Jamie has a partially swollen left eye, but he is entirely unapologetic. His dad says if anybody upsets him, it’s okay to beat the crap out of them. Aidan is less coherent because of his bloody nose, but he concurs with his adversary and vows to sort this after school.
The teacher sighs. Yet again, the school rules have been trumped by the home rules.
This is a common problem for teachers of all age groups. Parenting styles differ wildly and thus the commandments that students live by are diverse. In theory, all this variation should be left at the school gate and the rules of school should reign unchallenged by parental influence. Unfortunately, the reality is very different, as teacher Steve Eddison explains in the 29 August issue of TES.
“While most parents share their school’s values and help reinforce them at home, there are some that don’t, and a few who would undermine the school’s authority by encouraging their children to challenge its rules,” he says. “When parents, either through ignorance or choice, frustrate a school’s code of conduct, behaviour becomes harder to manage.”
Solutions are difficult to come by. You could haul the parents in and demand they play by the school rules at home, but that is likely to be a career-limiting option for many different reasons.
Steve offers some alternative ideas.
“The local primary school may only be a few small steps down the road for a child, but it represents several giant leaps in terms of children’s behaviour. Lesson one is to learn that school is a public place; we do things differently here,” he explains. “As my mother once explained to me several years ago: ‘Lying on the classroom floor kicking and screaming to get your own way is not acceptable, Stephen. Especially when you’re the class teacher.’”
In addition, Steve says, you need a set of core values that the school, students and parents all sign up to obey.
“These are agreed principles that underpin how a school conducts itself. In our school we have eight core values that can each be summed up in one word. For example ‘respect’ demands we treat others with courtesy and consideration; ‘team’ encourages us to help and support each other,” he writes.
These values have to be re-enforced regularly and if there are still issues with the home rules creeping into school, then you have to get parents onside. You do this with a parent-child meeting, as Steve explains using the Jamie and Aidan example above.
“Jamie and Aidan sit glowering at each other across the head’s office," he writes. "Their parents would glower at each other too, but our leader and negotiator-in-chief got in there first and set the parameters for the debate. ‘Before we start this chat, I want you two boys to look at your parents. Look at how upset they are. That’s because you haven’t followed our core values, isn’t it parents? Nothing will make them more proud of you than if you follow our core values...'”
According to Steve, this almost always works. If it doesn't, well, there's always the UN...
Read the full article in the 29 August edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.