From the Principal’s Desk – 17 August, 2017

Dear Parents,

One of the more challenging aspects of being in education today is dealing with those unfortunate situations that arise when the staff at a school are undermined by either the parents or the students. More and more schools today are struggling with instilling respect and professional collegiality in their school communities due to the changing dynamics of the relationships in an educational institution. Times have clearly changed and sadly too has the respect for a teacher and their position.

One of the things I so love about HBIS, is that we still expect and demand respectful conduct for everyone (and yes it does work both ways) in our school. And for the most part our students are incredibly polite and respectful to everyone around them. In fact, many people have commented on this wonderful aspect about HBIS.

However, there are moments when situations do arise, frustrations flare up and undermining ensues. Few people actually realise the dangers associated with this and the long term effects of such behaviour. Imagine the following scenarios:

  • a child comes home and shares their version of an event, the immediate reaction for some parents is to blame the teacher/the other child/the school/the country etc. and then proceed to put down the staff member and school; reinforcing the child’s attitude that it is ok to come to school and continue that destructive behaviour
  • at a social setting, a group of parents start inevitably talking about the school and staff, openly criticising someone/something for this or that – all in earshot of the child, who then comes to school, retelling the stories they have overheard from home; “teacher X is not qualified”, “all the teachers are leaving” etc.
  • parents sitting in the pick-up traffic after school and having to be patient while cars in front of them are loading up their children, the security guards are trying their very best to coordinate the traffic and ensure a smooth flow and the safety of everyone on campus, only to be called racists for not allowing parents to park anywhere and being told off for inconveniencing a parent in a rush – all in front of the students who are sitting there watching the whole drama unfold. Not to mention those parents who deliberately drive over the orange cones to access a parking bay not assigned to them
  • a sport match is underway and the spectators on the side of the field are incredibly vocal about the calls a referee or umpire makes during the match. Name calling and insults are flung from the side of the field, disrupting the game and reinforcing the mentality to the players on the field that they do not need to follow the instructions of the very person tasked with controlling the match and ensuring fair competition
    And the list continues.

Any job (administrative or academic) in a school is incredibly challenging (and absolutely rewarding), and with the workload and very high expectations that parents should have in a school, the teachers should have of their students and the students should have of themselves, dealing with these situations, which can already be quite tricky, can become completely unnecessary and toxic when that undermining does occur.

We have to create a culture where we can openly engage with each other and “play the ball and not the person”. Teachers and schools want what every parent wants for their child – and that is for them to be happy and successful. However education is that one sector where you are constantly dealing with different people, their varied emotions, and their unique perspectives. We have to respect the professional opinions of these people who are knee deep in the job day in and day out. Who have years of experience and have seen the same situations pop up year in and year out. In an average school year, teachers spend approximately 1470 hours/193 days/42 weeks with their students – if they are being taught to undermine their teachers the impact of this relationship will be detrimental to their overall well-being.

I can understand that times have changed and students are more inquisitive and inquiring, but no matter how the world evolves and changes, mutual respect and support for a teacher should never go out of style. We should all think about those times when we want to challenge a teacher publicly (especially in front of students), write a grumpy email, tell our children that the very person they spend the most hours of the day with is incompetent and unqualified.

At the end of the day we are all in this together, we need each other’s support and it is more than ok to hold students (and ourselves) accountable for their actions and the consequences thereof.

For the most part I think we do get this right!

Kind regards,

Grant Ruskovich