NARKING ON STUDENTS!

A nark is a ‘betrayer of confidence’, an ‘informer’.   Are teachers who phone home to report poor behaviour  ‘narks’.    I certainly didn’t feel like a nark when I phoned home about a truanting student, but the young chap helpfully put me straight.  It got me thinking.   If we accept that teacher / student relationships are essential to learning success, and if contacting parents undermines this relationship, should we be contacting parents at all?  

I recently ran  an inquiry into contacting parents and the student feedback from this was enlightening.

Half of the students hated the fact that I had contacted home and felt that it created unnecessary 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.’

The majority of students felt that contact home merely added to their stress levels and did nothing to help them improve their work.

 

MOVING FORWARD

What is clear from this inquiry is that students hate it when their parents are contacted about work and progress.  They enjoy it even less when the conversations relate to behaviour and self-management.  When you line the results of this inquiry up against Hattie’s research an obvious conclusion is that teachers should not be contacting parents at all.  The best way forward is to keep parents completely in the dark or run the risk of upsetting students and damaging the fragile teacher / student relationship.

But, of course, that would be crazy.  Wouldn’t it?    Research evidence indicates that parents have a massive impact on student performance  so it would obviously be insane (as well as probably illegal) not to involve them.   So, it comes down to a question of whether the cost of involving parents is worth the price of upsetting students.  And the answer of course is YES.

A good teacher doesn’t have to be a nice teacher – at least not all of the time.  Sometimes teachers, like parents,  need to show some tough love.   There is no doubt that a student in the moment will much prefer the teacher who lets them watch movies every lesson over the one trying to get them to ‘think’.  With hindsight and experience, however, they will look back and recognise the teacher who genuinely cared about them.  As long as a student understands that teachers contact home in order to support the student (rather than enact some kind of petty revenge) they will eventually come to appreciate this as a painful, but necessary part of the support that teachers provide.

Interestingly, from my own inquiry, 60% of my students suggested that I continue with my aim of contacting the parents of future students in my classes.  This may have had something to do with schadenfreude but I think it also recognition of the fact that students secretly know that they are not the best judge of what is best for themselves.

The genuinely strong teacher / student relationships are not based on short-term pandering to students’ fickle preferences,  but are relationships that have been ‘tested’ and may have gone through some ‘rough-patches’  in order to reach a point where students recognise that the teacher actually cares about their achievement and growth as a person.

 

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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