My approach to parent complaints

My approach to parent complaints

I only take parent complaints seriously if they're easy to understand or the school explains them properly.

I wasted a whole lot of time trying to work out one complaint in the past. I got a text message one day from the boss and it said 'parents complained. Do more speaking'. I was thinking which class and how many parents. In my school we teach three different kinds of English class. One for conversation, one for general English, and one for grammar. I asked my boss which class and which lessons she was talking about but she was too feckless to answer.

My school is a private school so students pay more money if they want more English. If you pay the basic fee, you get general and grammar. If you pay more , you get more general English AND conversation. I wasn't annoyed with the complaint because it upset my ego, I was annoyed because I wanted to know what it was about.

In general English we do everything. We have a book and we follow it. Same for grammar. With conversation, we have a book, but the kids don't do any writing. It's just a reference. We do lots of acting and role plays. It's the kids favourite subject, and I admit, it is good fun. Something like grammar is pretty boring, but I've been given a book and been asked to teach it. They also remind us every year to finish every unit.

I finally worked out it was one set of parents who complained. They had paid the basic fee and complained about not much conversation practice in grammar class. I explained to the school how grammar classes work, but all they could say is 'do more conversation in grammar class'. I explained that if I do more conversation in 'grammar' class, other parents then might complain we aren't doing enough grammar. Also, we have to finish the books. Something I struggle to do.

I explained how putting words like 'grammar class' and 'conversation class' might just be buzzwords for them to sell courses, but to me they mean something. And maybe they should tell the parents that if they want more conversation, put their kid in the 'conversation class'. The school not only wanted me to magically include more conversation in grammar class, but to do so and finish their big grammar book.

In the end I don't think the school could actually give a shit. I think they just took pleasure in forwarding the complaint to me. They made no effort to speak to the parents to ask for clarification, and they certainly didn't come and speak to me and get my side. Just 'parents complain you fix'.

Now I've learnt that on the rare occasion I get a complaint, you just smile and nod. Then you never hear about it again. As a colleague said to me, it's probably more of a cultural thing. They tell you a completely vague and unclear complaint and they just expect you to smile, fix it and say more. But still, what's the point in forwarding complaints if you neither understand them nor care about them?

And before anyone wants to call me a basher or negative Nancy, no, I'm not. I take pride in my work and make a real effort. Something my students recognize and appreciate.


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