The parent trap

Latha Vydianathan

Oxytocin is a favourite chemical for most people. It is what produces that feeling we get when we do something nice for someone or someone does something nice for us. Inside a Circle of Safety, we feel like we belong. I have been teaching this for a long time, but I miss teaching it as I used to. I am now more of a student. Every day I learn; enroll in virtual workshops, attend webinars and learn the latest applications, all to catch my students’ attention. I used to feel a loner on the edge, susceptible to predators, and so I started learning earnestly how to teach online. Slowly, I felt like a virtual “superhero” with a cape and a bow. These past few months not only made me adept at using advanced technology in education but also gave me the chance to study the parents of my students. Unlike with the physical classroom, parents have constant access to the virtual classrooms and as they watch you teach hawk-eyed, you too get a chance to assess them. Here are the kind of parents I have met these last few months.

1. Metal detectors: These are the attentive ones who are ready to pounce the second the teacher makes a mistake when teaching. “Ma’am, you are wrong. The spelling of Constantinople is not CONSTANTINOPEL. It’s CONSTANTINOPLE!” “Ma’am, you missed telling the 3rd factor of 45. Please check!”

2. Lovable: Every single class, if the teacher misses calling out their child’s name to answer questions, this parent will leave no stone unturned until her/his beloved child gets to speak (empowerment you see)! “Ma’am, you didn’t ask Bunty anything today. He knows everything. He is crying and I just can’t see that. Please ask him a question now maaaaammmm.” 

3. Twilight: The child joins every single session late, sometimes even by 10 or 15 minutes. But the saviour parent makes sure the child gets what they missed! “Ma’am, Teja joined laaaaate because of internet issues. Can you pleaaase start from the beginning? Else she will miss out and start crying!” 

4. Perfectionists: This set makes sure their child writes everything perfectly, leaving the correct number of lines and spaces between every word and sentence. “Maaaaammm, how many finger spaces should my child leave while writing the letters?”  “Should we underline the keywords in red crayons or blue, ma’am?” 

5. Idealists: These are the parents any teacher would love to have in their class. The most understanding ones who accept and don’t switch on the microphone to talk until their child has to. They convey what they have to convey only through classroom chat or through sweet words over WhatsApp messages to the respective teachers! They also ensure that all work is complete! 

6. Prompters: This category intermingles with most of the other categories and is one of the most prevalent ones. “Chintu … Chintu…. shhh shh… the answer is 576…. 576….. 5…7…. 6….tell, tell.” The prompters feel that the child is supposed to know every single thing that they know. How is it even possible that they don’t!!

7. Busy bees: These parents are mostly absent from the scene and are clueless about what is happening in each class. The parents WhatsApp group is their saviour to catch up on what their child has missed! Again, a favourite with the teachers as there will be no interference of any sort except that they are unaware of the mischief their children are up to during the online endeavours. 

8. Phlegmatic: “Arey! it’s ok!! My child will manage on his own. I don’t have to bother!” When the teacher asks about homework or any past work, they will have the standard reply, “ Ma’am… my child was absent that day. So, he doesn’t know which one.”

I miss small feet running in my direction. I miss hands clutching crumpled artwork made just for me. I continue to learn as I prepare for endless assessments –peer, superior, shareholder, stakeholder and the list goes on. All this to prove my worth as a teacher, constantly raising the bar. Will anybody stop by and ask me… am I OK?

The author is an educator and has deep interest in the integration of lifeskills with literature for a purposeful and peaceful life. She can be reached at [email protected]

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