December 02, 2020
Hats off to Teachers
By Dr Kathy Weston
An overarching aim of my work is to create alignment between what is going on at home and what is going on at school (hence my two books on the topic). For too long, many parents have struggled to recognise how important they are as ‘first teacher’ to their children, and teachers have borne the brunt of societal demands to teach and take care of just about everything.
Now the pressure mounts for schools to also take care of every single pastoral need that our children have as they grow. Parents who follow my work will know that I am always keen to emphasise that the quality of our parenting, the environment within which we raise our children and the extent to which we have confidence in our own skills are, by far, the biggest determinants of our offspring’s ability to thrive long-term.
Parents play a critical role in preventing psychopathology too; by taking care of their own mental health, modelling help-seeking at times of stress, recognising early signs of distress in younger children and sharing or co-creating coping strategies with older children. When we ignore our responsibilities, or expect others to do our parenting for us, our children’s needs can fall through the cracks.
Early signs of struggle in learning or emotional, social or behavioural problems can manifest in plain sight. More often than not, they are bravely mentioned by educators during those 1:1 chats in the early or primary years, and sometimes left to fester.
Parents can understandably feel anxious about exploring issues in more depth, committing to make changes at home, or seeking clinical advice, for fear of their child being labelled. They can also be reticent about sharing critical information with their child’s school for similar reasons.
I get to work with many teachers and I am always struck by their stamina, commitment to the needs of pupils, and how selfless they are! This year, they have been on the classroom frontline and have had to respond to goalposts that have constantly shifted.
Home-schooling during lockdown, for many parents, illuminated the fact that ‘teaching’ is not just about asking children to get on with it. The science of learning is complex and multi-faceted. Motivating children to learn is something that teachers are highly adept at.
This year, the job of teaching has been harder; communication has happened behind masks, and subjects have had to be brought to life through remote learning technologies. Teachers are parents too and, in many cases, have had to manage the needs of their young families whilst teaching numerous classes online. As we leave 2020 behind, there are elements I would like to retain when it comes to the teacher-parent relationship. Who hasn’t relished virtual parents’ evenings? Let’s face it, parental engagement is far easier when you are in your own kitchen and don’t have to leave work early, book a sitter, park at school and queue up to speak to a teacher for ten minutes.
Another brilliant learning has been how absolutely fine primary-age children are with a quick drop-off in the mornings. This year, parents have been unable to linger. Goodbyes have been swift and confidently executed and, by all accounts, this has worked brilliantly!
Family and school resilience have been sorely tested this year. We all deserve a pat on the back.
Retrospection and reflection will allow us all to collate evidence of our own ability to adaptively cope in challenging times. This year, of all years, school staff deserve that thank-you card, and parents, that metaphorical ‘pat on the back’.
By being kind to ourselves and appreciative of those who have cared for our children in difficult circumstances, we can see in 2021 with a renewed sense of faith in the value and importance of the home-school partnership.
Are you a Tooled Up member?
School staff in ‘Tooled Up’ schools, can check out my teacher resources on forming effective partnerships with parents. And to get the most out of your next parents’ evening, parents should take inspiration from my list of 30 Things You Might Say to Teachers at Parents’ Evening