Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Strike a Balance with Challenging Parents

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Strike a Balance with Challenging Parents

Article excerpt

Whether blase or pushy, they can be an unsettling influence. Turn things around by offering reassurance and reinforcing the rules.

There is an old saying about education being a three-legged stool: it takes teachers, students and parents to make it work. By and large, we expect any wonkiness to come from our students. But what happens when parents are the problem?

Anyone who has had an awkward class knows the power of parental involvement. The mere mention of a phone call home can transform the trickiest student into a compliant cherub. And that is as it should be. Parents are ultimately in charge of the people their children will become, and teachers simply support that process as best we can during the school day. But those days become infinitely harder when students are given carte blanche at home and bring this attitude to school.

Just as there are myriad forms of difficult - or "challenging" - students, there are also endless varieties of challenging parents. The most heart- breaking I've ever encountered was early in my teaching career, when I met Eddie's dad. It wasn't just that this man had no interest in academic success but he was also determined to devalue the entire education process. As far as he was concerned, school was a place to plonk his son for eight hours a day until he was old enough to get a job and move out.

Several teachers found themselves on the receiving end of a well-rehearsed speech at parents' evening in which Eddie's dad bragged about never even bothering to open his GCSE results because they were so worthless. This made it rather pointless to call home when Eddie saw fit to write nothing more than the date in his book for weeks on end.

But some parents take things even further. On more than one occasion, I have leaped between brawling students who have gone on to insist, with wide-eyed sincerity, that they have been told to throw the first punch if someone is being rude to them. It's almost understandable - no one wants their child getting pushed around at school - but if every student had a "wallop first, apologise later" mentality, break time would be a battle royal before the children even reached the playground.

Causing just as much bother is a more malign breed of troublesome parent: those for whom only the best will do. Regardless of their child's progress, this lot are hell-bent on getting their offspring into the top set and will jolly well complain until they succeed. Again, their motives are sound: they want their child to do well. But they somehow fail to see that we, as teachers, also want the best start in life for these young people, and actually know quite a lot about getting them there. …

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