The Lesson Learned Through a Parent Dispute

Parent. Dispute.

Every teacher I know has had this experience.

The time that they corrected a kid, graded an assignment, taught a lesson, gave a consequence, or shared a difference of opinion with a parent on a policy they did not create, but had to enforce.

No matter the situation or solution, almost all teachers have had an experience with one parent dispute each school year.

Well, this post is more about the teacher than the parent.

The stress of providing and teaching 

Classrooms are now in homes. Parents have taken on new roles and teachers are adjusting in an effort to continue education by assisting and offering virtual instruction.

The pressure is on more so than ever, especially for those having to juggle working from home and teaching. Or those dealing with the stress of losing their job, trying to find another one, and homeschooling their child(ren).

Times are tumultuous.

A lesson on grace

This week, I was taught a lesson on grace.

I was reluctant to receive it, even wrestled with myself because from an educational standpoint, I felt I was right and had data to back up my “rightness”.

I teach English Language Arts and I have been using a variety of programs to continue instruction and for this one particular assignment, the focus was 5.7(D).

* retell, paraphrase, or summarize texts in ways that maintain the meaning and logical order. 

My scholars had to read a story in our hmh textbooks online and respond to their reading via comprehension questions in google classroom.

Could I have just assigned the 5 a b c d questions online that come with the story?

parent dispute


But, in an effort to keep scholars writing and using proper grammar and punctuation marks, they were assigned free-response questions.

Just like with all the others, I read this particular student’s responses and for each response, I offered feedback.

The student had missed the majority of the questions. My grade was posted and the parent emailed me right away.

Parent Feedback

parent dispute

The parent wrote ten strong and beautifully expressive paragraphs disputing the grade I had given and requesting a grade change.

I did not want to poke or further offend, so I simply responded offering to change the grade.

That was not enough

Another email arrived that was equally as expressive, but it had about two fewer paragraphs explaining that they did not simply want a grade change, but a response to each of their paragraphs from the first email.

I obliged.

Settling in, I put on my teacher hat and curated my response.

The next hour, no lie, was spent composing my response.

The body of my email included:

  • A pattern of the scholar’s work over the last couple of weeks
  • what my requirements in the instructions
  • the grammatical/ various errors
  • the lack of text evidence provided
  • and my final focus was on the skill that the assignment was focused on ( 5.7(d) ).

The student’s summary was dissected. It was noted that he retold parts of the story that were minor details and should not have been included and went on to model what a summary of the text should have looked like ( with some room for variation).

I was on one.

In my mind, I was doing the best that I can during this time. Offering office hours and giving families access to me all time of the night and day. Hosting virtual classes, tutoring, offering feedback to scholars so that they know what they did wrong, and allowing scholars to rework failed assignments.

This is education, right?

Relax, I did not send that thoughtfully written email

Instead, I sat with my words considering the family, the scholar, and what things might be like in their home during this time. The effort was taken into account and the fact that this parent was actually taking the time to sit with and work with their child instead of leaving him to his own devices.

I considered Matthew 7:12. Then 1 Peter 4:10. Then Colossians 4:6.  I realized my power and chose not to exercise it simply because I could. 

Rather, I let the parent know that they were heard and that I’d considered their perspective. I also noted how subjective things can be when it comes to reading and responding.

In addition, I applauded the parent for advocating for their scholar and I extended the grace I would want to be extended to me if ever I was in this type of situation.

I learned a lesson on grace.

    Courteous goodwill.

 Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

Matthew 7:12 MSG Bible

Parent dispute…

 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one  another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…

1 Peter 4:10 ESV Bible

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6 ESV Bible