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'Make friends with your pupils' parents,' psychologist tells teachers

This will improve children's emotional and academic outcomes, according to a renowned psychologist and education expert

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This will improve children's emotional and academic outcomes, according to a renowned psychologist and education expert

They give their working hours to pupils. They mop up spills and tears. They mark homework into the night, and then spend the early morning writing reports.

But teachers also need to make friends with their pupils’ parents, if they want children to grow up healthy and emotionally balanced, a renowned psychologist says.

Australian parenting and education expert Steve Biddulph believes that the teacher-parent relationship makes a vast difference to children’s emotional and academic outcomes.

“This has to go beyond just being nice to each other at parent-teacher nights,” he told Tes. “It has to be a real friendship that transcends formal roles.”

Mr Biddulph went on to call for teachers and parents to drop the “teacher mask” and “parent mask”, and be themselves.

'Friendship level'

That’s not just about being more ‘truly you’ than ‘teacher you’ (those two versions of the self can be varying degrees apart, depending on the individual teacher), he suggested, but rather it requires teachers to genuinely get to know parents on a friendship level.

He pointed out that the educational system does not make it easy to build parent-teacher relationships.

“Sympathy for the difficulties each faces is important,” he said. “In Britain, the growing pressure put on teachers through pointless and excessive testing and paperwork means many teachers are exhausted. And parents are often too busy as well, with little downtime.

“It’s not surprising that a rushed conversation at the end of the day doesn’t always engender good relationships. We need to learn from countries like the Netherlands, where school is a lot slower, more relaxed, and there is time to get to know each other.”

This is an edited version of an article appearing in the 19 May edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click hereTo download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. 

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