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My worst parent - A parting shot from bigwig dad

There are occasions when parents create tension in the classroom because of their potential to cause problems rather than for anything they actually do.

Years ago, I worked in a large primary in the capital city of a developing country. Mainly for the children of expats, its classes often included children of diplomats, civil servants and business executives, as well as government ministers and aristocrats.

The expats' children would come and go, causing continuity problems, but parent-staff relations were cordial. Only one gave me cause for concern. He was a bigwig with friends in high places locally and nationally. He was affable but was known to be insightful and incisive and had been ultimately responsible for the dismissal of one of my colleagues.

Not surprisingly, the prospect of parents' evening made me apprehensive. The nearer it loomed, the more worried I became.

When we finally met, he seemed satisfied with his son's progress and referred to a new-found interest in history. As I pointed out a particularly impressive contribution to the subject on a wall display, a wry smile crossed his face.

"Yes," he said, "that took me the best part of two evenings."

Was it a comment on my ability to enthuse his offspring or a hint that I would do well to modify my homework requirements?

Sadly, the gap between his status and experience and mine was too great for me to cope with and subsequent meetings, while never unpleasant, were fraught.

Before he left the country, I was offered a post in a new college of education. But it was 500 miles from the capital in a remote and dangerous part of the country. Was he responsible? If so, was it a pat on the back or a parting shot? I have often wondered.

The writer is a former primary teacher.

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