Raise children and raise your game

23rd May 2014 at 01:00
Parenthood can boost teacher performance, survey suggests

Want to be more effective in the classroom? The good news is that you can forget endless CPD assignments. Instead, all you have to do is become a parent.

New research, which surveyed more than 1,600 teachers, suggests that those who have children witness an improvement in their classroom performance.

A significant proportion of respondents - 80 per cent of women and 59 per cent of men - said that their career aspirations had been affected by their becoming parents. Of those, 81 per cent said that parenthood had resulted in a slight or significant reduction in their ambitions.

Unexpectedly, 47 per cent of men said that their career aspirations had significantly decreased after becoming a parent, compared with only 38 per cent of women. According to researcher Emma Kell of Middlesex University, this suggests that male teacher-parents felt the impact of parenthood on their working lives more acutely than women.

"The higher up you get in school, the more you're expected to be at parents' evenings, governors' meetings, school concerts," she said. "You're expected to be much more visible.

"And being there for bedtime and bath time and, if possible, teatime, was as important to the men as to the women. They really value that."

But parenthood did not only impact on teachers' ambitions - 75 per cent of those surveyed also said that it had affected their performance in the classroom.

The majority (65 per cent) of these teachers believed that their classroom performance had improved since they became parents. They delivered better lessons and were more effective at time-management.

More men than women (67 per cent, compared with 60 per cent) felt that parenthood had made a positive difference to their classroom performance.

Ms Kell said that this was partly because parents were forced to reassess their priorities and become more efficient at work. But, she added, parenthood also affected teachers' attitudes towards their students.

"When you're younger, it's more of a big brother or big sister relationship," she said. "Once you're a parent, you see children much more as individuals, part of a family context, rather than as little beings sent to challenge you."

Of the teacher-parents who responded to the survey, 72 per cent worked full-time. Asked for suggestions for improving their work-life balance, most opted immediately for a free ironing service at school. Others called for domestic help, more sleep, less alcohol and more hours in the day.

"However efficient you are at school, when you get home you feel like a disaster because the dishwasher's still waiting to be emptied," Ms Kell said.

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, was sceptical. "The relationship between teacher and pupil is completely different from the relationship between parent and child," she said. "The teacher has responsibilities not just for each individual child but for the whole class.

"There are excellent teachers who are parents and there are excellent teachers who are not parents."

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