What keeps me awake at night - Anonymous views from education's front line - Hell is parents on the warpath

1st April 2011 at 01:00
This week: a primary teacher in an independent school in the South East of England

Parents keep me awake at night. Don't get me wrong: I am one and I believe there are plenty of understanding parents out there, many of whom are my friends. It's the aggressive, demanding, calculating, ever-present-in-my-classroom ones who make me sit bolt upright in the middle of the night wondering whether, as a result of not giving Jenny Mia a spelling award yesterday, I will be wearily running the gauntlet of her mother's wrath in the morning.

Sure enough, at 8am the next morning she is waiting for me, all fake tan and fake smiles.

"I just wondered why Jenny didn't get a spelling award this week?"

"Ah yes. It's because she got 19 out of 20 and I only gave awards for 20 out of 20 this week." This is surely a clear-cut response?

"Right, but last week you gave awards for 19 out of 20".

It's fine, I have no worries as I have followed our policy. "No one got 20 last week so I gave awards for 19," I explain. This is logical; there should no argument. Oh, but hang on ...

"Jenny is so sensitive, I don't think you really understand her," the mother replies. "She cries every morning, I can't get her into school. She needs consistency, to know where she stands, her confidence is dented. The other mothers agree."

Good grief! But don't argue - this is a parent, she must be treated like a goddess. "That is such a shame for Jenny. I hadn't realised she had been so badly affected. I can only apologise." Please leave, I have a class to teach.

"Perhaps we could have a meeting with you and the head of English about the policy for rewarding spellings, so all this is clear to the children and so Jenny can get an award more often."

Get a life, woman! All this is abundantly clear and your daughter is manipulating you into making a fool of yourself.

But I am having an idea. Perhaps, just perhaps, I could change the whole spelling policy so that Jenny does get an award more often. This will keep Mrs Mia happy and have the added benefit of allowing me to actually teach my class instead of spending time puzzling over their parents' eccentric and potentially psychotic needs. The idea grows on me as I envisage getting a full night's asleep again, like I used to before I became a teacher.

"Of course! That will be fine," I say. "It will be a pleasure to explain our policy to you in more depth. When is convenient?"

"7.30am is best for me as I go to work early and I work late."

Oh great, so I'll have to find and pay for early childcare for my own children and so will the head of English. I will not be popular.

"Wonderful. I'll arrange something as soon as possible."

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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