Four things teachers wish parents knew

By admin
12 September 2013

Our education blogger wonders if parents are aware of the extra work teachers often put in to help and educate their kids at school and how parents can help.

“Don’t swear!”

“Pick up those papers and clean up.”

“Come here, let me dry those tears.”

“Don’t give up, let’s try again.”

Teachers are just as likely as parents to use the above phrases.

I sometimes think many parents forget what their teachers meant to them when dealing with their own kids. Cooperation between parents and teachers  – to the benefit of the child – is so important. We aren’t working against one another, we’re working with one another. That’s why I would like to mention a few things teachers wish parents knew: 1 Teachers aren’t the monsters children make them out to be at home.

In a previous blog I pointed out how important it is to listen to both sides of a story when there’s a problem. At a parents’ night a parent walked in and exclaimed loudly to his son, “Is this the witch you’re afraid of?” The teacher greeted the parents and invited them to sit down. The angry father quickly changed his tune when the teacher explained the facts of what had been going on in class.

His “innocent Okkie” wasn’t so innocent after all. He paid no attention in class, his homework was almost never done or he didn’t have his books with him at school. His marks for the various assessments were discussed in detail, as was the fact he took chances. After a good discussion between parent, teacher and learner, the father said, “Son, I like this teacher. It’s time you pulled up your socks. From now on I’ll be watching you!” And to the teacher he said, “If there’s a problem with his work at any time, phone me immediately. And thank you for being prepared to give him extra lessons so he might manage to pass.” The outcome of the case was the following: “Innocent Okkie” attended extra lessons twice a week and he and his teacher developed a good understanding. He bloomed every day in class, was eager to answer questions, his work was always done, and he passed! And the most important of all is that the mischievous child who wasn’t interested in schoolwork now walks into the classroom every day with a smile on his face. 2 Teachers go the extra mile for their schoolchildren and sometimes sacrifice valuable time that could have been spent with their families.

I wonder if parents realise how many extra hours teachers put in outside the classroom. Hours and hours of coaching extra-mural activities, attending school activities and sports matches. I recently heard the following from a colleague: He and his wife are teachers. After many hours’ practise and preparation the revue group of her school performed for a few nights at a theatre. Letters with all the arrangements and times had been handed out beforehand. Every night everything went smoothly and they returned to school at 9 pm. On the last night all the learners – except for two – were picked up by their parents. She sat with the two children and waited – she couldn’t just leave them on their own. When half an hour had passed she phoned the parents. No reply. After she’d spent more than an hour sitting with the children at the school gate in the dark, a car pulled up. The children ran to the car, jumped in and away they went. There was no “sorry I’m late” or thank you for looking after my children”. Many teachers have done this, or dropped the children off at home themselves. These are just examples but there are many other cases that could be mentioned. 3 The reality of teachers’ daily workload is often underestimated. Parents don’t realise what teachers have to cope with. Period after period with classes of 35 to 40 learners. Often some learners are ill-mannered and disobedient. There’s also lots of preparation and lots of marking and on top of that before school, breaks and after school grounds duty to take care of the children. And after that there’s also meetings or extra-mural activities. Then teachers receive calls such as the following, “You’re doing nothing about it! I think I must take matters further. Sannie has again been gossiping and telling stories about my child!” Dear Parents, we as teachers have no control over what learners say during school hours somewhere on the school grounds or what they say to each other on their cellphones. 4 Teachers appreciate parents’ cooperation and support, which makes their task easier.

Problems crop up at school when learners behave badly, are in conflict with school rules and don’t do their homework etc. When such situations arise teachers appreciate it when parents phone or come and see them and ask how they as parents can help solve the problem or support the teacher or school when steps are taken against a learner. The opposite is also true. When learners make things difficult for teachers at school there are often parents who criticise the teachers and schools and don’t cooperate to solve the problem.

At the sports field at another school I once heard a father say, “Jannie can’t play today; he’s in detention again! Ha-ha-ha! But I told him, ‘Give them hell, my boy! When I was at school I gave the teachers hell’.” Sigh. Children’s behaviour at school is a reflection of their upbringing at home.

I have touched on only a few issues. There are so many more. I’d like to hear from other teachers about what they wish parents knew.

Fortunately we teachers know there are so many wonderful parents out there, parents who support their children, the teachers and the schools. And that’s something else teachers wish parents knew – how much we appreciate it!

-          Olga Channing

* Olga Channing is a deputy principal and Afrikaans teacher at a high school in Pretoria. She’s the author of six books for the new school curriculum and after 24 years as a teacher, she still loves her job.


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