My worst parent - The chink in the toughest armour

29th July 2011 at 01:00

"Such a great idea of yours to have Mrs C as a parent helper," said the head. We both knew it had not been my idea at all, but I grinned fixedly in response anyway. No - the headteacher was asking me to take on the wife of a council bigwig in the hope that we might be blessed with an extra box of paperclips in the next budget-setting round.

I taught her daughter - a delightful little girl. However, at parents' evening, Mrs C had branded her offspring "silly", lectured me on the merits of "instilling backbone and a work ethic" and then denounced any form of creativity as "a blatant waste of taxpayers' money". Not an obvious helper for my reception class, then.

I set her the fairly safe (I thought) task of listening to children read. So far, so good, until I checked the reading diaries. "Lazy" and "very poor" were among the most positive things she had scrawled. While I set my teaching assistant to repair the damage with a plentiful supply of Tipp-Ex, I tentatively explained that such language was not really conducive to improving four- year-olds' self-esteem. "That's what's wrong with kids today - too soft," she replied.

Although she kept complaining about the lack of rote learning in the children's lives, I soldiered on. One day, I stumbled across a surprising chink in her armour - country dancing. As she do-si-do'ed her way across the floorboards, her frostiness thawed and she saw that learning and fun were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

One day I heard her say this about me: "It's not what I'd call teaching, but the kids seem to like it." It was much more rewarding than any number of paperclips.

The writer is a primary teacher.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today