It’s no secret that dealing with parents can be just as important for teachers as dealing with students. And sometimes, the parents can be harder to deal with (but you didn’t hear it from us!). Today, Dominican Sister of Hope and career teacher/Principal Maryann Ronneburger shares one way to make dealing with parents a little less stressful.

Sister Maryann Ronneburger had barely entered the school before the parent approached her.

“I walked into school one morning and as soon as I came into the door, one mother who was very involved in the school had her finger in my face,” Sister Maryann recalled. “She was screaming at me.”

It would have been easy for Sister Maryann to get upset or even bewildered, but instead she kept her cool. She calmly took the parent into her office, sat her down, and asked her to explain the problem. Unsurprisingly, the issue was trivial.

“Her little guy had come home and said his teacher had said something to him that had hurt his feelings,” Sister Maryann said.

In addition to assuring the parent that it would be taken care of and moving on, Sister did something else: she asked the parent if there was anything else bothering her. Although she knew it wasn’t her responsibility to counsel parents, she knew that being a listener would maintain this parent’s good relationship with her, and with the school. Moreover, she saw the importance of being just not an education figure, but a compassionate human.

The parent spent the next few minutes confiding in Sister about a personal family issue that was really upsetting her.

Of course, we’re not advocating for teachers to become parent psychologists. However, in this case, (and especially because Sister Maryann knew the parent well) listening to the parent’s other qualms helped to resolve the school-related issue. Sister Maryann notes that, within reason, listening to parents can actually be a good thing.

“Usually, I’d find that if the parents were upset I’d let them talk,” Sister Maryann said. “Because it wasn’t really so much what had happened in school; that was just the tip of the iceberg.”

This article is the third in our Back to School: Teacher Tricks series. Each Wednesday leading up to Back to School, we’ll post one article containing “Teacher Tricks” from Dominican Sister of Hope Maryann Ronneburgerwho has a thirty-plus-year tenure as a principal and teacher. Check back next week for the latest! For the entire series, click here.