What would you most like to say to parents?
Dear Parent, what I’d really like to say is…
Nobody is perfect.
Even Ghandi, Mandela and Florence Nightingale did the wrong thing sometimes. I am prepared to bet good money that they all misbehaved at school at some point, and that they all did things when they were young that their adult selves regretted and were ashamed of.
I know I did.
And I bet you did.
And so will your child.
So please accept that when we teachers tell you that your son or daughter did this or that, or indeed didn’t do this or that, we are not “out to get him” or “picking on her”. We also are not “making it up” or “on a power trip”.
Why on earth do you think we would do this?
Do you really think that we would spend years training to be a teacher, and then hours every day in a classroom full of children just so that we can make our lives even harder by manufacturing a conflict with parents?
We care deeply about your child. We worry about their needs, their happiness, their wellbeing and ensuring they succeed. We worry about their health, their friendships, their safety and their future. We know we are not you, their parents. We know we are not members of our students’ families. What we are is committed, dedicated, passionate and caring. We only want what is best for every child that we teach; every single day we teach them. Please believe this of us in the same way that we believe it of you.
Sometimes we have to tell you that your child has done something wrong.
Sometimes we have to tell you that they are not achieving their potential.
Sometimes we have to tell you that they have been unbelievably rude to one of us.
Sometimes we have to tell you that you need to take more control over what your child does outside of school.
Sometimes we just need to tell you that we are disappointed in what your child has done.
Please just let us tell you this.
Please just listen and take it in.
It is not an attack on you and it is not an attack on your child. We are deeply sorry we have to tell you this and really do not want to have to tell you. In fact as we tell you we would rather be doing 1000 other things, some of which are deeply unpleasant, but most of which involve something happier such as telling you how brilliant, amazing, funny and generally wonderful we think your child is.
However this is what we are here for sometimes; to hold your child to account for their actions and to work with you to help your child learn from what they have done so that they can grow and develop as a young person and be better for the experience.
So please don’t say “my child would never say that”, or “it is clearly a clash of personalities”.
Both of these statements are profoundly unhelpful and completely undermine what we are trying to do in order to help your child. Unfortunately saying your child “would never do that” when the evidence is clearly showing that they would, is just silly. Saying that your child cannot get a fair deal from a teacher due to a “clash of personalities” misses the entire point of growing up and school. Being able to deal with people different to ourselves, is a vital life-skill that we as adults (teachers and parents) have a responsibility to make young people develop whether they want to or not. We are sorry that your child does not “get on with” or even simply “like” their teacher. However, in what way is using this as the basis of a complaint about the teacher in order to defend your child, doing anything other than stopping your child from learning to take responsibility for their actions?
To finish I come back to the start. We all get it wrong sometimes. Every single one of us, me included – doubtless, me most of all! However backing your child up, every time they get it wrong, blaming your child’s teachers for their poor grades or supporting your child to wear something different to the school uniform is simply wrong.
We are all on the same side.
Our side wants your child to be the very best they can possibly be in school and then in the life beyond school.
Please remember this next time we try and tell you something about your child.
Headteacher of Brentwood County High School in Essex. Eternally hopeful that the world will just take a collective deep breath and do the right thing for once! You can follow Stephen on Twitter at @StephenDrew72