Schools Must Share the Blame With Parents

Teachers are great at blaming poor parenting for the bad habits of their students. Often it is completely justified. However, sometimes parents are not the only one that deserves the criticism. Sometimes when students present poorly at school, it is just as much the failure of the school to engage and enforce standards as it is the parents.

Take this case for example:

Teachers are warning that pupils are failing to pack their schoolbags with basic classroom equipment and instead are bringing mobile phones, iPods, hand-held computer game devices and even the latest iPads to school.

Some schools have even begun to introduce new agreements which require parents to ensure their children are equipped with textbooks and pens at the beginning of each day.

“They often don’t come to school with their books, or without their homework and sometimes they are lacking something so basic as a pencil to write with,” said Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT union.

“They come with all this electronic equipment, it would be nice if they just brought a pen.

“My message to parents is that you can send a very powerful message to your child about the importance of their schooling by making sure that they are ready to work when they get to class each morning.”

The problem will be discussed at the union’s annual conference later this week, which will also hear from schools which have drawn up “learning contracts” with parents to encourage them to take a keener interest in their child’s day-to-day progress.

Frustrated by pupils forgetting the basics but arriving with hundreds of pounds worth of electronics in their blazer pocket or schoolbag, one Sheffield teacher was instrumental in introducing a learning contract at his school.

The English and drama teacher, who declined to be named, said: “I teach children from some of the wealthiest backgrounds in the city but it was getting to be an absolute pain in terms of the day-to-day basics.

“It’s amazing how many devices kids carry around with them these days. Young people aspire to have these Macbooks and other expensive equipment but it seems to me that the priorities are skewed.

“They automatically reach for their MP3 players and so on, but not for the writing equipment.

“I believe they should be able to pick up a pen and construct a sentence, which is correct in terms of grammar and spelling, without resorting to an electronic spellchecking device which will probably give them an incorrect, American version.”

He added: “Our policy sees any forgotten equipment being marked in children’s daily log books for parents to see and I urge all parents in the country to check their child has the basic equipment for the school day.”

The Education Bill published in January proposed new powers for teachers to confiscate prohibited items, including electronic gadgets, and to also enable staff to examine data such as video clips for evidence of bullying or other bad behaviour.

A survey in 2006 found that 91 per cent of children owned a mobile telephone by the age of 12.

This article is a great example of teachers blaming parents for a problem they have a share in. The following points need to be made:

  1. If you have a child at your school for 5-15 years and they still haven’t grasped the concept of bringing pens and text books to class, you are not running a very good school. Where are your rules? Where are your expectations? Don’t blame parents for not overseeing their kids’ schoolbag – surely you can do more to enforce standards of organisation.
  2. What has mobile phones and i-Pods got to do with not bringing books and pens to school? If you have a problem with electronic gadgets, ban them or at least set some guidelines. Kids will always be drawn to modern gadgets. Don’t blame mobile phones for the lack of student organisation. There is no reason why kids can’t be taught the importance of balancing educational and extra-curricular activities.
  3. If you’ve got something to say to parents don’t do it through the media. Teachers and parents must work together. Articles that have teachers preaching to parents often create a divide which helps no one.
  4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a likely reason for our students being so disinterested in their studies as to come to class unprepared, is due to the lack of engagement on the part of teacher. One of the most important skills a teacher must have is the ability to stimulate and interest their class. If their class seems bored, it is probably because they have a boring teacher. It’s so easy to blame parents and i-Pods, when the real issue is there are too many teachers who offer little and expect a lot in return.

You might accuse me of being disloyal to my profession. The truth is, I am a parent as well as a teacher, and I empathise and relate to both sides of this debate. Sure there is far too many parents out there that don’t get involved with their child’s educational needs. I hear horror stories all the time. But let’s not forget that teachers choose to enter this profession because they want to make a difference to their students. To do this, they must be prepared to work through all obstacles and challenges.

Apportioning blame is fine – just as long as all parties accept some responsibility.

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One Response to “Schools Must Share the Blame With Parents”

  1. Jeff Silvey Says:

    I like #2. If gadgets are such a problem, then simply ban gadgets.

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