When parent `helpers' are the polar opposite

25th April 2014 at 01:00

I am having a real issue with parent helpers. In these money-starved days, having free assistance is obviously crucial and, in the main, these helpers have a positive impact. But some make things so much worse.

I had one who was acting as a spy in the classroom for the parents of a group of awful girls. The secret agent reported my strategy for dealing with these students back to their parents and suddenly Facebook was awash with their criticisms of my approach.

Another would constantly comfort those I had told off. When I wanted them to quietly reflect on what they had done, the parent would go over and give them a hug, telling them not to worry and that I wouldn't be mad for long.

The final example is a woman I will call Alison. Her daughter was in the class and was a pretty, intelligent and likeable student. Her mother, however, believed her to be a child genius and the social centre of the entire school.

If I gave the brightest students an extension task, Alison would ask why her daughter wasn't doing it (despite the fact that the girl was clearly struggling with the task she was on). If Alison's daughter wasn't invited to a birthday party, she would approach the student hosting and demand to know why.

In each of these instances, I tried all the diplomacy I could muster to lessen the impact the parents were having. It is not as if I could sack them - that would have been decidedly unwise for parent relations, and in any case you can't really sack somebody who is volunteering.

Colleagues who teach higher up the school advise not using parent volunteers at all, but in early years they are a vital extra pair of hands that I cannot turn down. The good parents are worth their weight in gold and the practice really helps home-school relations.

So I struggle on and hope for the best. But I anticipate a point when the trouble will be serious enough for me to end parent helpers, and then what am I going to do?

The writer is an early years teacher in Wales

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Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk

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