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The teachers who can do no right

(36 Posts)
flashharriet Wed 28-Oct-09 10:00:38

Interesting article here. The case of Jane Watts reminded me of a recent thread on here.

I thought the bit that said "In my view, the first problem is that we now live in a culture where many of us no longer think twice before making a disparaging comment about any grown-ups in front of children" was especially telling - has the pendulum swung too far the other way?

GooseyLoosey Wed 28-Oct-09 10:07:29

I criticise some teachers my dcs have. Never in front of the dcs though.

I think part of the reason that I critique them more than my parents ever would have done is that the school now require me to be much more involved in what they are doing to educate my children. I am given homework for my 5 year old, lists of words which they need to be able to read and spell, maths targets which I should help them with at home, reading diaries and homework diaries. I am happy to enter into this duel approach with the school, but if I am involved, I am going to look at what happens much more closely than if I remained the distant non-participant of old.

I do however think that as a society we have become obsessed with measureable performace (league tables and exame results) and that these can be used as a clud with which to batter unsuspecting teachers. I think we should focus more on real outcomes and less on "results".

OrmIrian Wed 28-Oct-09 10:13:28

I would never critisise my DC's teachers in front of them. In the same way I hope their teachers wouldn't critisise me in front of them. We have to build a relationship by proxy - especially at secondary school where you rarely meet them - and one of the planks of the is mutual respect (at least devant les enfants).

If I had a problem it would be raised with the teacher directly I think but calmly and politely (I hope). I have seen some otherwise reasonable people take on a whole new prickly angry persona when talking to a teacher - as if that is the only level on which discourse can take place. Very sad and very destructive. Considering what the two people are trying to acheive together.

flashharriet Wed 28-Oct-09 11:55:50

Good points - hadn't thought about the schools demanding so much more input from parents these days. I do think he's right in saying that parents and teachers should be working together much more and not see the other as the enemy - that just doesn't happen enough IME and I don't know what should be changed to encourage it. Or maybe it's a genie that is never going to fit back into the bottle?

jeee Wed 28-Oct-09 12:00:11

I think that when a teacher is bullying your child you SHOULD criticise them. When they tell your child that they are horrible and badly behaved, your child needs to know that it is the teacher in the wrong, not them. One of my children faced this for a year (unfortunately the teacher in question does this to approximately one-third of the children in their class every year), and it threatened to destroy her confidence. If knocking the teacher supported her, I'd do it again.

OrmIrian Wed 28-Oct-09 12:05:46

But jeee what happens if you have a disagreement about something less serious - such as doing hw or a detention that you think isn't warranted. Would you not want to talk to the teacher first rather than tell critise him in front of the child?

scaryteacher Wed 28-Oct-09 14:18:37

Unfortunately Jeee, some children ARE horrible and badly behaved and need to be told that in no uncertain terms. You may perceive that as bullying, I may perceive it as plain speaking to make the student think about their behaviour and how they come across before I proceed to sanctions. There is an underlying assumption that the teacher is in the wrong. It can be the student in the wrong too.

mathanxiety Wed 28-Oct-09 14:39:41

There's a difference between telling someone they're horrible and telling them they're badly behaved. Using a negative adjective to tell someone off is an insult. (And not positive discipline) Correcting behaviour is a teacher's right and responsibility, and it involves characterising the behaviour, but it should never involve labeling the child, imo.

I personally would never discuss any teacher's performance with my children, whether I felt it was good or bad. I think that would come under the category of gossiping for the most part, and wouldn't help the DCs to feel secure in the classroom. The DCs have been told to respect their teachers and comply with behaviour expectations in class and get their homework in on time. They have sometimes mentioned traits they like or don't like in teachers, things that have happened in class, and I have reiterated the need to get the work done and follow the rules, while occasionally biting my tongue dishing out a bit of comfort if necessary.

I believe in being an advocate for your child, and I also think this is best achieved by leaving the bazooka at home when you go to talk to the teacher. You can let off steam somewhere else, just as you would expect a teacher to take out their frustrations somewhere else too.

Takver Wed 28-Oct-09 17:29:57

Its difficult - my mother made it very clear to me that she thought the head-teacher's behaviour in my primary school was unacceptable. (He was extremely sexist, and also openly favoured children with richer parents who were likely to move on to private schools, and routinely put down/humiliated children from 'difficult' family backgrounds - those who never had clean clothes for example). I think she was right to do so, and if my dd was unfortunate enough to have a similar head teacher I think I would probably do the same.

TheFallenMadonna Wed 28-Oct-09 17:33:59

"duel approach with the school"


It can feel like that sometimes wink

EvilTwins Wed 28-Oct-09 18:02:52

I think the article was well written, and find its content quite frightening. I am a teacher, and taught for 10 years in 3 different schools before leaving to have children. In my first school, which was very academic, I experienced the "pushy parents" -as a young, newly qualified teacher, I found it difficult to deal with their demands. It was never extreme, but parents did phone to ask why their children had "only" been awarded an A for their coursework. Fortunately, most were supportive, and just wanted what was best for their children, and were happy with my explanations. I also had an excellent head of dept who was happy to discuss specific cases in depth. The case mentioned in the article about a mother suing a school for failing to get her daughter throught the 11plus is ludicrous - she is clearly deluded.

The other end of the spectrum, where parents are totally dismissive of teachers and side with their children is something I came across in the school I was in before I left -not so academic, and with far more behaviour problems. The main issue there was parents who would phone whenever their child was given a detention, and say that the child couldn't attend. No reasons were given, but we weren't allowed to keep kids in if their parents refused to let us. And there was nowhere to go after that. And of couse the children in question knew that their mums would phone and "get them off" detention, so they played up in lessons knowing that nothing would come of it.

I have to say, I do lurk on a lot of the education threads on here, and find the amount of teacher-bashing shocking. Particularly in certain threads (G&T springs to mind) It seems that, in the eyes of some parents, teachers can do no right, kids can do no wrong, and underachievement is ALWAYS the fault of the schools and/or teachers. If we are not teaching our children to take responsibility for their own achievements at school, then how on earth can we expect them to pursue successful careers as adults.

henryhuggins Wed 28-Oct-09 18:23:24

teachers are an easy target, everyone thinks that because they went to school themselves, they have an insight into the profession.

mussyhillmum Wed 28-Oct-09 18:58:47

As in every profession, there are people who do their job well and others who do not. My DC have had some excellent teachers; they have also had teachers who have lacked professionalism in the way they dealt with children and parents. Like you, mathanxiety, I think it is important to bite your lip when encountering the latter - by all means offer your child comfort, but don't criticize the teacher! For my DC's sake, I think it is important that they see me "on side" with the school.

scaryteacher Thu 29-Oct-09 11:59:10

Have to disagree with you mathanxiety - positive discipline does not always work and sometimes, when all the positive discipline approaches have not worked, you have to lay it on the line for the older teenagers that their behaviour, manners and speech are unacceptable and horrible.

mathanxiety Thu 29-Oct-09 14:13:57

"their behaviour, manners and speech are unacceptable and horrible."

Agree with you Scary -- the behaviour should be criticised. I thought you said earlier that the children were horrible (as opposed to the behaviour). It's very sad to see young people basically shooting themselves in the foot by not taking advantage of the education they are being offered. The children are working for themselves in the long run, not the teacher -- someone should point that out.

Heated Thu 29-Oct-09 14:31:31

In the course of his career dh been accused a couple of times of assault by pupils (one of whom is now doing life) but fortunately he's always been in a position to refute the allegations having the whole class or other teachers as witnesses. He is also able to see it as part and parcel of the job he has in the type of school he's he doesn't worry unduly, although I do for him.

mathanxiety Thu 29-Oct-09 14:43:13

Most US public high schools have security guards roaming the halls and teachers do not have to ever be in a position where they are in any physical contact with the students. They have walkie talkies, look very intimidating, break up fights, challenge anyone trying to leave without authorisation, could check the ID of anyone they encountered, move students along during passing periods (only a matter of minutes between classes in a four storey building). The high school my oldest went to was in a fairly well-to-do area, but with an enrollment of 3,500 plus teens and all their hormones (many of whom were bigger and taller than the teachers), the ex-marines were definitely needed.

It was a bit in-your-face, tbh, when I first visited the school, but a small price to pay for order, and the teachers all appreciated the calm atmosphere.

scaryteacher Thu 29-Oct-09 16:36:28

I did used to point out to them that I had my qualifications, job, house etc, so actually, it made little difference to me whether they chose to screw up or not, apart from my professional pride in my ability to teach them. Some did see that they were only hurting themselves.

As for the horrible bit, some of the students, but only a minority, were horrible and had no care and consideration for anyone but themselves. If we can consider some adults horrible, then why can't some children be the same way?

mathanxiety Thu 29-Oct-09 18:14:20

It's one thing to consider someone horrible (adult or child) but saying that is a different matter, imo. Most people don't go around calling other adults 'horrible' to their faces, because it would be rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, immature and ultimately subjective. (Plus, they might decide to return the compliment.)

When someone in authority descends to the level of name-calling or labeling, disciplinary objectives probably won't be reached because this kind of communication is personal and subjective, and the person being labeled usually has a negative emotional response to being called a name. This sort of communication is not based on the principle of expected behaviour and clear consequences and neutral enforcement of rules. Nobody has a rational or reasonable comeback against a complaint that involves only a criticism of the behaviour. (Not that this will stop anyone from whining about being punished...)

There are parents who think their little Johnny can do no wrong no matter what you try, and no matter what little Johnny actually did, but there's nothing to be gained by adding any more grist to their mills by use of subjective responses.

scaryteacher Thu 29-Oct-09 20:36:08

At times Maths, I don't care if I am rude, inconsiderate (after all, whoever is horrid hasn't showed consideration, so why should I?), they don't deserve my respect, and at 43, I am mature, and yes, sometimes it is subjective,(after all we make subjective judgements about people every day) but more frequently, objective, as several teachers would be having problems with the same student or group of students.

I got bored at times explaining yet again in my very patient teacher voice that bullying isn't kind (especially the sexual variety that can go on in schools) and yes, at times I have called students horrible, because they have been. Sometimes the only way to get through to a student who was objectionable was to point out that they were. Nothing else could puncture the carapace of their own conviction that they and they alone were at the centre of everybody's universe, and therefore immune to the norms of behaviour that are expected both in and out of school. Sometimes they needed a reality check.

As to the labelling; we all label people (and students) on a conscious and subconscious level. We label them according to their schoolwork, their grades, their attendance, their appearance, how they chew their food, their attitudes etc.

edam Thu 29-Oct-09 21:03:03

Scary and I have often disagreed on threads too numerous to mention. But I'm in complete agreement with her on this one. Teenagers (think scary teaches secondary age) who are persistently badly behaved and treat teachers and fellow pupils without respect deserve to be upbraided. Sometimes pussyfooting around is not enough. And it's unkind to them, as well, as it fails to give them a real opportunity to recognise quite how bad their behaviour is, or how warped their perspective. Which will do them no good at all if they carry the same attitude into life beyond school.

Not a class point, btw, you can get badly behaved teenagers with a hugely inflated opinion of their own importance in every kind of school, not just the stereotypical Bash St Comp.

EvilTwins Thu 29-Oct-09 22:40:58

Completely agree with scaryteacher - well said.

mathanxiety Fri 30-Oct-09 02:00:05

The kneejerk reaction to someone who is immature and trying to push your buttons may win you the battle once or twice, but you will lose the war. It is always better to avoid rudeness and taking things to a personal level.

scaryteacher Fri 30-Oct-09 12:49:38

It's not about them trying to push my buttons - in this case it was about the treatment (sexual bullying) by one student of another, which led to a suicide attempt. I thought the student doing the bullying was horrible and I didn't mince my words either. Horrible was the nastiest thing I allowed myself to say otherwise I could have used some very choice phrases that would have stripped that particular male of any self respect for the rest of his life.

This was not a kneejerk reaction; and he lost. he was excluded.

I think also Maths, we have a different take on rudeness. I don't have to be rude to get my point across, I can do it by being icily polite, but some of my students were left in no doubt from my tone of voice and use of vocabulary exactly what I thought of them, and that I thought they were horrible.

mathanxiety Fri 30-Oct-09 14:34:36

One problem with using phrases such as 'you are horrible' is that they are extremely mild compared to the sort of language most students will have heard from their mates, maybe from their families too. You are achieving the verbal equivalent of a slap with a wet noodle when you call the average teen 'horrible'. And the net contribution to the creation of a civil atmosphere in a school when teachers abandon the high ground and communicate with the students on their level is zero.

I am interested to know why you felt 'horrible' was the nastiest thing you felt you could say. Are there words you feel you could not use in correcting a student?

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