Teachers leave the profession because of demanding parents


Once upon a time, the Australian education system was highly ranked internationally.

Our schools and teachers were what other nations admired, the pinnacle of what could be provided.

Today however, the sad reality is that the Australian education system is in conflict.

There are a host of longer-term issues that have been simmering for years, but one of the most reported issues of late – and an immediate concern for our education system – is that teachers are leaving the profession in droves.

While workload, the pandemic, and poor work-life balance have all been blamed, there’s another factor to consider: parents.

Kirsten Lambert, an academic at Murdoch University in Perth, has conducted extensive research into the issues facing Australian teachers over the past 10 years. The results all painted a similar picture; parents contribute to teachers’ stress.

Indeed, “they make the problem worse,” says Lambert in his recent article for The conversation.

As a former high school teacher myself, one of the 40-50% who left the profession within the first five years, I can attest to Lambert’s findings.

I taught at a state secondary school in West Melbourne for four years. During this time, my experiences with the parents of the students I taught varied widely.

While most supported me and enjoyed my role as an educator, many simply did not.

And this lack of respect, undermining my experience, my training and my judgment, was not only demeaning but time-consuming and stressful.

My own negative experiences were echoed by the teachers over 80 interviewed by Lambert.

“Teachers spoke of their commitment to the emotional, intellectual and physical well-being of students in their classrooms,” Lambert reports.

“Some teachers said they were like parents to their students.”

While for most teachers this is an integral part of caring for your students and their well-being, the level of expectation from parents can go too far.

I’ve been through everything from parents picking up their kids an hour late and expecting me to babysit, to being asked to give a parent daily homework reports. their 10th grade son.

Teacher working hours are not fully understood; they don’t just work during school hours, they work holidays, weekends, after hours and often late into the evening.

And in addition to grading assessments, creating lesson plans, and writing reports during those unpaid overtime hours, teachers also respond to emails from parents who disagree with their child’s grade.

I once got an angry phone call from a parent who was upset that their child was five minutes late after the bell because I had asked him to clean up his sketch of a phallus on the table before he does not leave.

Parents question incidents that you have witnessed yourself. Their angel “could never do such a thing”. Yes, they could, and they did.

Of course, there are more extreme examples of problematic parent/teacher interactions.

A survey of over 2,000 Australian school principals conducted by Australian Catholic University/Deakin University in 2020 found that 83% had experienced bullying, threat of physical abuse or physical abuse from a relative in the last 12 months.

In addition to countless reports of verbal abuse, Lambert cited specific examples of physical abuse experienced by teachers during his interviews.

“We had to close the whole school one day because a parent got mad at the principal,” a teacher told Lambert.

“Then they did burnouts in front of the school until the police arrived.”

No matter how many hours you think teachers put in, the fact is that they do the vital job of educating our future adults, so treating them like second-class citizens won’t benefit anyone, it won’t only make a bad problem worse. .

Everyone deserves to feel safe, valued and respected at work, so it’s time we extended this right to our teachers as well.

Shona Hendley is a former teacher turned freelance writer.


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