My life as a teacher and a parent

My life as a teacher and a parent

“Let me tell you how schools work” chirped Sara. She’s 7 years old, an opinionated, feisty girl with a great sense of judgment and a crazy sense of humour. And, pretty much like all people I meet on a professional basis (I am an educationist- I meet parents, teachers, school trustees, policy makers, and of course, students on an every day basis), Sara too is an expert about what’s good and bad about schools. Her father (yours truly) gets access to a school going kid and her friends for doing research and analysis about schools on an everyday basis. I feel good ideas for schooling can come from almost anyone. I get best of my ideas in due course of conversation with parents, teachers, and of course, Sara and her friends.

For most people, where the child studies and what all they should be educated about is one of the most personal decision that can be made. Therefore, it is imperative for schools and parents to have a sort of partnership to feed off each other in the best interest of their wards. It’s important to realise- to use a cricket analogy- that the school and parents are essentially batting for the same team. Don't run each other out; bat sensibly and you'll score the required runs to win!

I feel that for most times, for teachers at schools, parents are either their best friends or their worst enemies. I have worked with some of the most progressive teachers, admittedly some not-so-good ones, a very difficult set of parents, and the easy going ones. On the whole, I strongly believe that most parents do an absolutely fabulous job with their children. More importantly, most parents make an honest effort to try their best. Yes, we make mistakes, and learn as we move along. Teachers complain about parents who meddle too much and those who can't be found. Parents say that educators claim to want more involvement but that they belittle their suggestions

Being in a not-so-common position of being an educator and a parent, I feel kind of obligated to share some tips and anecdotes which may be useful for one and all. I’ll focus on the basics and go deep into specific issues as well move along in the coming weeks.

<span>One:</span> Teachers, stop using jargons

One: Teachers, stop using jargons

I’ve already stated above that almost everyone considers themselves to be experts when it comes to schools. Sometimes, this leads teachers to use a whole lot of jargons whilst communicating with parents. Sort of a game of one up-manship. Strong advise teachers- stop doing it! The idea is not to upstage parents or make them think teachers are way smarter. A collaborative upbringing requires communication to be simple and direct, not filled with jargons!
<span>Two:</span> Be involved and stay involved, parents

Two: Be involved and stay involved, parents

As an educator, it breaks my heart that as the child grows up, parental involvement in the child goes down. I’ve seen parents being over involved to the extent that they stifle the child and the teacher, or be so far aloof that seeing them during PTMs is a task. Parents- you need to find a balance, and for the best of your child, be involved and stay involved. Do not disparage teachers when something goes wrong, and do not blow your own trumpet when things go well.
<span>Three:</span> Don’t dismiss complainers, don’t get over-friendly with parents either

Three: Don’t dismiss complainers, don’t get over-friendly with parents either

Most teachers commit the grave sin of either shunning the complaining parents completely, or compensate by being overfriendly. The need for teachers is not to be merely curt, but be honest. Even when you get a parent who’s a compulsive complainer (yes, there are dime a dozen who complain about everything- from school infrastructure to how notebooks should be graded and so on), make sure you keep the communication channel open.
<span>Four:</span> Don’t badmouth or criticise teachers in front of kids

Four: Don’t badmouth or criticise teachers in front of kids

When the going gets tough, people look for an easy target around. The sad reality is, most teachers give up on integrity and at times, give in to parents’ demands. One sees parents taking a strong liking / dislike for teachers who either agree or disagree with them. Parents would do well to not badmouth teachers in front of the kids. Not only are you making child lose respect for the teacher, but you’re raising a child who is likely to be disrespectful toward adults and seniors all their lives.
<span>Five:</span> Engage the parents

Five: Engage the parents

Parental involvement is the key, and the difference maker. Teachers should look at engaging parents beyond the mandatory parent-teacher meetings and one-off event during the school year. Home based and school based activities will prove to be a boon for any school. Engage the parents- be it via community development, via workshops etc so that parents too can relate to their child at home, their learning and expectations.
<span>Six:</span> Be supportive

Six: Be supportive

Any teacher will tell you that if a child’s parent is supportive that they will gladly work through any issues that might arise over the course of the school year. Teachers are human, and there is a chance they will make a mistake. However, it would be foolish to believe that there aren’t any bad teachers out there. As academicians, teachers should have a learning mindset, the fire in the belly to deal with 30 personalities in the classroom, and 60 parents by being supportive to all. You never know which child needs what kind of help. Parents- the child who needs support may well be yours. Be cognizant to the changes and needs of your own child.

It’s the nature of the beast- children can often be devious by nature, sometimes for the heck of it for fun, and at times because they get buckled under pressure and assume there are punitive measures in store for them. Lines get blurry. Sometimes you get the analysis on the child bang on for the buck, sometimes it's off-base. Doesn't matter, just keep at it. I often get Sara wrong, and so do her teachers. Many times, we are bang on our judgment. Sara's parents and teachers consciously stay on the same page and work together alleviate this opportunity for assumptions and misconceptions. Whatever we do, neither the parent nor the teacher make excuses for Sara, nor do we take away credit from the child for whatever little or big she achieves. We respectfully discuss differences of opinion, keep in touch and start working on a collaborative plan for Sara. We celebrate her successes and failures with equal gusto.

I can say with professional confidence and personal experience, you’ll make tremendous in-roads into the shaping of beautiful minds of children when teachers and parents join hands and work in-sync. The roles are often interchangeable, and parents who teach and teachers who look after children as their own, often make substantial difference in the society. Do this little bit selfishly for your children (as a parent, or as a teacher) and you would've made a very positive difference to the society at large,

Until next time - Happy teaching, happy parenting! :)

Kanak

Kanak Gupta
Educationist, Actor, Writer and Singer Kanak Gupta is the Vice President of Seth M.R. Jaipuria Schools. He possesses over decades experience in consultancy and research in the areas of globalization, brand building, start-ups and business best practices. He has experience in well known multi-nationals as well as boutique firms in UK, Germany, UAE and India. Prior to this, he was associated with Jaipuria Institute of Management as Dean and Professor. A management graduate from Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, USA, he is also a co-founder of Theatrecian, one of the most prolific theatre and cinema groups in Kolkata and Mumbai. Among other things, he's an almost full time parent and occasional writer, actor, singer.

1 Comment

  1. Amit Bhawani says:

    very interesting insights by the author , quiet impressed

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