It’s July and I’ve spent dozens of evening hours this term writing your child’s end-of-year report. I confess some of these will have been cut and pasted from previous children’s, but at least this has given me the time to write a few comments that I would like you to note, as they detail some worrying new trends in parental behaviour.
I am becoming increasingly worried that some of our children are being subjected to racist attitudes at home, which they are bringing into school. We spend a lot of time discussing issues such as tolerance in lessons, yet this year I’ve heard children as young as six openly use words like “Chinky”, “Paki” and worse, without any sense of wrongdoing. If your children carry on using this language in or out of school, they’re going to get into serious trouble. And you are, too. Because we report this stuff, and it isn’t us that teaches it to them.
Target: Try to look for the things you have in common with people, rather than differences, and instil that attitude in your child. You might make the world a better place. And remember: if your children hear you using racist language, they’ll think it’s OK to repeat it in the playground, when it’s the opposite of OK. Even the police say so.
If you only ever involve yourself in one aspect of your child’s education, it needs to be this. Ten minutes a day to listen to your child read, say four times a week, would benefit his or her literacy a huge amount. I can provide a list of suggested books, or even offer a guided tour of our fabulous library. But I am worried about some of the titles I see children reading themselves these days. Stephen King horror, or, say, Steven Gerrard’s latest memoirs are not really suitable for primary children. Do you really want your son calling another child a “f***ing ugly twat” in the playground because he has seen it in a football player’s autobiography? He has been yellow-carded.
Target: See me for a list of fabulous books your child will love.
Please do read those annoying newsletters we send out. The eight-year-old stranded alone at the gates in school uniform because her parents hadn’t noticed there was an inset day will probably never forget the anxiety. Luckily, some teachers were at school to look after her, but they might not have been.
Thank you for all the letters of complaint this term. We welcome your feedback. We read them all and act upon them. And then, in the case of the ones that are full of hilarious English misspellings and grammatical howlers, we pin them up in the staffroom with the funny bits picked out in highlighter pen. If you have reason to complain, check your work – especially if you’re writing about the standard of education your child is receiving in my classroom.
Target: Consider writing a letter to the school praising all the awesome stuff that’s going on.
I know long multiplication was taught in a radically different way back in the 70s. My own parents have told me. But please at least try to adopt the way it’s taught in today’s classroom when supporting your child at home. I know it’s tricky to keep up to date. But your child will be confused when parent and teacher insist on using wildly differing methods. Over time, this will manifest itself in those all-important test results.
Target: Don’t be afraid to put up your hand and ask your child’s teacher to explain anything you don’t understand.
When you pick your child up from school a bit of Lycra is acceptable if you have been to the gym, or are on your bike. But repeatedly showing up at the school gates with no shirt on (dad), or sporting a furry bunny onesie (mum), will draw looks not only from staff and other parents, but their children as well. You might be able to live with the sniggering, but your kid who’s feeling the brunt of it in the playground probably won’t.
Target: Empathise with your child by imagining how you’d feel in the office if your partner showed up to meet you wearing a kangaroo outfit.
From the conversations I’ve overheard, you’ve spent time home-schooling your child on the merits of Apple products versus Samsung. Could you also advise them of the risks associated with using those devices? I am used to dealing with friendships that have been fractured over a game of Minecraft, but there are real dangers which some parents don’t seem to be taking seriously, such as grooming for horrible crimes. If your child comes into school boasting that a) she’s made lots of new friends online recently and b) her parents let her use all these social media sites in the first place, it tells me that you’re either unaware what she is up to, or are turning a blind eye.
Target: Tablets and laptops will certainly keep them quiet, but bear in mind that sites such as Facebook carry an age restriction for a reason. If your children become too quiet, please check what they are doing online.
Disruption in class
Complaining about school is undoubtedly necessary sometimes. But as with most things, there’s a time and a place. Standing in my classroom doorway ranting across the room about something you deem to be unfair when I’m doing the 9am register is not the time. Why not ask for a quick word in private?
Target: Don’t turn up and embarrass or humiliate your child’s teacher. Apart from anything else, this embarrasses and humiliates your child.
One of my jobs is to teach children that some rules are important.If the rules seem wrong, it’s OK to ask questions. Your child needs you to set an example. So to the parent with the new black BMW 4×4 with the tinted windows, yes it’s an impressive motor. But please don’t screech to a halt on the yellow zigzag lines outside school, shout at the lollipop man and pretend that is any kind of way to behave.
Target: If you can’t walk your child to school (and why not?) brush up on your highway code, plus your moral code.
Please fill in the reply slip and acknowledge you have received this message. Enjoy your summer holidays.
The author is a primary teacher who can be found on twitter: @super_work