Home truths for teacher-parents

17th October 1997 at 01:00
Hannah Smith's parents are teachers. She's suffered in silence for too long.

Both my parents are teachers. They tend to have friends who are teachers, so I know several other children afflicted in the same way as I am.

Don't get me wrong. There are many advantages to having teachers as parents - the odd free stick of chalk, for example - but over the years I've compiled a list of essential rules that I believe all parents who are teachers should observe. I'm now 16, and it seems timely to turn my experience into advice. So, to teacher-parents everywhere, here is a simple, but vital, code of conduct: u Answering questions. This is an important area. Children might think that the greatest perk of having teacher-parents is that they can exploit their knowledge; but this is rarely the case.

If we ask you a question, we are clearly looking for an answer; so the answer to the question "How do you spell privilege?" is not "Well how do you think you spell privilege?" We also do not require an hour-long answer to a simple inquiry. It would be enough just to state, for example, who Julius Caesar was without going into a lengthy history of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

u School. At parents' evenings, avoid grilling an unsuspecting teacher about his or her subject before revealing that you also teach it. Never ask intelligent educational questions at general information evenings in front of our friends and their parents. Do not tell us dark secrets about our teachers and expect us not to gossip. Never compare us in a derogatory way with your own pupils, or talk continually about excellent students and exceptional results. We would rather not know.

Most importantly, never, ever use "amusing" anecdotes about our childhoods in your lessons, or, horror of horrors, in assemblies - there's bound to be someone listening who knows us.

u Homework. Do not ask about it, do not nag about it, and never read it without invitation. If we choose to read our work aloud, assume that we do not want our spellings to be noted and corrected, and therefore submit quietly. Also, do not dictate complicated sentences or theories into our homework. It's not helpful - our own teachers will invariably know the work is not ours or, worse, will ask us to explain it to the rest of the class.

u Home life. Do not automatically assume that spelling games and times-tables tests will be our idea of amusement on long car journeys. Never disguise educational trips as fun days out; the two rarely coincide, and we will always discover the truth. Also, allow us to watch at least a few programmes that are not educational when we are young.

Friends are important to us; please try not to intimidate them by embarking upon detailed interrogations about their education histories. It would also be nice to be able sometimes to vary the dinner table conversation away from national tests and timetabling.

u General behaviour. Try to see us as people rather than pupils - so don't count on our willingness to act as guinea pigs for your new lesson ideas. If possible, never take us into work with you when we are ill and allow us to be petted and "Ahhhed" by your older pupils. Try not to sulk if we aren't interested in your subject.

Finally, to my own parents - forgive me - I am not accusing you of exhibiting all these traits, at least not all at once. And I did learn a lot from this morning's conversation about the relative merits of raw-score and value-added league tables. Honest. But, no, you can't read my next A-level assignment.

Hannah Smith is a sixth-form student at Maidstone Grammar School, Kent

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