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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

20 Rude Habits Your Child’s Teacher Wishes You’d Stop

"No I can't give up my lunch break to help your child with their homework, I'm human and I need to eat too!"

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Don’t: Send me angry emails

Did you know that typing in ALL CAPS is the email equivalent of screaming? “I hate it when parents send me heated emails, especially ones that are written in all caps or are just angry,” says Jennie B., a middle-school teacher in Minnesota. “Plus, it’s easy to misinterpret tone in an email which can make the situation worse.” It’s just one of the 9 email etiquette rules everyone should know.

Do: “I’d prefer a phone call or come in person so we can talk things out,” she says. Communication preferences do depend on the teacher, so be sure to ask your child’s which is best.

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Don’t: Blame me for your child’s problems

“Not my child” is an all-too-common refrain that teachers hear, but the reality is that sometimes parents have a hard time accepting when their child has done something wrong and needs to be corrected, Jennie says. “Don’t come in being accusatory right off the bat,” she says. All that class time gives teachers special insight like these 7 secrets teachers know about your kids.

Do: Listen to the teacher and your child and then discuss how to solve the issue without blame, she says.

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Don’t: Talk over me

“I wish parents would come in with an open mind and really listen to what I’m telling them about their child,” says Janet E., a teacher in New York. Instead, parents often talk over the teacher or think that because they know their child best there isn’t anything new to learn.

Do: Recognize that your child’s teacher sees them in a different context than you do and therefore may be able to tell you about some strengths and weaknesses you may not see at home, she says. This is just one of 15 reasons teachers love their job.

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Don’t: Criticize me or the school on social media

These days, a teacher’s reputation is paramount and an angry or misinformed parent can undo years of hard work with a single post on social media, says Ramona D., a middle-school teacher in Georgia. “Often this leads to a lot of commentary and judgment from people who have zero idea about what really happened in the classroom,” she adds. And remember that while the negative stuff gets the most attention, teachers do so much good.

Do: Keep criticisms or comments off-line and talk to the teacher in person, she says. Do you know these 25 things the principal is secretly thinking?

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Don’t: Expect me to potty train your child or make them eat their vegetables at lunch

There are many skills kids learn at school but there are some things that should be taught in a home setting by their parents, says Anna R., a high-school teacher in Minnesota. “I hate when parents expect us to parent their children,” she says. “We already have so many expectations without having to do what should be done at home.”

Do: Work on life skills at home until your child is confident doing them on their own, she says.

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Don’t: Tell me how to do my job

It can be tempting to think that you know best, but while it’s fine to make the occasional suggestion to your child’s teacher, don’t assume you know what the entire class needs. “It’s so frustrating when parents try to micromanage me in the classroom,” Anna says. “I’m a professional, let me do my job!”

Do: Take a step back and trust your child’s teacher, she says. If there is a serious concern, like a safety issue, talk to the teacher and/or principal. Not sure if it’s serious enough? Here are 14 times that definitely merit a call.

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Don’t: Ask for my help and then ignore my advice

Children thrive when parents and teachers work as a team but that can’t happen if you commit to doing something the teacher asks and then fail to follow through at home, says Jenny S., a school administrator in New York. “It’s frustrating when a parent asks how to improve behavior and then doesn’t do what I suggest,” she explains. This is just one of the 40 things your child’s teacher wants you to know.

Do: Try the teacher’s suggestions and be consistent, she says. That way your child isn’t getting mixed messages at home and school.

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Don’t: Expect me to pay for school supplies

Teachers paying for classroom necessities out of pocket has become a huge problem in the United States—a fact that is even more upsetting when you consider that teachers are among the lowest-paid professionals. “I’ve had parents tell me that I make enough money that I should pay for their kids’ supplies or field trips or food, it’s ridiculous,” says Fred P., an elementary teacher in Alabama.

Do: Buy your kids what they need or vote to allot more funding to schools, he says. If you are unable to pay for supplies, talk to the school district about getting help.

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Don’t: Address me as “miss” or “hey you”

“I’m always amazed at how many parents never bother to learn my name,” says Antonia S., a high school teacher in Vermont. “It’s one thing if it’s the first day or even week, but after that, you should know my name and use it.”

Do: Find out how your child’s teachers prefer to be addressed and then use it. “It’s just common courtesy,” she says. “Plus it’s written right there on my door and in my email address; it’s not hard to find!”

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teacherMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Don’t: Ask what me what I do all day

Teachers wear a lot of different hats during the day and are often very busy. “I’ve had so many parents assume my job is really cushy and I just sit around telling the kids to do worksheets all day,” Antonia says. “The truth is that I often work 12-hour days and weekends to get in all the grading and extra help kids need.” Need more proof? Check out these 7 stories of amazing teachers who went above and beyond.

Do: “Ask what you can do to help me,” she says. “Or, if you’re just trying to make small talk, ask what my favorite part of my job is.”

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Don’t: Make me your daycare

“I had one parent who would consistently leave their kid in my class for hours after school ended,” says Margueritte, a preschool teacher in Maryland. “The school policy was to call the police and report them as abandoned after 30 minutes but usually I tried to avoid that if possible because the child was already upset.”

Do: Pick up and drop off your child within ten minutes of scheduled times, she says. And if your child is doing an extra-curricular or staying after for help, make sure you stay nearby to pick them up as soon as they are done.

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Don’t: Surprise your child (and me) with a visit during class

You may think it’s cute to show up on your child’s birthday or just to come say hi if you’re in the neighborhood but chances are your child’s teacher will not appreciate the intrusion, says Michael T., an elementary teacher in Florida. “Our schedule is planned out in advance and an unplanned visit by anyone always causes a big disruption, not to mention it’s a safety issue,” he says. “Also, I teach kindergartners and having a parent show up unexpectedly can cause a lot of tears.”

Do: Talk to your teacher about helping in the classroom ahead of time or visit during lunchtime, he says. “And don’t forget to check in with the front office first and follow the school’s policies about visitors,” he adds.

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Don’t: Hide problems at home

A divorce, serious illness, or death of a family member (pets count, too!), an impending move, or any other major life event warrants being mentioned to your child’s teacher, Michael says. “What happens to your kids at home can make a huge impact on their school work and behavior,” he explains. If the problem is at school, try these 15 ways to deal with back-to-school stress.

Do: Talk to your teacher. “We don’t need all the gory details but knowing about these things means we can help,” he says. “We may also be able to help you find additional resources to help your family.”

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Don’t: Insult me

Name-calling, threats, insults, and other unkind words have no place in the classroom—not from the kids or their parents. “You’d be amazed at how many parents seem to forget that I’m a human being and have feelings,” Jennie says.

Do: Treat everyone with respect and kindness, even when you’re upset. Plus, this models good communication skills for your child, she adds.

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Don’t: Ignore the school traffic rules

The school drop-off and pick-up lanes have been the site of way too many adult altercations and this is largely due to parents not following the rules, says Kelly K., an elementary school teacher in California. “I wish parents would quit thinking they are the exception to the rules when it comes to student drop-off, pick-up, and/or parking at the school; the rules are there for a reason!” she explains. Need extra guidance? Read up on these 12 things the school bus driver wants you to know about driving your child.

Do: Park only where you’re allowed to park, keep the line moving, and follow directions from school officials.

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Don’t: Threaten to sue me

It’s not super common but some parents like to go straight for the nuclear option, threatening to “call my lawyer” or sue anytime something happens at the school that they don’t like. Not only is this upsetting for teachers and students but because there are certain protocols that must be followed, it can eat up a lot of time and resources dealing with it, Michael says.

Do: Try and work it out on your own or in mediation, he says. Also, don’t use legal action as an empty threat to get your way, if you have a legitimate legal complaint then, file it through the proper channels, he adds.

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Don’t: Take away my lunch break

Teachers need a break too! “When I tell a parent that their child isn’t doing their homework and they say to me, ‘Well, hold them in at lunch’ it’s all I can do not to scream,” says Brandy K., an elementary teacher in California. “During those 45 minutes, I have to call parents, make copies, go to the bathroom, and hopefully eat something.”

Do: Offer to work with your child at home and don’t assume your teacher will be on call for your student for the entire school day.

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Don’t: Make more work for me

“One year I had a parent roll up unannounced—which is frustrating on its own—with a cake,” Brandy says. “But then they didn’t bring plates, napkins, or a knife. Then they asked me if I had those things and I had to take precious class time to go hunt them down and serve cake.”

Do: Always talk to the teacher in advance about visits and do your best to be helpful, she says

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Don’t: Trash talk other children

“I’ve heard way too many parents complain about, insult, or even threaten other people’s children and it’s probably the thing I hate the most,” says Sierra W., a middle school teacher in Montana. “I don’t care if you think another kid is ‘autistic’ or a ‘bad seed’ or whatever, it’s not your business.”

Do: Focus on your child and what can be done to help them. If you are concerned about bullying—and these are the 10 silent signs your child is being bullied—then document everything and present it in the most factual way possible, she says. “You can tell us about problems without being cruel to the other child,” she says.

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Don’t: Show up to parent-teacher meetings late

A common pet peeve teachers have is when parents are disrespectful of their time. “It really bothers me when parents arrive to our meetings late,” says Isla M., an elementary teacher in Connecticut. “I have days where I have to see 20 to 30 parents and the schedule is very tight.”

Do: Be punctual and if you think you’ll need more time than allotted, make a separate appointment, she says. Now, find out the 33 things your child’s teacher wants you to know.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.