Tales from new teachers

Lost and found

The problem

I always imagined that my relationships with parents would be a collaboration of adults working together to improve their children's learning. What I didn't see coming was that I would be pulled up on a whole variety of issues, all backed by the belief that I had huge amounts of spare time to talk after the bell had rung.

Parental problems hounded me throughout my first term, ranging from the incredibly pedantic to the more serious. Some of the fussier parents even went directly to my headteacher to raise concerns and it was obvious the school took these very seriously.

Whatever the difficulty, however, it always seemed to be my fault. If it wasn't a jumper that had gone missing, it was a PE kit or a reading book. One child wasn't being challenged enough in class, while another was fighting too much in the playground. A handmade Christmas card was too similar to that of another student.

I'm not saying these concerns weren't important (most were), but I did object to being blamed for every single one.

The options

Every teacher knows to remind children to put jumpers and PE kits away - but this doesn't guarantee that they will actually do it. Although most children managed to complete this task, the same few never quite got round to it. Telling them to tidy up their belongings was a job I quickly handed over to my teaching assistant - to her delight.

Tracking down lost clothing by checking labels and going through bags isn't easy - and takes up valuable lesson time. To cover myself, I kept a note of every missing item and gave the relevant parents an update each day.

Taking advice from my mentor, I left extra time at the end of the day to hand out homework and letters (this was after an exaggerated complaint that I was once 20 minutes late dismissing the children - which was not true). I put a copy of each letter on display, just to cover myself if a child forgot to take theirs home.

A helpful colleague gave me some "I've got to go now" phrases to use on those parents who like to chat - which came in useful on parents' evenings as well as at 9am on a Monday.

The result

Since making these changes, the parents seem to have mellowed and I am getting on better with them. But I always remember to keep an eye on the simple things like having the children's reading cards to hand: the number of parents who say their child does not have a book or has lost it still seems to be endless.

The writer lives in London and is in her first year of teaching

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