NARKING ON STUDENTS!

There is no doubt that positive relationships with students are essential for teaching and learning success.  According to Hattie in Visible Learning it is one of the top three teacher strategies with a 0.72 effect size! Obviously anything that a teacher does to undermine student relationships is bad.  Narking home to parents fits snugly into this category.

A nark is a ‘betrayer of confidence’ an ‘informer’.  Obviously, I’m not suggesting that teachers, who are simply doing their job by phoning home when students misbehave, are narks.  Or am I?   I certainly didn’t feel like a nark when I phoned home about a truanting student,  but the student helpfully put me straight.  It got me thinking.

I clearly needed to find a way of communicating with parents in a more supportive manner. This inspired me to run an inquiry into how to get parents on board.  My strategy was to make early contact with the parents of all students that I teach and maintain regular dialogue regarding progress and deadlines e.t.c.   If  I did find it necessary to provide negative feedback,  the students would hopefully see it as part of the wider aim of raising their achievement.

Student voice following this inquiry was very interesting.

Half of the students involved did not mind the fact that I had contacted home.  The other half, however, strongly disapproved and felt that it created unecessary problems with parents.

One student commented:

 

It makes my parents think that I’m struggling in the subject and they start worrying about my other subjects and think that I need extra help when I know that I am going to pass‘.

 

Another stated:

 

My parents take it as bad news and it doesn’t really help me with my learning.’

 

Feedback here clearly indicates that parents continued to be suspicious about contact home and viewed it as negative.  My aim was to convince them otherwise, but I obviously need to do more to reassure them.

 

The feedback from this survey supports research indicating  excessive parental scrutiny adds to student anxiety.  Thirty percent of students felt that contact home helped them improve their work, but at the expense of their mental health.  The remaining 70% of students in this survey felt that parental contact did not help at all.  Anecdotal evidence from students also revealed that a number of students suffered at the hands of well-meaning, but over-zealous, parents.  One poor student had his Xbox and phone taken away and his gym membership cancelled following one of my emails home.  He did not speak to me for three weeks.

 

MOVING FORWARD

Despite the fact that so much research evidence indicates that parents have a massive impact on student performance the feedback from this inquiry makes me question the value of involving them.  My hunch is that the majority of  research has been carried out with primary rather than senior students.  I will need to look into this in the next cycle of my inquiry.

Interestingly,  60% of my students suggested that I continue with my aim of contacting the parents of future students, but this may have more to do with schadenfreude than appreciation of the strategy.   With increasing use of live reporting it will be impossible not to involve parents, but this will need to be carefully managed.   The supportive context needs to be fully explained and parents need to be able to opt out the communication if they feel that their child has the skills needed to cope without their support.   All communication needs to be carefully managed in an environment where the best interests of the student are prioritised.

REFERENCES

Hattie ranking: Teacher effects – visible learning. (2009). Retrieved from http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/hattie-ranking-teacher-effects/

What Research Says About Parent Involvement | Responsive Classroom. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-research-says-about-parent-involvement/

Young, J. L. (2017, January 25). The effects of ‘helicopter parenting’ | psychology today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201701/the-effects-helicopter-parenting

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