I’m using the word “tribe” here as I struggle to come up with a better word, despite the risk of this word being open to all sorts of interpretations.
In my three or so decades as a teacher in the English secondary education system, for half of which my role also includes being a parent, I’ve never met a single parent who does not care about their child. Every parent cares about their child, it just we do things in different ways to show how much we care. This is a week in which, globally, so many children have been and are still being killed senselessly. No killing is good but killing of children in particular is difficult to justify under any circumstances. I’ll leave politics to those who are good at it, as I am not one of those. One thing we must do, however, in this part of the world, is not to take for granted how fortunate we are to live in a relatively safer part of the planet.
Back to the word tribe, I am using this word to describe those of us, who as parents, place great value on the education of our children, as if it is everything. It isn’t, of course, but it comes close. After health and food, education comes a close third, and I’m not just speaking about academic qualifications alone. In my categorisation, I put safety and shelter under health. I will shed more light on certain news items with regard to education in the next part of this blogpost, and, hopefully, that will help you, as a reader, to try and see how I define this tribe of parents.
As is always the case, there has been so much in the news about education recently. Despite the fact that the adverse effect and legacies of things like COVID and the teachers’ strike linger on, they are not so pronounced at present.
The main items of education news in the media at present are about RAAC, post-sixteen qualifications and school attendance. RAAC affects a tiny number of students and school attendance is not much of an issue for this tribe. This is because they are the type who will make sure their children do not miss school unnecessarily; unless they are in intensive care or something close (an exaggeration!) or unavoidable. The post-sixteen issue is something the tribe keeps a close eye on, and whilst good leadership and direction by politicians are helpful, they’re not absolute, these parents will do their own research and choose the option they consider best for their offspring.
I must say there is not necessarily an ethnic connection to this tribe, as I see people from a diverse ethnic groups subscribing to the values that I am speaking about. The people I put loosely in this so-called tribe are represented disproportionally by those of certain ethnic minorities. In my observation, it is in the order of, first, East Asians – mainly Chinese people, but others as well, followed by South Asians, Africans, Eastern Europeans, Scottish, Irish and English; however, this is a generalisation and not completely accurate. This should not be too surprising, as non-native (another colloquial phrase!) or foreigners, tend to be over ambitious in any country in the world you go.
Some of the issues that I think are more immediate to people in this tribe, in terms of motivating their teenagers, is getting them to do what I list below.
- Put sufficient number of hours into their schoolwork – including homework assignments and revision for exams
- Be better organised
- Spending less time on their electronic devices – mobile phone; game machines like X-Box, etc.
- Better sleep – like going to bed earlier…
- Learning for the joy gaining knowledge, and not just for passing exams
- Wanting to work, mainly for the purpose of buying more gadgets!
- Eating healthier
I must stress that I am not speaking here as an expert, as I am not; and I do not have the solution. In my own household, it is an ongoing thing, as we struggle as parents with these matters. We just try to do our best all the time.
I must say that there are other serious matters that are perhaps more important than what I’ve listed above. Things like mental health and other health issues, abuse of drugs or of others or by others and so on. These areas are where I have zero expertise, so I must not try to address them, as this is better left to other people.
Before I conclude this, I’ll quickly mention one main issue which is beyond the control of the teenagers, and, in fact, well beyond the control of we parents. It is that thing which society has not yet decided to address. But, if dealt with, it will not only save money and time, but will make learning and teaching more fun.
I am speaking about the issue of class disruption. The set of behaviours that are acceptable in the classroom vary from school to school. However, in my view the barrier is set pitifully too low. I recently went to cover a sixty-minute lesson at a grammar school, but my reputation in teaching as a disciplinarian teacher did not prepare me for what I experienced in that lesson.
I was utterly appalled and shocked about the behaviour of the teenagers. If this is happening in a grammar school, God, help us. Of course, it is the teacher’s fault that children are badly behaved, as he or she is lacking in classroom behaviour management skills! At least, this is what the people in the profession often say. We like to blame the government on not spending enough and tinkering around the edges on certain issues. Yes, there is some truth in that but until we recognise the adverse effect of classroom disruption, and its impact on better behaved young people, and we are prepared to deal with it, it will only get worse and ruin more lives. This is too big an issue to address here, but I will be doing so in the future.
In the next few blogpost in this series, I will make an attempt to address each of the seven or so points that I’ve listed above. This is because these are things that we as parents have a chance of perhaps trying to do something about. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not at all an expert and I have no solution to offer as such, I’d just like to highlight and perhaps share some experiences and ideas.
Please do make a comment, as we are trying to share ideas because every parent has something to say about the points I’ve listed above.