The Issue - What to do when your work and home collide

1st November 2013 at 00:00
Teaching in the school that your children attend needn't be a headache. Problems can be overcome - and there are many benefits

As the opening notes play of the Band Aid single Do They Know It's Christmas?, I find the faces of my three children in the school hall. I know what they don't: in less than a minute, the video featuring the teachers at my school performing the 1980s charity classic will get to the bit where Bono sings "Well tonight, thank God, it's them instead of you". And I am playing Bono.

I appear on screen and there is a slow ripple in the audience as I sing, gloriously out of tune. Students nudge one another and start laughing. Then, en masse, the whole school turns to my children and stares at them with a mixture of pity, mockery and bemusement. My kids turn white. Revenge for the years of embarrassment and abuse they have given me is complete.

Revenge is just one of many benefits of teaching in the school that your children attend. Ignore the naysayers in the staffroom: the situation can work perfectly harmoniously, as long as you employ a little foresight and there is some understanding of your situation from your offspring, and of theirs from you.

Teachers can end up working at their children's school for all sorts of reasons, but for those of us who arrive at a school before our children, it is a choice we are pretty much forced into. The school almost always strongly advises their enrolment, fearing that sending them elsewhere would give a message to parents that you believe the institution is not good enough.

This is a fair argument. You should carefully consider how you will be perceived by students, parents and colleagues at your school if you send your children to be educated elsewhere. Such a decision could also have a negative impact on your children: it helps no one if you enrol them in a lesser school (if indeed it is so) merely to avoid some embarrassment.

And the advantages of sending your offspring to your own school can be multiple. We travel together in one car. I get a sneak preview of reports and grades. My children tend to behave better knowing that I am in the building. I am also more involved in their education than I would otherwise have been, and for the most part this has proved positive - for them too, I hope.

It is important to realise that you will not be living in one another's pockets. You will never, barring a major disaster, be expected to teach your own children, so you can give them room to be students, and they can give you room to be a teacher without them being a distraction.

There are, of course, downsides. Surprisingly, though, other students seeking retribution on your children for decisions you have made is not generally one of them. My children have never been hassled about some imagined slight or a punishment I have given to one of their peers.

It is more likely that issues will arise for the opposite reason: you will inevitably see some of your students in a social context when your children invite them to your house. Some of them may attempt to use this to their advantage in lessons. They may try to get away with misbehaviour or they may be cheeky, using your first name in an attempt to embarrass you, for example.

You have to deal with this in a professional way. Calmly explain to the whole class why the behaviour is inappropriate and, after the lesson, take the offending child aside to reinforce the message that school and social contexts are very different and should be kept apart.

The adult world can be more difficult to negotiate. If your children attend your school then your roles of colleague and parent overlap. Something as simple as writing an email to complain about one of your children's teachers (a commonplace and perfectly reasonable right of any parent) becomes potentially very awkward when that teacher is someone you see every day in the staffroom.

Similarly, it is easy for your colleagues to have a good whinge about your child's behaviour, simply because it is convenient to do so and because they can. This is just as awkward.

There is a route out of this situation: I ask my colleagues to address any issues they have with my children to their mother. I also get her to write any letters or emails to school that might bring my fellow teachers' professionalism into question. Essentially, I take myself out of the equation. Damagingly for my self-confidence, this seems to work a treat, making my wife, children and colleagues much more comfortable with the whole situation.

So, if you teach in the school that your children attend, you can certainly make it work. For me, teaching in my children's school has been, on balance, a good thing. That said, I am still very much looking forward to the point in four years' time when my youngest child leaves school.

Stephen Reed is a secondary school teacher in the North East of England.

In short

  • Working in the school that your children attend is relatively common, although many teachers feel concerned by the prospect.
  • In fact, it can bring numerous benefits and the downsides are relatively easy to overcome.
  • To make it work, you must keep professional and social boundaries as clear as possible. Pass all parental contact with the school to your partner.

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