Let's play spot the middle class dad

14th July 2006 at 01:00
Parents' evening: a time to reflect on children's progress and, with their parents, work out the best way to maximise achievement.

Nope. It is a chance to make arbitrary judgements about pupils' parents.

Contributors to The TES online staffroom are discussing how they categorise parents who queue up to meet them several times a year.

One teacher said: "Do you judge parents by how middle-class they look? If they have a suit on, and speak with an authoritatively middle-class voice, I feel that they will judge me more, and I try to impress them. If they turn up with T-shirts and sovereign rings, I always feel that they will be less inclined to challenge me."

Others look for more subtle signs as they judge the parental book by its clothing cover. One contributor said: "If someone's wearing dirty trainers, ripped jeans, messy hair, then first guess should always be middle-class."

And this principle can be reversed. Another teacher said: "If someone comes out with a posh accent, I expect them to be like my mother. She's common as muck. But as soon as she has to speak to someone important, she speaks like she's related to the Queen."

In one school, male teachers preferred to disregard class in favour of more tangible qualities, awarding earnest, concerned mothers marks out of 10 for their appearance.

Other teachers prefer to play spot-the-child: identifying the pupil's traits in the parent in front of them. One contributor recounts a meeting with the parent of a Year 9 pupil: "Me: your daughter seems to have a little bit of trouble paying attention. Mother: "Mmmm. Do you put up extra blocks in front of the stage when there's a play on?"

But teachers are aware that they do not hold a monopoly on judgment. One contributor insists that he has repeatedly resisted the temptation to form archetypal opinions of parents: "I was hoping they'd ignore the beard, the corduroys and the sandals."


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