONE occasion last year, a teacher on break neglected to notice the In Use sign and went in to use the coffee maker and apparently startled the student during his therapy. We reminded the staff member to be observant and not to interrupt the student. Now mom is saying the student is now “very anxious” about having his therapy in that room because he’s afraid of someone else walking in.

Mom went on to reject every suggestion I made to alleviate the student’s (pretty sure it’s more the mom than the student) concerns. We can place a larger DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door. No, mom says Junior wouldn’t be comfortable with that because others would see the sign when he went into the room and wonder what was up or ask questions. He could use headphones. No, he’s already using headphones and his laptop. We could put him in a vacant classroom instead. No, same problem… others might see him go in or someone might walk in. We could book one of the Library study rooms for him. No, other students in the Library might ask questions.

There was a problem with every suggestion or location I raised. No, that won’t work. No, this won’t work. I finally said (probably more sharply than I intended), “Then I’m not sure how I can help here. What is your suggestion?” She paused for a long time and said, “Well, at my daughter’s school [oh here we go] when she has her weekly appointment, she’s allowed to use the Principal’s office.” This is clearly what she was beating around the bush for the whole call… she was waiting for me to offer up one of the admin offices. My silence must have been palpable, because we both went quiet, and then after a painfully long time, she said very softly, “So… is there no way my son could use your office for an hour a week?”

Did I hear right? Did someone just invite me to vacate my own office so their 15-year-old kid could use it rather than one of the other 5 spaces in the building I offered to make available? Bonus points for sheer chutzpah.
 

twinmom95

Senior Member
So being seen going into the Principal's office once a week is okay, but not going into a room that says " do not disturb" on the door?? :confused::rolleyes:
 
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