In Praise of Parents (Especially mine!)

Parents and teachers. Or is that parents vs. teachers? Seems like theses days that it’s become a ‘them versus us’ situation. Why is it that the first and most important educators in a child’s life and the first formal educators in a child’s life so often can’t see eye to eye? Parents complain about unmotivated or insensitive teachers who don’t look out for their students as they should. Teachers claim their job would be infinitely easier if it weren’t for parents telling them their job or undermining their authority.

Is this really true? I believe not – or at least not to the extent some would have us believe. Firstly, I’m priveleged to work with a wonderful group of committed and motivated teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty for their students. Secondly, I’ve met with countless parents who are completely invested in their children’s education and so supportive of the work that is done in schools.

So rather than rant and rave about parents and what they should or should not be doing, I’ve decided to speak in praise of parents. Parents have the hardest job in the world. It’s 24hrs a day, 365 days a year for the rest of your life. My mother taught me that. No matter how many times I’ve told her that I’m an adult and I can look after myself, it makes no difference. She worries about me and my siblings anyway. (Not that I can judge, as a big sister I do my fair share of worrying too!) Dad’s the same in his way – always giving little reminders and checking that we’ve done the important things (whether we like it or not!). Parenting is the one true full time job and I have mountains of respect for that.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my parents, it’s that as teachers we shouldn’t simply dismiss parents who are banging down our doors about their children. Though my parents were never unneccessarily confrontational, part of what made me feel secure as a child was the knowledge that if something went wrong my parents had my back. They’d have fought tooth and nail to keep us safe and well and I’m grateful every day for that. So when a parent comes to my door angry about something, the first thing I do is remind myself that this parent is simply concerned about their child. Even if they’re not handling it appropriately, even if their reasoning isn’t perfect, they’re there on behalf of their children. So the second thing I do is communicate the fact that I recognise that fact. And I value it. I’ve found it easier to do my job if parents are working with me than against, and if there are any parents reading this I would advise you that this works both ways. Teachers respond better to and do their best to work with parents who try to be a positive presence in the school rather than an adversarial one.

Trust me, teachers want their students to succeed and having the support of parents in this is invaluable. How so? Well, as I said, parents are the first and most important educators in a child’s life. As a Junior Infants teacher, I am all too aware of how important the years before a child reaches my classroom are. Their attitudes to learning, social skills, language and vocabulary, motor skills, personal care skills and so many other factors are established in those all-important first few years and will impact greatly on how they cope with the early days of school. I count my blessings that my parents gave me such a great start in life and I have the highest opinion of all those parents out there who are doing their best by their children. As someone who doesn’t have any children, I can’t imagine it’s easy.

So how about we forget the parents vs. teachers issue? Can’t we all just get along for the sake of the children in our care?

Won’t someone please think of the children? 😉