“Some parents tell me teachers have consulted them on the amount of homework to be given, the timing of tests or types of assignments for the children, and even the approach used for teaching a topic” (When Teachers Do Too Much To Engage Parents, Miss Jane Ng).
When the headline (ST, May 18) proclaims “when teachers do too much to engage parents” one would expect the educator in question to have really crossed the line. Yet this curious hyperbole – of excessive engagement – underlines the difficulties faced by the teachers.
Writer Miss Jane Ng appreciates “the efforts to keep [her] informed about what is happening with [her] child”, but disapproves of teachers overdoing the exchanges, especially if they are “doing that to avoid complaints from parents”. What a predicament. To some extent the aggregated demands of parents have led the Education Ministry to focus on establishing more two-way communication. Some parents used to lament that schools were not doing enough to keep them in the loop, to involve them, or to solicit feedback about programmes.
What is a teacher to do with these demands? A 16-hour course at the National Institute of Education on engaging parents practically has already been extended to all teachers.
Miss Ng should understand that in a class of thirty the teacher has to deal with thirty sets of parents, each with its fickly preferences and peculiarities. Too many messages for some, too few correspondences for others. Too inquisitive for some, too irresponsible for others. Pretty sure that “Catering to the Whims and Fancies of Every Parent” is not a module in the NIE course. With all things considered parents should manage their expectations on the terms of the overburdened teachers, and not the other way around.
Perhaps Miss Ng’s greatest worry is that schoolchildren – knowing their parents have “direct access to [their teachers] 24/7” – end up relying on these communication channels and consequently take less ownership of their learning and responsibilities. While initiatives such as student-led parent-teacher meetings can lead to greater accountability and commitment from the student, do parents not have the prerogative to keep their children in check? The attempt at problematising “too much engagement” merely reaffirms the pressures of our teachers.
Cut our educators some slack la.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.