Q

Questioning Teacher Quality And Fixing The Problem

Teacher in classroom

If you suspect your child’s teacher or carer is doing more harm than good, do something about it as soon as you can.

If you’re a working parent, at some point you will need to hand over your little darling to the care of others and caregiver or teacher quality become a part of your life, like it or not.

It’s a difficult and often guilt-ridden time, one that in a perfect world we wish we didn’t have to face. One of the trickiest parts to navigate is working out whether your child’s primary care provider is – how should we put this? – up to it.

Like any other workplace you’ve experienced, childcare is made up of a mix of people who could be roughly classified on a scale from “bloody excellent”, to “solidly competent”, “barely proficient” and “a know-nothing clown”.

Working out which one of these has assumed the momentous responsibility of looking after your child when you’re not – be it at a preschool or ‘big’ school – is a surprisingly stressful and time-consuming exercise.

Of course, you’re happier than a pig in the proverbial when you discover your child’s teacher/carer is of the first category. A person with genuine interest in what they’re doing, who has a calm yet authoritative manner, who engages you in the active education and interests of your child, and makes an effort to find out your little one’s idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes. Score.

But when you get one from the last category – the person who should have been an accountant or a trapeze artist before choosing to teach – then things get tricky.

My daughter has had three teachers this year, second grade. The first departed abruptly for undisclosed reasons, and the second, I soon discovered, was one of the “clowns”. Nearly everything she did in relation to my daughter was wrong and counter-intuitive to what she actually needed. Putting her on a table with the most disruptive kids in the class, for example, constantly providing me with conflicting reports about her day in class, or simply aggressively yelling at her for non-compliance on a task.

Given you’re at work, it can take you a while to discover this lack of teacher quality and it will usually emerge from your child at a quiet, unexpected moment – bathtime or bedtime, in my experience. In my case it was the simple utterance of, “Daddy, I’m afraid of the teacher” which, before 24 hours had passed, saw me in the school principal’s office to have a full and frank discussion about said teacher. To the school’s credit, they more closely monitored the teacher from that point on and she was soon moved on from the school. My concerns were not isolated nor without foundation, it turned out. I wondered whether I had been the only one to properly complain.

Teacher quality is no small issue. As adults, we all remember the teachers we had, particularly the very good and the very bad ones. The former can obviously help you develop a lifelong love of a particular subject or interest. They may even inspire you to become a teacher. The bad ones can make you loathe maths or music or PE or any other subject for life, and that’s no exaggeration.

These formative years are a delicate and crucial time, and given how many hours your kids are in the care of others, putting up with someone who is really not in the right career is not right.

I guess the key is the way you go about it. I had plenty of civil, exploratory conversations with the aforementioned teacher but when it was clear she was the problem, and not my daughter, a chat with the higher-ups was the only course. At the pre-school level, it would obviously be the director of the centre.

Take-out? Don’t let this situation drift. Also, don’t go off half-cocked. Making a decision about teacher quality and the care your kid is actually receiving requires a combination of close observation, instinct and some due diligence (talking to other parents, talking to other teachers, talking to classmates of your child, etc). When you know, you know, and then it’s time to act. A kid who hates their teacher soon hates education itself, and that’s definitely not the place you want to get to.

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