The inevitable critical email from a frustrated parent, after the snow day closure and the consequential cancelling of a crucial parents’ evening that evening is part of the job, but it is wearing. How we communicate effectively with all we come into contact with causes me the most angst and at times we will not be seen to get it right. At times, the criticism seems beyond reasonable.
I communicate with parents more than I ever did in 2003 when I started this Headship madness. School website, half termly newsletters, email, personal first name terms email, Twitter, letters, first day calling, text messages, email thread, more emails! You choose your mode of instantaneous communication and hopefully you will find a way to communicate with the school, is the message we give our parents. However, as we move away from an ability to read or the habit of reading, I wonder if we need to change to meet the needs of our parents. Parents, like many of our students, do not read beyond the first paragraph!
What surprised me as the latest batch of critical emails landed, three in total, I know I do need to get a perspective, was that they were all from what I would class as professional people, two were teachers, you do the punchline! The tone of their concerns was essentially the school was shut, their child care needs were not being met, why were they not given twenty four hours’ notice? How would this affect their child’s grades? Could they have extra work? Where was the message? They had not seen the plethora of messages, they were busy. Standing back from these messages, a concern should be raised as we head to mental health week about the mental wealth of parents as well as the students. It is as if they have information overload and cannot see the messages through all their noise.
As the world of work increases in pressure, all have little time for change and reacting, over reacting to changes to the daily routine can be quite emotional – just stand by the cover board in flu season to observe this! Nevertheless, the parents who cause me the most angst are not the lions/lionesses who come in aggressively to defend the indefensible but the helicopter parents who hover over their children and the children’s schools with incessant emails, concerns and criticisms. Helicopter parents are invariably well meaning, can be fellow teachers whose dangerous knowledge of schools makes them fearful for their loved ones as their children wander innocently through the minefield of exam change and potential teacher breakdown. A helicopter parent creates fear where there does not need to be any and implies criticism as they compare their own schooling, school processes to their own child/childhood. They pass on the angst to the children and the school, a self-fulfilling prophecy of pressure, panic and pious soothsaying.
As I look at my own dishevelled son, perhaps the conclusion I come to is that teachers should not have children as we either neglect them, clearly my approach to my ‘Peaky Blinders’ grunting 19 year old, or suffocate all we come into contact with. Or is it simply that reassuring communication via the telephone on that Friday night positive call is still the best message of all? Proper conversations which air concerns and hear the worry of being a parent in our educational system. Parent the parents and educate the children could be my new strapline. Avoid the instantaneous faceless email conversation wherever possible, it only causes miscommunication and angst and there is enough of that in schools already. Thankfully, here comes the sun and, refreshed after the Easter break, we can all have some perspective pre the external exam season undertaken during Ramadan – another blog, another perspective – in twenty first century Britain!