Not long ago, the principal of a large independent school in Sydney penned a letter imploring his parent community to behave appropriately toward teachers. As more and more parents become educated about their child’s schooling, it raises an important question – who has the right or responsibility of challenging teacher practice?
As a society, we are expecting more and more from teachers and schools. And the dynamics of the parent-teacher relationship are inevitably changing. We are moving away from the traditional ‘teacher knows best’ mindset to a ‘parents demand best’ mindset. Many parents are investing more of their time and money into ensuring the best possible outcomes for their child.
More and more parents are claiming their role as partners in the education journey, not mere ‘clients’. They not only want an acknowledgement of this fact and new ways of participating in school decisions but a greater say in performance criteria determined by the school. The pendulum is swinging away from schools as sole providers of learning to parents as organisers of learning and critical friends in the schooling process.
I know for many educators, parent feedback on practice or decision-making can be challenging. Rather than responding defensively, I believe we need to be more open to discussion and dialogue that compels us to continually reflect on and improve our work. As I have written many times before, Uber drivers rate their passengers as well as being rated themselves. Feedback is gold in a flat, hyper-connected world. We all need to be working shoulder to shoulder with our key partners to achieve the best possible outcomes for each child as well as the entire school community.
While I agree wholeheartedly that parent-teacher discussions need to be conducted in the spirit of cooperation and with mutual respect, without embracing those opportunities to be critiqued and challenged, schools will remain insulated and rooted in the 20th century.