Today the modern parent is the bane of the teaching profession. Not misbehaving kids; not school leaders who have little concept of staff pastoral care, but meddling and hypercritical, helicopter parents.
Unlike their counterparts in the past, parents today will not hesitate to criticise teachers if their child underachieves or is disciplined in the classroom.
Poor grades are the teacher’s fault, either because they are incompetent or because they hold a grudge or are simply unwilling to ‘understand’ an often ‘gifted’ child. In an era of Schools Without Failure, the blame will invariably be sheeted at teachers.
More so in the Independent school sector, parents are clients and the customer is always right.
Unlike Collier, many principals cravenly support aggrieved parents and teachers quickly learn if they are to survive in the profession they must avoid at all costs upsetting parents.
Give every student inflated grades and write vague innocuous comments on school reports. Watch every word you say in class, because students will twist and pervert what was said to incriminate the teacher. Avoid controversial topics in class. Play safe and stay under the radar.
The bottom line in many private schools today is not education.
Rather it is the budget bottom-line of maximising enrolments and marketing a product. Schools now spend precious funds advertising and promoting their school for a market share of enrolments.
This results in the customer always being right and teachers must inevitably become the scapegoats. School leaders will rarely support the teacher over the parent. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Kids are not stupid. They see how the system works. They know how to push buttons and their parents will spring into action to attack any perceived injustice.
Parents mistakenly believe that good parenting means ensuring that their child is never upset or disappointed. If their child does not win an award, it’s the teacher’s fault. If their child is disciplined, parents will exhaust every appeal to correct a mighty injustice.
I once remember receiving a two-page vitriolic email from parents which accused me of being the most unprofessional and despicable teacher in the history of education.
I had destroyed their daughter and she was suicidal and unwilling to attend school because I had humiliated her.
My crime? Because of her lack of commitment and ability I had not selected her for a sporting team.
They informed me that they were seeking an interview with the headmaster and the chairman of the board.
My response was to advise the parents that I was seeing my solicitor with the aim of suing for scurrilous defamation. I never heard from the parents again!
Later I received a message from my headmaster that I had to include the ‘suicidal child’ in the team to keep the parents happy.
Is this what education has come to? For those teachers beginning their careers, welcome to the minefield that is teaching!