Have you ever overheard or been a part of school drop off and pick up conversations, particularly in the earlier years of schooling? Those in-depth philosophical, world-changing discussions about what that teacher taught, what this teacher said, what that teacher didn't do or what this teacher was thinking of doing.
Possibly more than any other job, the role of an individual teacher is regularly scrutinised, analysed and probed like a lab rat under experiment. Day in, day out, teachers are being watched and the prowling parents may pounce at any moment.
Teachers under the spotlight
Being a teacher is a tough gig. Having a roomful of bright-eyed, industrious little bodies' means you also have more than a roomful of (more often than not) doting parents of those little bodies.
Parents are the first to praise when a student is happy, achieving well and getting along with their peers. At the same time the parents will be the first to jump when a teacher has not reached expectations, however unattainable.
I have even caught myself analysing a school or a teacher, sometimes in my head, sometimes verbally. Parents seem universally inclined to highlight the shortcomings of 'the system', of funding levels, of teacher training, of political support and other factors before directing blame at the shortcomings of individual teachers (austparents.edu.au).
It's not a new phenomenon. I put my hand up as one who has engaged in this from time to time, but being a teacher myself, it's not a trap I like to step into. It's a difficult job and I believe teachers need every ounce of encouragement they can get.
Teachers also face daily the constant comparison of other classrooms and other teachers. As each child is different, each teacher is different as well. Teachers bring their own flavour to the classroom. My children have extremely different teachers: their personality, how they teach, how they manage the class, how they converse with me, how they converse with the children. I like these differences. Just as my three children are vastly different, so too are the ones who take care of them and teach them each day.
The teachers of my children always have open doors and it's absolutely amazing how patient and willing they are with parents. In past eras parents barely set foot inside the school but nowadays there is a lot of parent engagement which certainly has its pros and cons.
Parents see more of what is going on, which keeps teacher accountable but also puts them on display. This type of engagement can be fostered and become a healthy part of the life of the school. I have personally seen schools do this well—and not so well.
Trust is important
For parents to be effectively engaged in learning, schools need to ensure there are trusting relationships between teachers and parents. Building trust can be difficult, and may require additional effort and creativity on the part of teachers and schools. This is particularly the case for parents in traditionally
'under-served' groups, including those from diverse cultural backgrounds (http://www.aracy.org.au/).
Parents and teachers don't always get the opportunity to come together to celebrate learning and work in partnership. Too often teachers do the bit at school and parents do the bit at home, and both complain the other one isn't doing their job well enough!
There is great opportunity to see this partnership strengthened so parents have a thorough understanding of what happens in the classroom, enabling them to support teachers instead of criticising. Encourage a teacher today.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html