This is the second part of the Parent-Teacher Partnerships series. You can see Part 1 HERE

In the first part, we examined a few scenarios which require harnessing the parent-teacher partnership for effective resolution of school life crisis. Here are a few more scenarios that will need both parties working together.

3- You hear of student-to-student bullying. But, your child is not the bully or the victim.

  • What to do: Document the incident with time, date, place for evidence.
  • Who to address it to: Victim’s parent.
    • If it pertains to a specific incident about bullying between students within the class, call up and talk to the victim’s guardian/parent to check if s/he is aware of the incidents. If she isn’t, encourage her to address it with the Principal and Teacher.
    • Most schools claim to adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on bullying but hesitate to take action against the bully for various reasons. Parental pressure through repeated follow up is one strategy to holding schools to their policies.
  • When to bring it up: As soon as possible

4- Student-to-student bullying and your child is the victim.

  • What to do:  Document and record the incidents as evidence.
  • Who to address it to: Principal and Class Teacher.
  • When to bring it up: Immediately.
    • Take an appointment with the respective Class Teacher and the Principal.
    • Gather your evidence and present it. Insist that immediate action should be taken on this issue as your child’s learning and well being is at stake. Inquire and record the turn-around time on the matter.
    • Follow-up with both the Class Teacher and Principal within this turn around time to keep yourself updated on the progress. Pursue the matter aggressively until the bully is stopped from further victimising any student.

5- Corporal Punishment when your child is at the receiving end.

  • What to do: Document and record.
  • Who to address it to: Principal and if needed, trustees or management.
  • When to bring it up:
    • Immediately. With or without an appointment.
    • Insist on immediate action to be taken against the Teacher for the same.
    • Later, insist that the victim (Student) and the abuser(Teacher) be separated either with the Teacher moved to a different section or moved to lower grades, whichever approach that ensures the incident does not recur.

6: Child is not engaged in her/his learning.

  • What to do:
    • Ask yourself- What are the signs that lead you to believe a lack of engagement?  List those observations.
    • Brainstorm on possible solutions to provide enrichment or learning support, depending on whether the demotivation is caused by boredom or inability to keep pace with the class.
    • It is critical to distinguish boredom due to being academically advanced versus boredom caused by lagging behind the class. Students often erroneously associate boredom (symptom) to lack of interest in the subject or the teaching style of a Teacher and it is the duty of the Parent to discern and address the cause.
  • Who to address it to: The subject Teacher
  • When to bring it up:
    • As soon as possible.
    • Preferably with an appointment stating the reason for the appointment so that the Teacher is also prepared with solutions and alternatives.
    • Often an underprepared Teacher would resort to blaming the student for lack of motivation. In which case, Do not enter into a blame game.
    • Instead, gently steer the conversation to focus on student engagement and learning without laying the blame on either the student or the teacher.
  1. Teacher attrition.

  • What to do:
    • Take an appointment with the Principal to understand the reasons for teacher absenteeism or absence of a teacher.
    • File a formal complaint through an email or a letter to the management.
    • Request a resolution as soon as possible, especially if the student is in high school.
    • If the school fails to address the issue, then, unfortunately, parents have no recourse except to a) teach the subject at home b) find a tutor. Sometimes it is beneficial to give the benefit of doubt to the school management as they might be keenly aware of the problem but unable to arrive at a solution due to other reasons. For instance, my daughters class did not have the French teacher for 5 months in 5th grade. When we met with the Principal, she apologised for the delay in appointing a teacher stating that they were unable to find a qualified person. Now although it was a huge inconvenience for parents and students, the rationale offered was understandable and so arrangements were made by each parent outside of school hours to learn French. The school did eventually find the right person and the 5th grade French ended on a positive note.
    • Sometimes the outcome isn’t positive especially if the student is in critical high school years where time is of essence. In such cases, the academic slack will have to be picked up at home.

“All factors considered, the most important variable—in or out of school—in a child’s performance remains his family’s education background.” (Coleman, 1972).

In the 1960s, a sociologist James Coleman from John Hopkins University was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a study of educational equality. The study, which gathered data from over 6,50,000 students, was a seminal work in educational research hereafter known as ‘The Coleman Report’. The findings of the report were startling and went against the commonly held wisdom of the time which was to correlate educational expenditure to student achievement. I.e. higher expense per student leads to better educational outcomes.

The report findings showed otherwise though. The conclusions it reached were that family background and the social class of peers had the most impact on student achievement.

That said, I’m certainly not discounting the importance of teachers or school systems. What is suggested is that all things considered, the student’s family and her/his peers influence learning and achievement more than any teacher could.

On the other hand, child developmental psychologists like Urie Bronfenbrenner and Lev Vygotsky have greatly influenced educational research and policy makers leading to a more holistic view of the school-student dynamic which has dovetailed with the findings of the Coleman Report. The need for a strong and collaborative ‘family-school relationship was emphasized as it lays the foundation for student well-being at home and at school. Student learning was to be “maximised through parental involvement  and schools that facilitate strong parental ties are rewarded with “higher grades and test scores, long-term academic achievement, positive attitudes and behaviour, more effective schools.” 

All in all, there is no particular secret or formula to a successful stakeholder (teacher-student-parent-school) dynamic except that it is founded on mutual trust and respect. Most teachers truly want their students to succeed and will gladly concede to be an ally in their student’s educational journey.

I encourage every parent to compliment teachers whenever positive development and progress is noticed in their children because a good relationship is not only based on being united against common issues but also established by recognizing the immense effort that goes into the teaching profession. Teaching is often a thankless job and very few are in it for the money.

So, don’t forget to say ‘Thank you for your time’ at the end of every teacher-parent interaction.

You can find Part 1 of the series HERE.

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