Perfection can't be bought

17th April 2009 at 01:00

I encountered my worst parent when I worked at a fee-paying school in Essex. I know neither fee-paying schools nor Essex are everyone's cup of tea, but taken in combination they are bad news.

This was pushy-parent country. Great importance was placed on a child's position in their class. There was a culture of first is first - and second is just the first loser. It was red in tooth and claw social Darwinism.

So imagine the shame in coming 23rd - out of 23. This is what confronted my nightmare parent. His lad wasn't very bright and even less interested. Coming 23rd did not fit with the aspiration and financial outlay associated with sending him to the school.

I dreaded parents' evening, but the good news was that this parent didn't attend. The bad news was that he was waiting for me by my car afterwards, having been incandescent with rage but not wanting to create a scene. I think he wasn't too keen on witnesses being present.

As my life flashed before me, I wondered how to play it. There was going to be a confrontation, and it was going to be, potentially, a waking-up-in-hospital one.

I beat a retreat and took shelter in the head's office. During this time I re-evaluated my career. The head and I agreed that perhaps the culture of the school and my own values were not aligned and that maybe I should move on (while I still had use of my legs).

The writer is a supply teacher in west London.

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