Dear Parent, What I’d Really Like To Say …

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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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?

“…We care deeply about your child. ..” Stephen Drew.

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….” Stephen Drew

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.

by Headteacher Stephen Drew, edited and posted by @TeacherToolkit.

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

Headteacher of Brentwood County High School, @StephenDrew72

7 thoughts on “Dear Parent, What I’d Really Like To Say …

  1. As a teacher I wish I could sometimes speak some home truths. As a parent of one of those children who often prompted the type of comment identified – I ALWAYS tried to see the big picture and support the school.

    However I have had reason to take issue with the teacher who called me to tell me my daughter had sworn at her and left the room, but was unable to tell me if she was 1. still in the school (she had the tendency to go walkabout when really angry) or Obviously I wanted to make sure my daughter understood the reasons that she should not do these things – the impact her words had on others and why an apology /sanction was needed as well – but only once I knew she was safe!! (she’s SEN and can get quite angry sometimes when she’s frustrated) I don’t think this teacher had read her SEN entry at all. She seemed quite surprised when I asked her if she knew where my girl was – and if she was safe. ‘But she told me to F off’ not the most professional bleat I’d ever heard – if I had not been a teacher myself that teacher may well have faced a complaint for that ill considered phone call.

    I’d agree with the article – definitely – but I’d also caution colleagues that sometimes a slightly longer perspective enriching breath has to be taken before you talk to parents. Consider the outcome that you want and work positively to ensure it happens – or at leas begins to. And make sure you have all the information possible before you make a judgement on you course of action.

    1. I think the point of the original post was that we, as teachers, expect to be treated with respect when we have something negative to say. You have turned it into a debate on a technicality of safeguarding, which I think all teachers will attempt to do to their best ability. I’m sorry, but I think there is always something you can fire back at the teacher to make them feel that the fault is theirs when, in fact, the most useful and beneficial response is not to look for these technicalities (which are always there if you have to resort to them), but to say “my child is at fault, because he/she is a child, so I am keen to do anything I can to support you in putting this right”.
      You have brought the child’s status as an SEN into the argument and assumed the staff member had not read the records. Are you not clutching at straws here? SEN kid behaves badly = someone has not done their job properly. I disagree with this logic, unless you are equally willing to accept the equation SEN kid behaves badly at home = bad parent. I’m sure you disagree with the latter…

      1. I think my post has been misinterpreted – OF COURSE I didn’t think that the teacher had not done their job properly – or that my child could not be to blame – I merely wanted to caution colleagues reading this post to remember to take a breath and think carefully about the outcome they want before they speak to any parents.
        I agree wholeheartedly with the OP – it would be lovely if we could tell parents the truth about their children and if parents were willing to listen with the same level of maturity them everyone could win. When it comes down to the bitter end I know I did my best – and I know that her teachers did too – BUT that particular teacher on that particular day wasn’t in possession of the full facts at the time she picked up the phone, guidance from a more experienced colleague and a quick look at the records for my daughter would have really helped. I suspect she felt as rotten about the conversation as I did.

        I didn’t say she was a bad teacher, in fact I was really careful not to because I didn’t think it at the time and I don’t now. I don’t know what kind of day she had been having or what else she had on her plate- I just said she made a bad decision and attempted to use the experience to caution others against making the same error by taking a moment to think.
        Nor did I attempt to hijack an excellent post about the kind of dialogue with parents that I’d love the professional freedom to have. I was simply drawing on experience for an example. As a parent who has sat and listened to this type of comment plenty of times, delivered eloquently, brutally directly and clumsily at various times over the last 13 years; having done my utmost to support both the staff concerned AND my daughter – I felt informed enough to add something to the discussion.

        My apologies if you misconstrued my posting and found it to be offensive.
        Happy new year.

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