I love my job, I really do. I couldn’t get up every day and drag myself into school if I didn’t love what I do. But there is one element of my job that continues to baffle and bewilder me.
Now, I’m a parent, and since my little boy has started school, I have perhaps changed my view on what parents do and say a little. I suppose I’m very fortunate to be able to see school from both points of view. But the parents still do baffle me.
I trust what Thomas’ teachers say: if they tell me he’s doing well, I believe them. If they say he’s being challenged, then I believe that he is. If they were to tell me there was a problem, then I would trust that they were doing all they could to sort it. Because that’s what they are there for. I know that everyone who works with him has his best interests at heart. That is the job of a teacher: to do the very best they can for every child in their class.
I understand that parents have their own priorities: for them, their child is the only one that matters in that class. I get it. I really do. I’m the same. But what I don’t understand is why some parents don’t think we want their child to do well.
It breaks my heart when I see a child who doesn’t want to come to school: it means we are failing them. Whether they are unhappy about friends or struggling with the work, it means we haven’t done our jobs properly. And it means we need to sort it out. I wouldn’t like to work out how many year of experience the teaching staff alone have in my school – a rough guess is well over 250 years (perhaps we should start our own “1000 years of experience” blog like @ChrisChivers2!), so between us, we have an enormous array of ideas to support these children. Of course the parents need to be involved; they know their child better than any of us, and they need to know what is happening, but they need to trust in us too. They need to believe that we know what we are doing, that we will sort out their issues, and that we will tell them everything that they need to know. They need to realise that their child isn’t always the same person in school as they are at home, that we know their child far better than they think we do, and that we want them to be happy too.
In these days of continuous assessment and monitoring, we have to watch our children intently. We see if they are struggling, or falling behind, or doing well so need to be pushed. We see if they aren’t happy. We create intervention groups to boost children who are falling behind, and to push those who are racing ahead. We set up Circles of Friends and social skills groups, we give up our playtimes to sit and listen to their problems, and we stand and watch them on the playground to make sure they are getting on with their friends. We give up our lunchtimes and evenings to talk to the parents to find out how they are getting on at home or if there is anything we should know about. We listen to the parents and empathise with their issues, even though on the inside we are panicking about the classroom that isn’t ready for the imminent arrival of 30 expectant children. We raid our own children’s cupboards for spare clothes and PE kit for those who don’t have it, and toy boxes for toys and games to occupy them at wet play time. In short, we do absolutely everything we can to make sure that the children enjoy the 6 hours they spend a day with us.
I wish the parents knew this. I wish they knew that, at the end of the day, we spend hours agonising over the argument that lasted two minutes between two girls who were best friends again by the end of the day, or the one child who didn’t “get it” in a class of 30. I wish they knew just how much we care about their children and their wellbeing.
So if you’re a parent, spare a thought for the teacher of your child. Remember, they are just like you, battling on daily to do the very best that they can.
And the next time you speak to them, whether it’s on the phone to sort out an issue, or at the classroom door at the end of the day, be sure to give them a smile and a thank you. You know they’ll appreciate it.