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Why do people find it so difficult to talk to their children's teacher?

(33 Posts)
seeker Mon 28-Sep-09 12:23:58

There are so many threads on here from people in real distress because they are worried about something going on at school - and they don't seem to have taken what seems to me to be the first logical step, which is to go and talk to the teacher. And presumably this applies across the population.

Now, why is that? I am a governor at a school that is trying to improves its home/school links. What stops people going up to the teacher at home time and asking for a word? Or popping in in the morning and asking the teacher to ring them when they are free? Or sending in a note asking the teacher to phone?

CNyle Mon 28-Sep-09 12:25:12

let me help you
this is/was an issue at ours too and tbh there is nOTHING you can do. SOme people for various reasons hate talking to teachers. then moan that they dont get enought communication.

LauraIngallsWilder Mon 28-Sep-09 12:27:38

IME its because when you talk to the teacher they say "Oh yes of course" blah blah flip flop and then everything carries on as before

hence my two are now Home Educated

clumsymum Mon 28-Sep-09 12:28:16

Yep, I'm a governor too, and agree with you seeker.

The bit that gets me is that often, the parents who seem to have the biggest gripes with the school are the ones who don't turn up at parents' evening or open days.

cocolepew Mon 28-Sep-09 12:30:45

I've never had a problem big gob and have never understood this. I've know people whose DCs are being bullied and put off as long as possible speaking to the teacher. It's bizzare.

OrmIrian Mon 28-Sep-09 12:33:41

I don't know. I have no problem. They are just people and most importantly they are on the same side!

So many parents at our school seem to view speaking to a teacher as akin to poking a lion with a stick hmm which makes them defensive and unpleasant when they do so. Very sad.

AMumInScotland Mon 28-Sep-09 13:03:37

I think some people were very scared of their teachers when they were at school themselves, so speaking to the teacher makes them feel very small and vulnerable.

One thing which I like, now DS is at Secondary, is that the Head Teacher has a "surgery" one evening a week - basically he is just in his office catching up with paperwork, but anyone can just drop in and ask about whatever stuff they'd like to, without having to make an appointment.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 28-Sep-09 13:08:31

I have no idea, seeker. We've never had any problem with it.

Does your school make it clear that talking to the teacher is positively encouraged? Do the parents know how best to go about it? (DDs school prefers ringing the office to get a before or after school appointment with the teacher or head). But the head is generally available morning or afternoon even if you've not 'booked' him.

FarkinBarkin Mon 28-Sep-09 13:12:05

I haven't had any problems but certainly at our school you don't actually see the teacher on a day-to-day basis. The staff take turns in being on door duty at home time so it's rare to see your child's teacher.

It's easy enough to make an appointment but for many parents this makes everything seem far more official. They also don't want to be viewed as troublemakers or complainers.

If I had a problem to discuss I'd feel more comfortable using an informal drop-in system.

MrsBartlet Mon 28-Sep-09 13:20:41

Our school has an informal drop-in. Each teacher has a set day so I have always felt quite comfortable going in then to have a chat. If there is anything more pressing to discuss then you can make an appointment. I suppose at other times I might feel that the teacher might be busy and that I would be interrupting something but if you know they are in the classroom for the purpose of talking to parents, it makes it easier.

BiancaJackson Mon 28-Sep-09 13:25:20

I find the teachers at my child's school very friendly and approachable, but they are quite wooly in their approach - things get forgotten, not chased up properly etc - which I find quite disheartening.

It's also difficult for full time working parents. I had to take a half day off to go to a 'focus meeting' at my son's school the other day because they sceduled it at 3pm. This makes me reluctant to arrange meetings with my child's teacher unless absolutely crucial, as I just can't piss my work around like that.

Littlefish Mon 28-Sep-09 13:49:25

Every teacher in my school is out on the playground every morning for about 10 minutes before the bell goes. This gives parents the chance to get to see us on a daily basis and get to know us (and us, them). Whilst we don't have in-depth conversations in the playground (obviously!), it gives us the chance to arrange to see parents later in the day.

I also go out on the playground every afternoon when sending the children out, so that I have a chance to speak to parents and talk about something positive that has happened with their child that day. This is particularly important when working with children who have difficulties with behaviour. Their parents often hear negative things about their child, so it's so important for them to hear positive things on a regular basis. It makes them far more likely to engage with the school when there are problems, because we have a positive relationship with them.

I think that many of the parents I work with, have had pretty bad experiences at school, and so, are reluctant to engage with the schools again.

We hold half termly open afternoons where parents join us for workshops, led by the children, to share and celebrate that half term's learning. This has really helped us to reach out to parents to show them how school has changed since they attended.

Bianca's comment "they are quite wooly in their approach - things get forgotten, not chased up properly etc - which I find quite disheartening" is interesting.

I completely understand how frustrating it must be, but when I'm told 8 different things on the playground, about 8 different children, it really is hard to remember them all, and to act on them all. I always ask parents to drop into the office and leave a note for me there if it is something that urgently needs to be done that day. Teachers are only human after all - we do forget things wink

GooseyLoosey Mon 28-Sep-09 13:54:29

Its easy to talk to the teacher. It is very, very, very hard to make them really listen.

They nod politely, they say they will give the matter some thought and then they do... nothing... because that is so much easier than doing something.

I then have to talk to them about the same thing again. They nod politely, they say they will give the matter some thought and then they do... nothing again. And so we go on.

Initially I had no problems at all talking to them, now I dread it.

mimmum Mon 28-Sep-09 14:01:36

I agree, its hard to talk to teachers because so often it doesn't feel as if they're really listening. They have often already made their mind up and even though they say things like they understad what you are saying, they understand your position, nothing changes and you know that you've just been wasting your breath.

Pitchounette Mon 28-Sep-09 14:21:08

Message withdrawn

Pitchounette Mon 28-Sep-09 14:23:35

Message withdrawn

mussyhillmum Mon 28-Sep-09 15:00:23

Littlefish - your school sounds amazing!

Communication between parents and teachers at my Dc's school is very poor. On the one hand, the teachers dread having to deal with the hordes of pushy middle-class parents telling them how to do their job. On the other hand, the school's very firm view of itself as "tolerant" and "celebrating diversity" means that teachers will not accept that any bullying(physical or emotional)takes place.

Throughout his infant years, my son experienced some physical bullying and a great deal of emotional bullying leading to him refusing to go to school in Year 2. When I spoke to his teacher about his experiences, I could see the defences go up. Apparently, there is no bullying at my son's school; my son "always" lies and "always" instigates problems. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Every parent I know who has approached the school about bullying has met with the same response - they are a problem parent with a problem child. Since DS was branded a Machiavellian Prince of Darkness, I have decided that it is best if I keep my contact with the school to a bare minimum. If either of my children encounter problems in the playground, I will try and deal with it at home and not involve the school at all.

Littlefish Mon 28-Sep-09 16:06:37

Thank you mussyhillmum - I love my school! smile However, it's an incredibly challenging school in an area of high deprivation. All the teachers who work there have deliberately chosen to work in this type of school, and are committeed to working in partnership with parents to improve the life chances of both children and families. No-one is there for an easy ride! It means that we always work on being open with parents, and deal with children fairly, with warmth, and empathy.

With regard to your ds's school - any school which says that it doesn't have bullying is sadly deluded. It goes on in all schools to some extent. The extent depends on how well it's dealt with, not how middle-class or open to "celebrating diversity" the school is! Simply labelling children as a "problem" doesn't make it go away. How sad for your ds. sad

mathanxiety Mon 28-Sep-09 17:14:44

Take a look at the defensive teacher thread here. I am lucky to have my DCs at a school where teachers communicate via e-mail like pretty much every other human in the western world. You can write back and forth almost in real time. There are no handwritten notes the teacher might or might not ever see or be able to read or keep a record of. Other professional and hardworking people (parents) don't have to take time off to see the teacher to discuss problems.

The school has a policy of requiring parents to fill out a long form at the start of each year, attaching extra pages if necessary, detailing the things that are going on in the life of each child, home circumstances, learning style, personality, what you hope to have your child get out of school that year, etc. I'm sure they get to know what sort of parents they are dealing with anyway, from the forms they get back. smile But they also learn something about the children, and better yet, they seem to want to learn something about the children and see them as individuals.

Littlefish Mon 28-Sep-09 17:55:40

That can be a good way of working if the parents have e-mail mathanxiety. Many of the parents at my school cannot afford computers/broadband.

mathanxiety Mon 28-Sep-09 18:15:43

Same at mine, but I think it's the impression of openness that counts for a lot. Parents talk about their experiences with different teachers and schools, and if it gets around that this or that teacher doesn't listen or won't respond or will only see parents at hours when it's very inconvenient, then parents get put off. When teachers really fall over themselves trying to give the impression of being available, it makes a difference. At the school my DCs attend, the head made easy two-way communication a priority after a disastrous head was removed a few years ago for her very 'I know best/ you parents are not trained professionals' attitude. I think the new lady's approach conveys the attitude that the parents are the first and most important teachers of the child.

1dilemma Mon 28-Sep-09 22:42:24

well it's usually having to be at work that stops me grin

when I have contacted the school it is the useless, uninterested answers from someone who is about 21 (nothing wrong with that I'm just jealous!) which are usually to a question we didn't ask!

It is the total 'we know best' attitude and the way they flippently waste our time together with no accommodation for working parents

it is the fact that the schools agenda is totally different from mine

oh and on the odd occasion I have complained they deal with it like the NHS-again ignoring the main issue and failing to answer the question asked!

RubysReturn Mon 28-Sep-09 22:57:14

I think having a several specified methods of contacting teachers would be a good start

eg come to reception before school
call this number to make appt
use this email address

also very helpful to get to know teacher before there are any issues to resolve

I have done this today, and dreaded it (stupidly). NB teacher did try to get me on kiddy seat while she sat on normal chair, so I sat on table!

TimothyTigerTuppennyTail Mon 28-Sep-09 23:09:04

I only ever see DS's teachers at the start or the end of the day, when they're very busy.

I can hang around to talk to one of them after school, but there's always a queue and there's only so long you can wait for.

I can put a note in has Home/School Diary, but then they say they'll see me after school, but I won't be able to jump the queue.

I can't speak to them during school obviously.

DS has 4 teachers this year, 2 of them job share so the one around in the morning isn't there in the afternoon. If I ask the teacher who is around something I just get an "ooh, I'm not sure, I don't do that bit" response.

I've given up.

WickedWench Mon 28-Sep-09 23:12:55

Out of all the teachers my son had at school I can count on the fingers of one hand the ones who didn't talk to parents as if they were either 8 years old or just approaching puberty. And that includes the recently qualified ones!

So to answer your question seeker - it's because they can be so bloody patronising!

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