Teaching now and then!


This photograph was forwarded to me on email by a friend in the teaching profession. Such a speaking picture hardly needs comment. It shows how vulnerable teachers are to parental ire. Although aggressive parents are thankfully in the minority in our school, their impact ripples out far and wide.   Moreover, any teacher in the world today would smile to see how exactly the cartoonist has captured the rueful situation – and how widespread the phenomenon seems to have become.

Firstly, while all teachers owe responsibility for their learners’ welfare, the main credit for academic progress should go to the learner’s own effort and perseverance. The teacher can hardly achieve good results uniformly in the entire class.

Secondly, the main criteria for judging a learner, even today, remain the rather limited marks and grades. Quantitative data should be supported and completed by qualitative assessment in the form of anecdotal records, portfolios, learner journals for self- and peer-assessment, etc. Only then is the learning profile complete. These qualitative formats of assessment however do not catch on due to various criticisms – too verbose, too time-consuming, too subjective, too vague, irregular, unreliable, etc.

Thirdly, verbal and physical violence has become the most frequently-used adult tool for problem-solving by parents. A fine example in interpersonal skills is thereby set for the children at the receiving end. No wonder, so many children begin to show zero-tolerance and hair-trigger aggression from a very early age! For every one media report of violence inflicted on a child at school, there must be innumerable instances of violence at home, which go undocumented, except in the child’s psyche. Every time I see a parent losing it and ripping off at the teacher for some petty reason, I wonder how badly the child catches it at home, and how frequently! A child who learns by example, to have no respect for institutions and authority, is probably handicapped for life in issues requiring self-regulation.

Lastly, when I see parental aggression towards school on totally unjustifiable grounds, I try to imagine the degree of repression and torture the adult must have undergone in his/her own schooldays, to harbour such negative responses towards their ward’s school. I think, if teachers can build up strong, motivating and positive relationships with their present students, then they will grow up with positive impressions of school – and make much better parents, into the bargain, when their turn comes. So, while I keep my fingers crossed for the next parent-teacher meeting (PTM), I hope great things from the PTM of, say another twenty years hence!

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