When a parent is also the teacher

Manaswini Sridhar

This academic year, I am going to face a situation that many teachers actually dread – my co-worker’s child will be my student. I have heard ‘horror’ stories of how children sometimes (mis) behave because they unfortunately think that their parent’s presence in the school grants them the license to do so. Please help with suggestions.

It is very convenient for a parent to have her child study in the same school that she teaches in, both for financial and practical purposes. The parent and the child get the same holidays and the same exam days, and in many cases they can leave home together and also return together.

Since schools do not allow the student to be in the parent’s class, the child automatically becomes the student of a co-worker, or worse still, a co-worker who is also a good friend. The teacher, the child, the parent and the school have to be ‘mature’ enough to be aware of the sticky and awkward situations it can generate, such as the occasional disruption of the discipline and the learning process in class by this single individual.bounce house sales canada

There are wards of co-workers whose behaviour is impeccable, but I am here focusing on the extreme cases where the student sometimes drives the teacher a little more bananas than the others. The student may also threaten the authority of the teacher, and worse, unsettle the other well-behaved children, who start wondering why they have to be angels!

Ideally speaking, the school should lay down some ground rules. When the rules are laid down by the administration, the people involved in the situation accept them without too many complaints.

The following can be used as a general framework to make sure that the child, the teacher and the parent-teacher co-operate for the good of all.

  1. The parent of the child should get in touch with the teacher concerned before the academic year starts and come to an understanding of how to deal with situations that may prove difficult.
  2. There should be no overt reference to the fact that the child’s parent also teaches in the school. No reference is to be made of this especially in the class.
  3. If the child is absent, he/she must send in a written permission like other students. There will be no oral acceptance of such permissions. The teacher-parent must sign all assignments, homework and notes.
  4. The teacher is to deal with the child in the same manner as the other children in any situation.
  5. During a parent-teacher meeting or any other meeting that becomes necessary in the course of the year, the other parent could be asked to come to school to speak to the teacher. This prevents the situation from turning into a painful or embarrassing conflict.
  6. Reference to the child should not be made in any of the casual conversations in the staffroom, corridor or elsewhere. This is most unprofessional. Most important, the child should not become a topic of conversation in the absence of the co-worker. Most teachers lose the support of not only this teacher-parent, but also other teachers who fear what may transpire when their children too become students of the school.
  7. The co-worker could seek an appointment with the child’s teacher for any clarification or help that she needs with her child. If both the adults treat each other as a parent and as a teacher, then there will be no misunderstanding. This kind of relationship will also be healthy and conducive to sorting out problems.
  8. The co-worker should be told that the ultimate interest is in the progress and welfare of the child. In case the co-worker is unable to view the situation objectively, it would be beneficial to list out the things that are driving you crazy, and enlist her help in finding a solution to the problem. Quoting concrete examples would be helpful rather than generalizations. Examples could be: classroom rules of coming in time, waiting to be called on before speaking. Test papers are not signed because the child states in a matter-in-fact way that the mother is aware that tests are happening in school and has seen it. Excuses are sought for seeking out the mother by saying, “My mother has my pencil box or water bottle, etc.” Explain to the co-worker that the other students misconstrue these (and rightly so!) as deliberate examples of flouting of rules to flourish before them the right to rule even over the teacher. This sometimes ruffles the feathers of students so much that they do mention it to their parents, who in turn come to meet the teacher concerned, all equipped to fight it out.
  9. Talking to the child concerned at regular intervals of time can also help to iron out issues. Explain to the child that she is not above the rules and it would be in her interest to obey the rules so that she does not lose out on friends. It is a fact that many children are wary of making friends with a teacher’s child. They fear that this child may carry tales about them or their group to either the principal or to the teachers.
  10. Do not entertain unnecessary and trivial comments about other children or their behaviour from the co-worker. Tell the teacher firmly that you are in charge of your class and you will take care of it. If there are major issues, then they can be addressed.
  11. All the three parties (the teacher-parent, the teacher and the child) need to understand that their agenda is the same – the education of the child. The child has come to school to study (it is immaterial here that it is the same school where the parent works), the teacher has come to teach (a student, and not a co-worker’s child), and the teacher-parent has come to school to teach and it is only incidental that her child is also in the same school.

The teacher has every right to enlist the help of the principal in a discreet manner if she finds that things are getting out of control. The teacher is definitely not obliged to bow down to the colleague or to the colleague’s child. At the end, the interests of the many should not be sacrificed in the interests of the few (or the two !).

A word of caution however: there are situations when a co-teacher’s child is either sidelined or scrutinized minutely (for negative traits!) only because the parent is teaching in the same school. As teachers, we have to make sure that we are treating the child/student fairly and are not allowing our prejudices to take to take control.

The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Chennai. She can be reached at manaswinisridhar@gmail.com.

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