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My worst parent - The chink in the toughest armour

"Such a great idea of yours to have Mrs C as a parent helper," said the head. We both knew it had not been my idea at all, but I grinned fixedly in response anyway. No - the headteacher was asking me to take on the wife of a council bigwig in the hope that we might be blessed with an extra box of paperclips in the next budget-setting round.

I taught her daughter - a delightful little girl. However, at parents' evening, Mrs C had branded her offspring "silly", lectured me on the merits of "instilling backbone and a work ethic" and then denounced any form of creativity as "a blatant waste of taxpayers' money". Not an obvious helper for my reception class, then.

I set her the fairly safe (I thought) task of listening to children read. So far, so good, until I checked the reading diaries. "Lazy" and "very poor" were among the most positive things she had scrawled. While I set my teaching assistant to repair the damage with a plentiful supply of Tipp-Ex, I tentatively explained that such language was not really conducive to improving four- year-olds' self-esteem. "That's what's wrong with kids today - too soft," she replied.

Although she kept complaining about the lack of rote learning in the children's lives, I soldiered on. One day, I stumbled across a surprising chink in her armour - country dancing. As she do-si-do'ed her way across the floorboards, her frostiness thawed and she saw that learning and fun were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

One day I heard her say this about me: "It's not what I'd call teaching, but the kids seem to like it." It was much more rewarding than any number of paperclips.

The writer is a primary teacher.

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