Parents to Blame for Burnout?

So obviously, my head has been swimming with thoughts related to the parent/teacher relationship, right?   Well, those thoughts continue today!  A buddy just sent this interesting article describing a research study on the causes of teacher burnout:

Teacher Burnout? Blame the Parents

Here’s a quote from the article:

Although perfectionism is often linked with job stress, teachers with perfectionist tendencies in this survey weren’t more likely to have burnout. But teachers who felt pressure to be perfect or experienced criticism for being imperfect were more likely to have burnout. Notably, the highest pressure to be perfect didn’t come from students or colleagues but from parents.

Do you feel "the highest pressure to be perfect" from the parents of your students? Does that pressure affect who you are or what you do in your classroom?  Does this pressure affect teachers from different grade levels differently? How about teachers with different levels of experience? Teachers working in affluent schools? Schools of poverty?

What can we do as accomplished educators to help parents to understand that "perfection" is almost impossible in a classroom?

Better yet, is perfection impossible in a classroom?


4 thoughts on “Parents to Blame for Burnout?

  1. Renee Moore

    As a parent and teacher, I would argue that we don’t have a real consensus on what “perfect” means in reference to a classroom teacher. I’ve had parents complain about too much homework, not enough homework, homework that’s too hard or too easy; don’t discipline my child; please do discipline my child; my child’s grades aren’t high enough; I’ve even had one to complain her son’s grades were too high. I agree with Mike there are certain basic professional competencies we should maintain in the classroom, but given those, what I valued most in the teachers of my own children was whether they treated me and my child with genuine concern and respect.

  2. Mike

    Bill: Just a brief note about perfection. We’re not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to do something. The trick is figuring out what and doing that. Years before the mandatory, high stakes testing craze, I taught in a district that expected me to teach writing, so I did. Currently, I’m expected to cause the overwhelming majority of my kids to pass “the test,” so I do.

  3. Mike

    Interesting. Dealing with parents well requires essentially three things: Rational, supportive administrators, well organized, proactive teachers, and a clear understanding from teachers that children will, from time to time, behave like–well–like children.
    I’m always amazed at teachers who become angry or dismayed to the point of making themselves unable to function because teenagers (I teach HS) sometimes behave like teenagers. Recommendation: Tell the kids on day one that they can make mistakes in their work and their behavior, but they can never be purposely stupid or rude. What parent can argue with that? When kids are misbehaving, don’t get mad, get curious. They’re doing it for a reason. Stop the bad behavior and get to the bottom of it. And never, never, raise your voice. If you’re yelling all the time, you’ve already escalated to the nuclear option. But if raising your voice is rare, it will have a stunning effect when you need to use it.
    You got into teaching because you love it and the kids, right? If either of those loves has changed, you need to rekindle the romance or seek a new career. Most of all, smile! Show the kids you love what you’re doing and them. At the beginning of each class tell them that you really have the goods for them today, and it’s going to be great! That goes a long way toward diminishing problems too.
    Organization: Have all of your ducks in a row, always. Be well prepared each and every day, and when you prepare a lesson, any lesson, prepare your justification for it and defense of it. If you do it right, you’ll almost never use either. If you’re well organized, that will greatly reduce discipline problems. And if you’ve following my suggestions about demeanor, organization becomes a pleasure rather than work. A large part of that organization is documentation. Document each and every incident of misbehavior, in detail. Send a copy to the involved parents. If a child cheats, keep a copy of the offending document(s), send them, with the updated discipline record, to the parents.
    Oh yes, and never, ever, ever use grades as part of a disciplinary system. If Johnny earned a 98 on a paper, he gets it. It doesn’t matter what a stinker he is. It’s so much easier to convince parents that you’re an impartial, professional adult if you can point to Johnny’s high grades as well as his low grades. Don’t play favorites. It’s professionally stupid, and will bite you in many ways.
    Administrators are the final issue here. If they are at least willing to speak to you first when anyone lodges a complaint to discover the facts, you’re in good shape. If they’re less professional, doing as I’ve suggested is even more important. But always be willing, even eager to speak to parents, with principals present if they’d like. If you’re well organized and prepared, it will be a pleasure rather than a source of stress. And always lay it out like this: “Here’s what Johnny was expected to do. See how easy and reasonable that is? Here’s what he actually did.”
    There’s a book in this, I suppose, but ultimately all teachers should look forward to every contact with a parent, just as they look forward to every contact with a child. Attitude does matter.

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