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10 things we would like to say to teachers
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10 things we would like to say to teachers
Posted on Saturday 14th June, 2014 | Views 1502
10 things we would like to say to teachers

Talk to us honestly

Why do you feel you can’t tell parents things? Education is collaborative – we entrust our kids to you (ok, you take them off our hands too), but, equally, you need us. Talking to us honestly is usually a great approach: one that we can all agree politicians have forgotten. If parents are getting upset about something, there’s probably a reason. You too have your reasons for decisions, but we can’t be expected to guess them. If you want our involvement and commitment, trust us enough to explain, discuss, and sometimes admit mistakes – nothing gets our backs up (or raises our suspicions) like secrecy and defensiveness. Ask us in to come and talk – small class groups are good so it’s not daunting and isn’t about grandstanding. And do it now: don’t wait till there’s a crisis.

Don’t make busy parents feel guilty

Some of us work and some don’t. Neither lot wants to feel guilty; both want to help their kids. Talk about our different needs, acknowledge them and make sure they aren’t pitted against each other. Again, you could even consult: ask us what works best in terms of events and parents’ evenings. Give us lots of notice of anything during the school day. No, we can’t always bake cakes or come to the maths information morning – we might be managing small siblings or dashing from home to office and back, frantically attempting a Tesco online order and assembling a Boudicca costume (see 3) en route (or we might just be rubbish at cakes). But there’s lot of goodwill out here in the playground. Why not give us a list of options at the start of the year and we’ll sign up to something that works.

Costumes fill us with dread

We know dressing up sounds fun – it’s possible some kids even like wearing togas – but, for those of us who aren’t blessed with the fancy dress creativity gene (or a niftyness with a Singer that just makes everyone else jealous), it’s the challenge that makes our heart sink furthest. We can just about manage an Ancient Greek, but Victorians and complicated animals lead to panicked internet ordering of something not only inauthentic but highly flammable. And don’t even start with your “dress as an adjective” minefield – way too existential when we’re pulling it together at 8.15am after weeks in denial. Christmas/Easter hats also make us lose the will to live – that’s why a third of children end up with just a chick stuck to a hair band.

Let’s not keep blaming boys

Deep breath – could it be possible that there is something about the way we do schooling that doesn’t quite work for boys? Yes, I know all boys are different, and that this will absolutely apply to some girls too (I have both). And I’m not making excuses for laziness, rudeness, can’t-be-arsedness. But if, countrywide, there are classrooms full of frustrated teachers and restless boys in danger of switching off, shouldn’t we all be working together to see if new thinking is needed? Could we re-examine how to incentivise and reward boys rather than wondering why they often don’t seem to care? Couldn’t we question whether the best way to deal with a disruptive boy is to keep him in at break time (I’m not saying there shouldn’t be consequences)? This is a big school gate topic for parents – it’s not about blaming schools but a sense that our square peg sons too often don’t fit the round hole we’ve made for them.

Schools are not the RSC

Spare us the West End-style school productions at primary school. You’re not Cameron Mackintosh and we’re not idiots – we don’t want perfection, just participation by all our kids (not the same chosen few, even if they’re our own) and an understanding that the process matters, not just the end result. Drilling them to zombie level on their lines just frustrates them, and other valuable stuff like PE or library time gets shoved aside for rehearsals. Class or single year events work well – more chance for all of them to have a go and less pressure all round.

We don’t like parents’ evenings either

Parents’ evenings – we have a strong suspicion you can’t stand them and, guess what, they aren’t our idea of the perfect evening out either. Hurtling back from work and paying a babysitter for the privilege of feeling anxious while queuing on small chairs leaves us a bit underwhelmed. But, we all know they’re An Important Thing, so a couple of suggestions to improve the experience. First, spare us the sign-up sheet madness: it’s worse than fighting for One Direction tickets. Allow us some broad preferences and then tell us when to turn up. Second, leave a dignified space between queuers and teachers. It’s bad enough hearing that little Fred has the reading level of a gerbil without everyone else smugly earwigging.

Ditch the crumpled letters home

Please accept that we will forget things – not the kids themselves, usually, but bringing in jam jars and so on – and it doesn’t mean we don’t care. Most of us are actually quite busy, working or not. Some of us have several children, which means they will often be in different schools, all with different requirements. Notes in the schoolbag, famously, are no guarantee of communication – you’d do better semaphoring from the canteen roof. Use technology, and use it early and often.

We’re confused by complicated grading

Have pity on us and our silly muddling of levels and key stages etc. We know we should grasp that a 3c is just below the expected attainment level in year 4, but some of us did O-levels and still have to count secretly on our fingers to match ages and year groups. And yes, you may find that some parents obsess too much about where their child has got to. If you – or, in fairness, successive governments – reduce things to codes and formulae, some people will inevitably join the game.

Homework – let’s all keep it real

We get that you feel you can’t win with parents and homework. But keep a few principles in mind:

(i) Let’s all be honest with each other. You make sure the child’s unaided efforts get rewarded, and we must stop making historically accurate Tutankhamun masks for them while they play Minecraft.

(ii) Keep it short term. Four-week projects to chart every aspect of the harp seal fill us with dread and end in a Sunday of shouting.

(iii) Craft phobia is common – among parents and children, especially as they (the kids) get older. Let those who want to do interesting things with cereal boxes get on with it, but offer alternatives.

We are not a blob

We parents are not an amorphous lump but a lot of individuals, just like our children, and most of us are doing our best. Sure, some people are far too willing to charge into school at the first sign of trouble, but for each of them there are 10 of us who might be quite worried about something but don’t want to bother anyone. Though it’s not an excuse, rudeness is often just a symptom of anxiety and, in a world we don’t recognise from our own childhood, we worry about our kids. Bear with us parents: we’re human.

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