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Parents dismissed

Pushy parents bailing up teachers is yet another sense of entitlement – a current cultural arrogance that not only I have had enough of.

I’ll never forget the day my daughter started kindy. I watched with joy as she skipped through the school gate, happy and confident. Not a care in the world.

Then I spotted them. The Queen Bees marching through the gate with attitude and swagger. Walking it. Owning it. Making a beeline for the new teacher.

You instinctively knew to give them a wide berth. They knew the school, as older siblings had been through the ranks; they knew the process and newbies would have to toe the line, earn acceptance, know their place.

These parents meant business.

The teachers dreaded them, ducking ineffectually for cover when they saw them striding across the playground towards the classroom, armed with endless advice on how to run the school, hovering like helicopters and making just as much noise. Even worse were the ones wanting to pick a fight over their child.

Parents tend to do that these days, get involved in their children’s lives at school. They stick their bibs in over things that just aren’t their business, treating teachers like their staff, defending their children over the indefensible.

It was different when I was a child, teachers were revered. Nothing was dreaded more than ‘the note’. The one going home in the bag requesting your mum to meet teacher for ‘a chat’. It was on a par with ‘wait ’til your father gets home’. You knew it wasn’t going to be good.

But these days, parents don’t wait for an invitation to see the teacher, they just barge right in with unreasonable demands, wanting rules changed, punishments repealed, homework extended, assignments re-evaluated.

I remember one parent wailing to a teacher over a Commonwealth Games project for which the children had to highlight a sport. It was a broad subject, easy peasy, lots of sports to choose from, to present nicely on cardboard. Not broad enough for this mother though. Her princess didn’t like sport. Could she do the assignment on dance instead?

One principal of a Sydney private school has had enough. While public school parents can be just as pushy, nothing compares with the sense of entitlement of some parents paying A$30,000 plus for their child’s education. Far from thinking the money should ensure the children are being taught well, some wealthy parents feel their money buys them prerogative, authority over teachers and rules, a superior sense of self.

Dr John Collier from St Andrew’s Cathedral School, Sydney, was so sick of parents bullying and harassing his teachers he sent a letter home telling them to back off. Dr Collier had observed that the culture of “gracious engagement” between parents and teachers had been reduced to more of a “master/servant relationship”.

In his letter, he said he was “very displeased at the current level of agitation from a minority of parents”.

“If necessary, I will instruct staff not to answer their phone calls, or emails, and if necessary, I will assert my authority under the Inclosed Lands Act to ban them from entering the premises,” he added.

He’s right of course. No matter how much clout a professional or executive has, from the courtroom to the boardroom, that power does not extend to schools. If there are extreme circumstances such as bullying, learning difficulties, or bad behaviour, they should make an appointment. Just as others have to do with them.

Modern-day teachers already have ridiculous expectations on them to educate our children on multiple issues, including those that should be the responsibility of parents and taught at home. They don’t need pushy parents queuing up to give them a serve every day.

Instead, they should get the respect they deserve, a yay for the day. It’s time to behave. Or be dismissed

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