Friday, January 16, 2015

Dear Parent, I know...

This morning I was stooging through Facebook. It was 4:30am, and whilst I would usually be getting up to get some prep done before work, I am off on the sick for another week after this so I stayed in bed until the super-naggy cat got me up to feed him.

One of the things I read was this.Dear Teacher, please notice him and I saw the comments and I wanted to say something in reply. So I have. Read her post first - I get it, I really do, but it would be true I've had a fair few negative responses in my own head this morning. I've dropped my own son off, he's gone through school where I teach and he's now at a school where I don't know what he does all day, but I trust his teachers, my colleagues at a different school, to do their best for my son.

Anyway, here's my reply.

Dear Parent,

I know all my 30 children.
No-one gets to be invisible in my class, even if they want to. I know what they like and don't like. I know who eats a hot lunch and who wants to, but it's beans today and she doesn't like beans. I know who can count to 50, who can count to 100, and who still struggles to 20 because their parents didn't count with them, ever. I know who was 'hot housed' into doing everything before any other kid at trendy play group, I know who has a bedtime story as a matter of habit. and I know whose houses don't have any books at all. I know who is friends with who and what happened in the playground on Tuesday that has made that friendship stronger - or weaker. I know who will always have swimming kit, their reading book, spare gym clothes and who won't have any of those things.

I have taken spare gym stuff from home, spare books, extra lunch for me because I knew one of mine wasn't getting fed at home and had half a pasty for lunch. I have spent my evenings reading medical articles about developmental problems that I didn't know existed before and couldn't imagine - who drinks so much in pregnancy that their child is permanently mentally damaged? I've managed to complete various different professional development courses in my own time, (but I don't have the time or money for the Masters I want to do so badly.) I have researched different ways of learning for different children, I know the signs of autism, of global delay, of petit Mal syndrome and how not every child shows all of them because once you've met one child on the spectrum, well, you've met one child, you haven't met them all. There are no cookie cutter kids in the classroom.

I know whose books need marking with them because neither of us can read their writing and I know the despair in a child's eyes when he's forgotten what he wrote in his 5 lines of wobbly letters that are not words. I know who'll get a pen licence by the end of the year because they can already use paragraphs at age 6.

I am proud of my Emeralds, glowing at the top of my class, achieving at everything they do, not always putting in maximum effort, and then stressing out over tests because all they hear is "Tommy is so clever, his reading age is nearly 12, his writing level is a level 3a you know!". I rejoice in their laughter, their telling of jokes at inappropriate times, because it means they are being children and not automatons.

I am proud of my gaggle of interchangeable girls, all blonde, all blue eyed, all smiling, all pleasantly working as hard as they can, all cheerfully achieving. I am proud of my muddy boys, all cheeky grins and dirty shoes and genuinely not noticing that they have tracked dirt all through our classroom for the third time this week, but who just as cheerfully go and get the brush and do something about it. (I still fear for the one who used to flinch if I mentioned dirt, all those years ago, still see the look in his eyes as they flicked towards the door, checking he had a way out if he needed it. What does that to a child? What kind of man does it make him become?)

I am proud of my Diamonds practically dragging themselves through their education, battling uninterested parents, poor nutrition, medical problems that have names I can't pronounce, undiagnosed mental blockages that we try to unpick without pressurising them in any way. It's a fine line between knowing you've got the answer wrong, and feeling like you'll never do this. Sometimes it comes out in tears, or refusal to work, or in doggedly carrying on with the part of the method you remember, but it's only part and you don't know what to do after that and you don't want to ask because everyone else can do it, it looks like only you can't.

I know these are stereotypes, and I am being deliberately general, summing up 500 children in a few paragraphs, but I also know my children are 30 small people. I know whose hand will always go up, desperate for attention and approval, and I know whose hand will rarely go up, afraid of being wrong and relying on invisibility to get through. I have a randomiser though, and anyone could be asked to answer. I could carry on for pages and pages about my children and I used that possessive pronoun deliberately. During the day, I care for them like my own. In loco parentis means something in my world.

I get up in the morning, knowing that 4 hours of my 10hr work day will be unpaid. (Let's not even talk about the weekends) I get up expecting something else in the papers that slates my job or my children. I get up expecting another day of government interference with what I do, policies written by people who have never been in a classroom except for a photoshoot with the clean and tidy children. I get up knowing that parents will bitch about how much holiday I have, how I've lost their child's PE kit, how I don't pay enough attention to their child, how the education system favours the rich/the naughty/ the poor/ the good and is against the rich/the naughty/the poor/ the good, depending on the axe they have to grind on that particular day. I get up knowing that them not being able to go on holiday in school time is my own personal fault, as is the uniform policy, the homework policy, and the fact I want your child to have a coat if it's cold, even if they come in the car to school. (Ok, I'll admit to the last one. That is my fault and your child missed playtime in the cold/rain/snow because they didn't have a coat. Completely my fault...)

I know that there is an army of mums out there who know better than me - my own Prime Minister said so, on a day when I was lambasted for being a selfish teacher and going out on strike to try and make the government keep to the contract that they made me sign. (Except I didn't. I had autistic children at the time, and they need routine, and I had naughty children and they need boundaries, and I had hard working children and they need exciting activities and I had parents who rely on me being there so that they can go to work.) I know that I am replaceable - my own Education Minister said so when there were complaints about yet another new curriculum and an assessment system that makes life so much hard for the children and the teachers and the parents. I know that everything I do is under scrutiny from Facebook and MumsNet and ParentTalk and any other forum where it's fashionable to slate teachers.

There are days I go home tired, and dispirited and facing at least 2 hrs of work in the evening - the evening I'd like to spend with my family, my son, not filling in paperwork. There are days I go in dispirited, knowing that it's a test day, or that I've got a difficult meeting ahead, or maybe it's just one of Those Days. Those are my best days though. They are the days I shut my door with all of my 30 children and we just get on with being us and we know that inside our room it's ok to be us, and we all like us and we all have each other's backs and we will get through this together. Somedays there is cake, and those are also good days ;-)

I love my job, I love my class, I've loved every class for the last 16years and every year I've said "Wow, this is the loveliest class I've ever had, these children are amazing."

So what's the point of this diatribe? The point is, we both want the best for your child. We could achieve that if you'd let him go a bit, let her grow a bit, read with them a bit, listen to them a bit more, talk a bit less and try a little differently. Maybe you are doing a brilliant job of raising your child. Let me do a brilliant job of knowing and educating your child for the hours I have him. Maybe you think you aren't doing a brilliant job and all you ever hear is "Miss says this, Miss says that, that's not what Miss would do!" and maybe it makes you want to throttle "Miss" and I understand that because I'm a parent too and I don't want to be replaced in his affections or his hierarchy by someone he'll see for 30 hrs a week. Let me help, let me pick up the pieces of a bad morning and reassure you that you are doing a great job, that your child has lovely manners and excellent attitude towards work and if he doesn't want to read the scheme book then read something else, don't battle!

But if you have an issue with me, with the way I do my job, talk to me. You never know - I might have a good reason for what looks like an odd choice to you.

You see, I think we're in this together, the three of us, you, me, and the child. I think you and I want the same thing. Let's get there, together. I know all 30 of my children, and they know me. Maybe you and I should try knowing each other.


A Teacher.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow! As a teacher and a parent i can completely relate to both posts. I think you have written this beautifully and it completely captures your passion for your job and your care for your pupils. The world needs more teachers with this spirit! Sadly i do think that red tape and targets and bureaucracy have dampened the enthusiasm of alot of people in education these days. Our children deserve better than that. Our good teachers deserve better too, rather than to be tarred with that brush. I hope, as a parent, my littles are always blessed with the caring ones such as you xx