Is this why many teachers are leaving the profession?
Do we spend more time in education trying to “keep the parents happy”, rather than focusing on the education of the children? A discussion with colleagues ended with “we need to write a letter to the parents”, so here it is!
The pressure that teachers are under today, is unbearable for many. Over 40% of teachers surveyed in Scotland say they plan to leave the profession in the next 18 months. There is an impending crisis in education, where we simply cannot attract enough new teachers.
Already in certain subjects, and in certain areas, there are posts that just cannot be filled. With a constantly changing curriculum, never-ending paperwork, and frequent teacher-bashing in the national press and on social media, it’s easy to see why teaching is no longer an attractive proposition for many. Teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers than ever before and to be honest you, the parents, have a part to play in that.
The number of parental complaints has increased massively, since I began teaching 20 odd years ago. In a 3-year period, the number of complaints that the General Teaching Council for Scotland dealt with has almost doubled, with the number of complaints from members of the public increasing dramatically.
We work harder than ever, our teaching is better than ever, and we give up even more of our time to help your children. Yet, the complaints come flooding in.
It’s a change in society. The compensation culture has a lot to do with it. People want someone to blame and some form of redress. Social media also must take part of the blame. How many times have you seen school issues discussed on social media, and people being whipped up into a frenzy by others commenting?
This is just not fair on teachers.
We are not the monsters that we are sometimes portrayed to be. We are not out to “get” your child. We are not trying to make their life difficult. We came into this profession because we love working with young people, we enjoy helping your child to develop and we get huge satisfaction from seeing them progress.
You will hear teachers complaining about workload, paperwork, pay, management, and parents. But rarely will you hear teachers complaining about your child.
I remember going to a “meet the teacher” night for one of my own children, who in their early primary years, was being taught by an ex-pupil of mine, in their first year of teaching. As we waited to speak to the teacher the conversation, amongst my friends, shocked me. They were gunning for the teacher. Talk of how their child wasn’t getting pushed hard enough. Their child was being treated unfairly. Another was demanding to see evidence of the work they had been doing in class. They were whipping each other up into a frenzy.
What had happened to my lovely, sane, and sensible friends?
Why couldn’t they see what I could see?
A fresh-faced, enthusiastic young teacher, 6 weeks into their career, and utterly petrified.
I only went that night wanting to know if my child was happy and settled. At the age of 6 or 7, surely that is the most important thing? However, I did not even talk about my child that night, instead I spent my allocated 10 minutes coaching the young teacher on how to deal with difficult parents! I then popped in to see the headteacher, and suggested they might like to nip along to support the young teacher.
The lovely letter of thanks that I got from that ex-pupil, showed just how much of a stressful situation it had been for them.
Is this sort of thing contributing to the 31% of new teachers who left in the first 5 years? If this is what our young teachers are being subjected to on a regular basis, then it is no wonder they are leaving the profession in their droves.
How would you have felt if that young teacher had been your child, just starting out in their career? Would you have treated them differently then?
We know that you only want the best for your child, because that’s what we want to. You want your child to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity, and so do we. We know that your child is the most important person in your life, and rightly so.
Your child is important to us too.
We want the best for them. We want to see them succeed in life. We notice if they are unusually tired, withdrawn, or sad, and we offer support. We are moved to tears by their effort, their kindness, and their achievements.
We genuinely care about them too.
But we also have another 30 children in the same class, who are equally important to us. We know that A has likely not eaten since lunchtime yesterday, that B’s mum is dying of cancer, that C has been struggling to walk through the door, because their anxiety has such a strong grip. We know that D struggles with numbers, but is an absolute demon on a football pitch. That E volunteers at the local charity shop, despite never having the confidence to speak out in class. And so on. We must juggle the needs of all those children and, sometimes we make mistakes.
There are occasions when these are big mistakes and you, quite rightly, must draw them to our attention. We want to protect your child every bit as much as you, so please never hesitate to get in touch if there are serious failings in our provision.
However, before making a complaint, please stop to consider the following points:
- Will it matter next week, month or year?
- Would your child gain in confidence and resilience by dealing with the situation themselves?
- Put yourself in the teacher’s shoes. Would you feel that someone was justified in complaining about you in this situation?
I vividly remember a training course I went on years ago, where the focus was on behaviour management. The idea was that, instead of looking for what the children were doing wrong, we should look for what they were doing well, and praise them for this. The children will respond well to the praise, and therefore want to do more things to get praise. They behave better, they work harder, and they are much easier to work with.
Teachers are no different. We respond much better to praise and encouragement, rather than criticism. We work hard for your child, and will continue to do so. But if you want to support your child, one of the best ways of doing this, is by supporting us, so that we can do our jobs effectively.
Andy Vass’s catchphrase on that training course, was “catch them being good”, and that is what I urge you to do.
Rather than looking at what we have failed to do, please focus on we ARE doing for your child. Perhaps this would help us to have teachers who feel valued and appreciated, and allow us to attract more high quality people into a wonderful career.
Your child’s dedicated and caring teacher
Over to you
Is this part of the reason that so many teachers are leaving the profession? I’d love to know what you think.
It’s an interesting subject to consider, and certainly gives food for thought. The author of it has chosen to remain anonymous, but shared it with me because they thought that my readers might enjoy it.
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I am Eileen Adamson, teacher and financial coach, and I help other female teachers to become happier, healthier and wealthier. Through my online money management courses, I help women to become calm, confident and in control of their money. Come and join me in my Your Money Sorted Facebook group. It’s a friendly and welcoming space, with lots of other like-minded women and loads of free help with money.