5 Tips for Dealing with Complaints as a Teacher
When you work with people, you can expect complaints to come your way at some point. That is just the nature of human interaction. Often complaints will be trivial, sometimes serious and even occasionally downright vexatious. Regardless of the nature of the complaints here are a few guidelines that you might consider when working as a teacher…
- Check your professional and personal liability. Does your school provide legal cover? Does your teaching association? When working with children, make it a rule to have some kind of adequate legal cover, to protect you if you should require assistance. Don’t put this off until it’s too late.
- Verbal complaints. These can come at you anytime and anywhere… just as you thought you were having a good day! Depending on the seriousness of the complaint, many of these can be dealt with on the spot and forgotten about after you have noted it in your diary, but others need to be treated much more carefully. If you deem the complaint quite serious, politely ask the person to give you some time to consider a response. At this time you should seek advice and support in providing a response.
- Written complaints. For the most part, these will come to you via your School Leaders. The same rules apply as in dealing with verbal complaints. It is only fair to take time to gather your thoughts and provide a considered and complete response. Don’t forget to seek advice.
- Meetings. If you are asked to come to a meeting, ensure you ask the purpose of the meeting, the participants and your role. You should also be given adequate preparation time before a meeting. It is entirely normal to attend a meeting with a support person with you.
- The power of the Teacher Diary. Record student behaviours: this can be a life-saver. If used to the full, your diary will have recorded the fact that little Johnnie in your grade 7 class has sworn 15 times in the past fortnight, and is sufficient evidence to show that the two detentions you gave him this week were not as the result of you picking on him!
Furthermore, record all complaints in your teacher diary. Hopefully this will be an infrequent chore, but it is well worth keeping a written record of who complained and why. Make a backup of any pages that record complaints or major incidents in case you misplace your diary. This is easily achieved by a quick scan on the photocopier.
Working as a teacher is no doubt rewarding. However there will be times when you will have to deal with complaints: it comes with the territory. So the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to have a positive outcome. Why not implement steps #1 and #5 today? Peace of mind is a blessing!