Parents and teachers are partners – not opponents

By admin
10 July 2013

Our education blogger believes it’s important for parents and teachers to communicate and work together for the benefit of the children.

Responding to the reaction to my previous blogs (especially the one on teachers and holidays Holidays? What Holidays) and the much-appreciated support from parents who understand teaching, I would like to share the following ideas:

We can all make a difference

We’re all running at such a pace in the race of life – yes, all of us, not just poor, overworked teachers – that we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.

It’s not really about how many hours people work or how much they get paid or how much holiday time they get; it’s about what goals you achieve in life. Everyone wants to one day sit on the stoep of their retirement house and look back on their lives and know they made a difference and meant something.

That’s why it’s important for teachers and parents to work together for the benefit of our children. We’re all sometimes guilty of seeing only one side of a matter, which is why open and honest communication between the role players in children’s lives is so important. Many tears would be spared if there were no misunderstandings as a result of poor communication.

Here parents and teachers are often equally guilty.

There are teachers who concentrate so much on the rules and regulations that the child is forgotten. I know homework must be done and rules about appearance must be obeyed but it’s also important to LISTEN to the child. There are many chancers who try to fool teachers with lies and they are caught out quickly. But sometimes there’s a story behind the story: truly difficult circumstances or a valid reason. There is often a sad story in the life of a rebellious child who has been knocked about by life – and adults. I’m not saying all teachers should suddenly become psychologists; I’m just pleading for understanding and open communication channels which could prevent further rebellious behavior and conflict.

There are few things as rewarding as when you “win” a learner in your class. When the biggest rebel in class suddenly has his books with him and even does his homework – and offers to sweep the classroom! Discipline and rules are a must; they prepare learners for life, but humanity and empathy can help teachers make a difference in the lives of learners who are in their classes every day.

Listen to both sides of the story

There are so many wonderful parents who help and support the school and teachers – thanks so much. But there are unfortunately also parents who immediately get angry and believe the worst about a teacher and go on the warpath – without listening to the other side.

One day a father stormed into the school grounds after his poor, innocent daughter had phoned him on her cellphone – which must not be used during school hours – and told him how unfairly a teacher had treated her. He insisted on seeing the headmaster immediately. Without an appointment, because naturally, because teachers and headmasters are there and available at any time.

The secretary carefully explained the headmaster was in a meeting and that she could make an appointment for him. Dissatisfied, he headed for the deputy headmaster’s office. Without greeting the deputy headmaster he screamed the following (ironically): “I want to know who gives a teacher the right to scream at MY CHILD!”

“Morning Sir. Can I help you? What has upset you?”

“Who gives the teachers the right to shout at my child? She phoned me in tears. She said her teacher shouted at her because her book wasn’t up to date and she was wearing the wrong scarf. All her work has been done and she’s only wearing a white scarf.”

“Sir, are you aware of what you’ve just said? Would a teacher reprimand a child if her books were up to date and she was wearing the right school scarf according to the school rules?”

I won’t tell the whole story; I just wanted to use it as an example to show the importance of open, honest communication. And that you should check both sides of a story.

A learner who gets into trouble at school or has done badly in a test often blames the school or teacher and makes excuses for themselves. I’m not saying it’s always the case but my plea is for people to examine all sides of a matter as objectively as possible before acting overhastily or unfairly maligning a teacher.

Oh, yes! And if you come up against any problem, please follow the right channels and be prepared to back your allegations by not making them anonymously.

What use is it if there’s a problem with work in the Grade 9 class and the headmaster receives an anonymous e-mail about an issue he knows nothing about?


  • Talk to the teacher concerned and find out both sides of the story.
  • If the parent is still not satisfied, he can contact the department head.
  • If the problem is still unsolved the parent can talk to the deputy headmaster or the academic head.
  • I’m sure you will have found a solution by now but if you haven’t, make an appointment with the headmaster.

What I’m saying is: let us, as parents and teachers, support one another because we want the best for our children. And let’s work together and not against one another.

PS: the poor innocent girl’s book wasn’t up to date and she walked into the office with her shirt hanging out, make-up on her face – and the disallowed scarf.

-  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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