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Put the Past in the Past

The issue:
Schools must do their best to separate problems they had with parents in the past from current relationships, and work hard not to perpetuate negative family images. Parents can also move forward when they don't let the baggage of past events get in the way of future successes.

The solution:
In the field of medicine, a doctor may not agree with the political views of a particular patient, but she has a professional obligation to do her very best job to heal or save the patient. Teachers have this same sense of obligation when dealing with families who have been hard to deal with in the past. Teachers and other professionals need to minimize the extent to which past negative dealings with a parent affect their current work with a family.

This is especially important with parents of children with special needs, who must readjust to the impact of the handicapping condition every time the child faces new challenges and responsibilities. This can result in what has been called "chronic sorrow," and teachers may be on the receiving end of some very bad feelings on the part of parents. They must be prepared to take some of this "grief" from families, and help them come to terms with the underlying concerns they have about their child.

Kids (and their parents) deserve a fresh start. Professional teachers understand this. They work hard not to prejudice their thinking about a child or his or her family, even if they have had some negative interactions in the past. Parents need to give teachers a chance, too. Sometimes, parents may hear something about a teacher that makes them wonder if that person will be the best teacher for their child. But the fact that one family had a conflict with a particular teacher does not mean that you will as well. When parents show their support for a teacher, and resist the temptation to pre-judge a teacher's ability to do his or her job well, things usually work out for the best. However, if there are chronic problems with a teacher, don't be shy about sharing your concerns with the principal.

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