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March 4, 2008

What do you think about harassing helicopter parents?

They hover. And many teachers say that they harass, and disrupt the learning process in the process. Helicopter parents are landing at a school near you!

My article today looks at the overbearing actions of parents in schools.

Take Howard County as an example. For the past two years, 60 percent of the teachers responding to a job satisfaction survey conducted by the Howard County Education Association reported that they have been subjected to harassment. Last year's survey specifically identified parents as the offenders in 60 percent of the cases. This year's survey will report similar results, according to Ann DeLacy, the HCEA president.

Through my research I talked to educators from school systems throughout the state who recalled numerous examples of over-zealous parents who made their lives miserable.

What do you think? Have you witnessed parents who overstep the boundaries and interfere with the learning process? Are you a teacher who has been harassed by a parent? Please share your experiences. Or, are you a helicopter parent?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Around the Nation, Howard County, Parents, Teaching, Trends


Several of my students this year have college-age brothers and sisters. If I don't accommodate the parents' wishes to their satifaction, they complain to the principal. A couple petty complaints to the principal earned me a non-renewal of contract for next year. It's very difficult for me to teach under this kind of stress. And, more importantly, what is it teaching their children about social interaction?

Don't we want parent involvement? Use it as a positive for the classroom. Involve the hovering parent. The teacher should see the potential to bring the parent into the classroom and set them up as a homeroom parent and parent coordinator. So much potential for a teacher to use to their students benefit wasted from a misguided sense of authority pecking order too prevalent in school administrations.

Doesn't that parent pay your salary and fund your retirement? The principal has a worthy ally in school funding issues if only they embrace the notion of communicating with hovering parents and not telling them. Everyone needs a little help sometimes to see the bigger picture.

Our classroom's particular heli-mom is racist. SHe makes a point of never including the moms of any minority children in her activity planning. SHe's petty and mean and she gossips. SHe attempts to get other kids into trouble so her son will look better by comparison. She likes to find out who's on ritalin and whose parents are getting divorced so she can use that knowledge in her own insidious little way. I don't trust her to watch my kid when she insists on chaperoning all the field trips. She is not benevolent. I can't imagine how a teacher could possibly use helimom's endless energy and presence in the classroom to help any child.

The problem is not that the helicopter parent has energy that should be redirected. The problem is that the heli is asking for or doing inappropriate things, such as passing a student who shouldn't be passed, or doing the child's homework, or allowing the child to disrespect other students or school authorities. Most of these parents seem less interested in helping out their child and more interested in getting the child through school with little or no regard to how much the student learns.

There is no excuse for bad behavior from parents in or out of the classroom. However, I see huge benefits in having helicopter parents involved.

If ACT surveys show that only 37.5% of two-year college students are graduating within three years, why would colleges not want more helicopter parents involved?

Surveys show that students in school do better with parental involvement, so why is this a bad thing?

I write more about the value of Helicopter Parents at BullsEyeResumes high school career blog.

Helicopter parents are not interested in helping out in the classroom. They are interested in making sure their child is at the top of the class. If they just wanted to help, I'm all for that! The problem is parents who demand grade changes or leniency to rules because their child is so perfect and wonderful.

I have been a volunteer in my childrens schools, I have seen parents who come in and want to argue with a teacher or interrrupt the class time to talk about something that although important should be set up during lunch or come in at an earlier time. There are parents who drop their kids off at the front door who you will only see at awards ceremonies, graduation or if the student is given a failing grade. That is when the principal needs to step in, challenge those parents to give their time, not in their child's class but in another class and then they will see how hard teachers have it. I have 2 that have graduated and one heading for HS, I am there on the 1st day of school,and whenever they call me to help, I have been at the meetings and I am the only one there, I have gone on the trips and have had maybe 3 other parents chaperone. Parents have to be talked with. They have a lot of resentment for the way their lives have turned out, which is no fault of the teachers, but that is who unfortunately will get the brunt of the anger. If a parent wants to hover, let em, but find something for them to do, that is meaningful, they do not have to grade papers. they can make copies of work, do the attendence, help decorate the class--if necessary give them a student or 2 who may be having problems keeping up. This is good for the teacher, parent, and the students. Everyone wins.

I think the helicoptor parents are the ones who don't see the "big picture." Not the teachers. The particular heli parent of my grade level can only see what HER child needs and seems to forget that there are 20 other students in my class with different needs. I cannot devote 24/7 of my time on one student. Of course, I do what is in my capacity to see that her child succeeds as I do with the rest of my students. Having a parent constantly calling and emailing you...then calling again or emailing again because you didn't respond either with what they want to hear or because you didn't respond within 30 minutes is exhausting and frustrating. She wants her child to be a high acheiver and have individualized lessons (which I have done) but she also wants me to fill her in on EVERY little detail of the class day. When I encourage her to discuss the child's day with the child (imagine that) she accuses me of not understanding because I don't have children of my own.

I am appalled at the suggestion that heli parent behavior should be accepted by educators because I want parent involvement or because they pay my salary. The reality is, heli parents push many educators to seek employment in other fields. I am a professional who seeks the support of any individual who can make my classroom a better environment for learning. This means that I need the parent volunteer to focus on what is needed in the classroom. This includes leaving their personal feelings, comments, suggestions or gripes at the door. There is a time and place for that...parent conferences. I am open for communication at almost any time as long as it doesn't prevent me from meeting the needs of EVERY student. Additionally, we need to understand the importance of making schools a safe environment for learning. When these types of parents enter the picture, the students are usually the ones that lose out. And, harrassment is the issue. Teacher AND student safety is an issue. Teachers will make any effort to comply with a reasonable request. They are willing to meet and discuss your a child's individual progress as long as you give them a common courtesy of requesting a conference or provide them with a reasonable amount of time to research and provide an answer to any question you have. However, how many heli parents are willing to provide the same courtesy or do they expect that you meet their request immediately? It is the unreasonableness that creates the problem. Many students are even embarrassed by the parents behavior. What benefit does that serve?

I always say, you don't just drop in at the doctor's office and expect that he can see you immediately. You can't require that physician to stop whatever they are doing to meet your needs. Perhaps parents should consider teachers, their child's "academic doctor" and provide the professional courtesy that teachers are entitled to.

Yes, some parents my see themselves as my clients (because they "pay my salary'), but they are incorrect. First and foremost, my "client" is my loyalty to a code of conduct that requires me to a) be honest about evaluation, b) take into consideration the needs of the larger school community c) protect my own teachers' rights to safety d) expect that my safety is ensured. d) Put into practice what I have learned to be effective in education.

In my opinion as an administrator, the very "helicopter parents" who harass the school in an attempt to prevent us from assigning consequence to their child's behavior (when inappropriate) are destroying the very fabric of their child's school environment. They put administrators and teachers "on the stand". They deflect the real issue by focusing on our actions rather than on their child's actions. They show up at the school five minutes after a consequence has been given (without an appointment) questioning our approach. They threaten, deny and make excuses for their child. They ignore the rights of other students and expect us to do the same. All of this to protect their child, who in fact, well deserved the consequence he has been given. Then, administrators and teachers are blamed for not addressing school violence and other issues. After a while, it takes risk, effort, documentation, loyalty to one's job, and strength on the part of administrators to face the aftermath, and the predictable harassment directed at us by these relentless helicopter parents. Some administrators may choose to disregard students' bullying behavior and dismiss problems as a result. In general, the most troubling issues in schools, are parents who choose not to hold their children accountable at all cost. This is not just my teachers' problems, or my problems, or the problems of the kids who are parented properly; this problem also belongs to most parents out there who send their children to school for the right reasons. Helicopter parents are draining

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