school

Unpopular opinion: Parents need to stop stage-managing their kids' schooling.

When dad-of-two Brendan*, attended his youngest daughter’s kindergarten orientation he was not prepared for the battle-ready attitude of parents who had already ‘told the school’ which teacher and class they wanted for their child.

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Brendan tells Mamamia that when his eldest child, Tom, enrolled to start school back in January 2016, he had no real idea of what to expect at the kindergarten orientation.

“We were just pleased to be there as we knew this particular public school had a great reputation locally.

“Tom’s orientation began with an introductory session and speeches from teachers and the principal that communicated the clear message of ‘trust us to do our jobs’.

“My wife Lisa and I shared the attitude of only intervening or advocating for our son when we absolutely felt it was necessary, which has been hardly ever as we are very happy with the school.”

It was after a similar set of speeches at his daughter Claudia’s orientation in December 2019, that he began chatting with a group of parents he knew who also had older kids at the school.

“I expected that with an existing relationship to the school their attitude would be relaxed, but it was the opposite! The parents began asking each other if they had ‘told the school’ which class and teacher they wanted for their child and which kids they did not want to be in their class.

“They were all swapping details about who had asked for what and which class and I felt uncomfortable at how adversarial it was – an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ scenario pitching parents against the school.

“When one of them directly asked me if I had ‘told the school’ what I wanted, I simply said no and the conversation moved on.

“It made me think about how different this orientation felt to Tom’s five years prior. I began to question why I wasn’t making demands of the school and whether or not I should be on behalf of my children.”

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After processing the exchange and talking it over back home with Lisa, Brendan remained resolute in his opinion that the school should be left to it.

“I understand that those parents likely just want the same things as I do when it comes to happy, healthy children.

“I get that they don’t want their child to have bad experiences with ‘problem kids’ or strict teachers and maybe they are trying to replicate an older sibling’s experience by asking for the same teacher that they had.

“But as parents, we will not always be able to protect our kids from challenging people or environments, so does it really help them to get involved with kindergarten placement decisions?”

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The pushy approach of ‘telling the school’ what to do also worried Brendan.

“Requesting something that might help a child settle in at school is fine, but what bothered me is why so many parents were not able to trust the teachers and the school to do the right thing.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am very interested in my kids’ education and I think it is important to be involved. But I am concerned about parents stage-managing aspects of their child’s schooling, and to what end?”

Brendan questioned how these kids will be able to deal with stressful situations and people in the future, if they have not had the opportunity at school.

“Parents and teachers cannot remove every bad experience in the classroom anyway, it’s not possible. What we can do is work together with teachers to guide our kids as best we can to deal with the challenges as and when they happen.

“I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I do think parents should reflect on why they are so involved at the kindergarten stage and if this is really best for their kids’ development in the long run.”

Do you think it’s okay to request certain teachers or playmates for your child, or do you agree with Brendan and think teachers should be left to it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

*The interviewee in this article is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The image is a stock photo from Getty. 

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