How to Deal with Negative Feedback: AME 055

The absolute worst experience for any teacher is receiving a negative comment from a parent or peer. When the negative comment comes in the form of an email asking why you disciplined a child the way you did, you start to question everything.

But it doesn’t have to derail your efforts. By examining the perspective of both the parent, student and the teacher, you start to see that everyone is after the same thing.

This week’s episode answers a question from a Sparkler. Here’s the question:

How do you balance all the positive feedback with that one email from a parent about how you’ve disciplined their child and they dread coming to art?


  • How there are three groups of people involved in an escalation of emotions
  • Why it’s beneficial to establish relationships with as many parents as you can
  • Why you should try to avoid connecting with parents via email
  • How it’s important to get to know the children outside of the classroom (like on the playground, for example)
  • Why feeding the negative energy of a parent will not provide a resolution
  • Why children respond best to a consistent classroom management plan and how that builds trust





1. Parent’s Perspective

  • Allow parents to explain or vent or say what they have to say. Don’t feed or antagonize the situation by explaining what was really going on. They don’t want to hear it…at least not yet.
  • You never know what kind of day this person has had. It feels horrible to be on the wrong end of someone’s bad day so allowing space for the person to vent is the fastest way to resolution.
  • Accept responsibility and suggest a solution.
  • Tell her you understand how hard it can be to understand what goes on inside a classroom. Students are very different with parents than with teachers. And kids are different with one teacher than another.

2. Student’s Perspective

  • All students want to be good. They want to learn. They want to come to class. No kid wants to go to class with a grumpy teacher or a teacher who is always mad at them. Every kid wants to be liked or talked to in a kind, encouraging way. Every kid wants to be the kid the teacher likes….BUT only if they like and trust you.
  • Building trust through a very consistent classroom management plan is the most important thing you can do.
  • Building trust with consistent behavior is the second most important thing to do.
  • Always ask yourself…how can I be more consistent with this child?
  • Sometimes the answer is to be very firm with expectations. Some kids just push the boundaries. If they do, they must deal with the consequences. You need to be able to explain in crystal clear terms why and what the student did that broke the rules.

3. Teacher’s Perspective

  • Look for the golden nuggets (or piece of truth) inside every negative comments or criticism
  • Accept that you may get it wrong. If you do. Apologize.
  • Find the humor in the cycles of teaching. The end of the year can be challenging for kids because there are more opportunities for classroom management strategies to fall by the way side…more field trips, more assemblies, more school fairs, etc.
  • This sounds harsh, but try to accept that you’re not perfect, nor are parents and nor are students. Cultivate the “we’re in this together approach” and just try to improve.


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What is your strategy for dealing with parents in the classroom? Do you have a Classroom Management Plan that holds students accountable?

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  • Cheryl Trowbridge

    Hi Patty! I love all your podcasts, but this one really hit home for me! You are spot on with your teaching philosophy, especially when it comes to dealing with the negative things that come up. I found that after pouring my heart and soul into my teaching (and certainly not for the money, haha!), it was really hard to deal with those occasional criticisms from parents. I discovered that teaching can sometimes require you to have a “thick skin” and mine was not as thick as I thought! I’ve grown a lot over the years, and come to the same conclusions you have. It’s all about having humility and a teachable spirit, empathy for both your students and their parents, and choosing the right attitude. Thanks for sharing your approach to a topic that isn’t often covered and can actually make or break a teacher. And congrats on all your accomplishments! You are an inspiration to so many!!

    • Patty

      Cheryl! Thank you so so much. So fun to see you pop on here. I love what you do and really appreciate your kind words. So glad the podcast is helpful. We’re all in this together!

  • alicia fernàndez

    Cheryl: Thank you for the podcasts you present to me, my students who are preparing as preschool assistants, I put them as an example since they must learn to give answers, at the right time. regards

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