Great teachers can never make up for a lack of great parenting. Nor should they be expected to.
— Facebook post, First Grade Fun Times
There appears to be a burgeoning culture of basic parenting roles being left to the teachers. This irks me on two counts.
It frustrates me as a parent.
Before my children started school I made sure they knew how to practise basic hygiene, open their own lunch boxes and feed themselves, get dressed, pack up, carry their own bags … basic parenting 101.
I would have been mortified if they couldn’t do these things and had to rely on their teacher to learn basic life skills. I understand about little fingers and minimal coordination; my expectations were not unreasonable or unrealistic, but my children could manage themselves in public.
When my daughter was in Year 5, we had a friend of hers over for lunch. This girl was great at craft and had fantastic fine-motor skills, but she did not know how to use a knife and fork. She was 10! The class was going on camp later that term. As a parent, who is also a teacher, can I just ask you to imagine what teachers say about 10-year olds who cannot manage cutlery?
It annoys me as a teacher.
My core business is the education of your children. I am there to help them grow, learn, experience, discover, investigate, build teamwork skills and develop a lifelong love of learning.
I am not there to: discipline your child on non school-related matters; teach them basic manners; show them how to blow their nose or go to the toilet; open their yoghurt, cut up their food, use a knife and fork or feed them. (Yes!! This happens.) And, please be aware I am not talking about our children with special-needs here.
Above all, it is not my job to teach your child how to swim. This is the parents’ responsibility, not the school’s.
Swimming and basic water survival takes a long time to master. It requires weekly (or more) practice over a long period of time. At the moment, in my state, the best we can hope for is a two-week learn-to-swim program.
YOU CAN NOT LEARN TO SWIM IN THAT AMOUNT OF TIME.
But, it is not only the learning to swim aspect.
Some states are calling for ongoing swimming programs to be built in to the school curriculum. Let me give you a quick rundown of how long a swimming lesson actually takes in a school:
♦ Time to get changed, go to the toilet, get your bags ready, call the roll and get on the bus: thirty minutes
♦ Travel to destination (including time for the bus driver to go the wrong way): twenty minutes
♦ Get off the bus, call the roll, go back on the bus in search of Mary’s swimming bag, line up, trail into the pool enclosure, work out where we have to sit, make sure the children are in their groups, take Bob to the toilet, mark the roll again: thirty minutes
♦ Actual swimming lesson: thirty minutes (if you are lucky — and remember, the groups can have up to ten children in them, so your child gets about three minutes of instruction time).
♦ Get changed, find lost undies, stop girls from just sitting there chatting, wait for Mary and Bob (because they are the world’s slowest dressers); help several children put their clothes on (because that’s the teacher’s job, right?), call the roll: thirty minutes
♦ Wait for the bus, mark the roll once the kids are all on, race back inside to look for Bob’s swimming bag he left behind even though he swore he had it, travel back to school: thirty minutes
♦ Get off the bus, hang up swimming bags, give the children a recess/lunch break because they missed it while at swimming, arrange to look after someone else’s class so they can rush to the toilet (forget about your own lunch break): thirty minutes
That’s a grand total of three hours and twenty minutes. For a swimming lesson!
Over the course of the two weeks, the children and the teachers become better at this, the activities become more streamlined.
BUT look at it this way, that is nearly half a day where your child is not learning the curriculum; they may miss Maths, or Science, for the duration of the program.
It is also nearly half a day where your child is not learning how to swim either.
And, at the end of the day, teachers are still expected to have covered the curriculum —as well as the parents’ job.
I’m not just talking about swimming either; every time there is a problem in society the media cry goes out, ‘Let’s make it the schools’ responsibility. Schools should be teaching this program.’
Give me a break!
As a teacher, I will acknowledge that the parents who don’t bother with their parenting role are not in the majority. There are so many parents who set their children up brilliantly for school, and who work throughout school as partners with their child’s teachers. But there is often at least one in every class who feels that some aspect of their child’s upbringing should be left for the teacher.
I totally get that there are some things a parent, with all the best intentions, simply cannot do. In my case, it was shoelaces. My daughter taught herself to tie her laces in preschool. My son — a totally different story. We tried, multiple ways and multiple times; no success. His learning support assistant in Year 3 finally taught him this skill. But the difference was, this was a partnership; I talked to her about my frustration (and the lack of velcro shoes in his size), she showed him a different way, then showed me.
As teachers, we want the very best for your child. We don’t want to see them being made fun of because they were never taught to do something by their parents. So, we will go out of our way to do your job for you — for the sake of your child, not for you!
As a parent, I know it is my responsibility to parent my child. I feel for the children of parents who do not see this. And I feel for their teachers.