It was a little disconcerting for teachers to see how parents were so quick to be at school to claim the RM100 disbursed to their children but who would otherwise need lots of coaxing and reminders, when it comes to matters concerning their children’s progress and other issues.
THE RM100 schooling assistance that had been earlier announced in the 2012 Budget report has been disbursed in stages in most schools in the country. For the most part, it has been very enthusiastically received, particularly by the parents of the students involved.
“A trifle too enthusiastically,” remarked my friend Lyn a little wryly as we witnessed the droves of parents at the school gates waiting for the makeshift disbursement “counters” in school to open.
While the keen promptness with which parents turned up to collect the money was admirable, there was a sense of irony in the situation that didn’t escape many of us teachers.
The unspoken question that was flitting through most of our minds was this: “How is it that some parents who are always too busy to attend any school open day, who can’t take off one single hour from work in a year to meet with their children’s teachers and discuss their progress, can turn up at short notice and be willing to go through the inconvenience of waiting just to collect RM100?”
Students of SMK Permatang Rawa, Bukit Mertajam, Penang are all smiles as they hold up the RM100 distributed by the school recently. – File photo
Despite the many attempts by school staff to improve parents’ involvement, some of them had never attended a single “report-card” day, never enquired about how their children were doing, and were always too busy with the various demands of their careers and businesses to take more than a cursory interest in their children’s schooling.
It was a little disconcerting how some parents who had to be always coaxed and cajoled to attend parents-teachers events – often unsuccessfully – could have somehow managed to extricate themselves from all the other pressing demands on their lives, to come and collect the money.
None of us, however, are in the position to pass any judgment. Many of us, being parents of school-going children ourselves, know how difficult it is to juggle a career with all its demands and manage the household without having to be constantly aware of what’s happening with our children in school.
Still, the complete apathy shown by some parents towards what’s going on with their children in school is, to put it very bluntly, simply inexcusable.
Those of us who have been class teachers for many years know what it is like to sit and wait in vain for parents who never show up even during crucial “report-card” days.
Although we are fully aware of the possibility that our students may have failed to deliver the letter requesting parents’ attendance due to obvious reasons, we also know that there are parents who feel that their role in their children’s education is to merely pay the bills.
At times, teachers get the feeling that parents look upon them as baby-sitters who are completely responsible for their children while they go off to work.
Also, there are parents who hold teachers totally accountable for their children’s education. What is a little strange is sometimes while practically thrusting all responsibility for their children’s education on the teachers, there are parents who glibly use disparaging remarks to belittle teachers in front of their children.
It is therefore little wonder perhaps when these same children display little respect for their teachers, and are generally ill-mannered and disruptive.
Although it is not right to generalise, there are times that teachers can’t help wondering whether their students’ rude mannerisms and offensive language are not a reflection of what they are used to at home.
I remember a conversation between two 13-year-olds which I overheard a few years ago. Almost every sentence included a vulgarity.
I remember feeling incredulous and wondering how these students could spew out such a volley of foul language as if it was the most normal thing to do — as if this was what they were accustomed to even out of school.
Teachers are sometimes unfairly blamed for a lot of things that parents are guilty of, although the other way round may also be true at times.
While it is true that schools and teachers are entrusted with the significant responsibility of educating the child, it nevertheless does not absolve parents completely of their vital role in this task.
In the broadest sense, education begins from the moment the child comes into the world and continues throughout his life. There are parents who take this charge very seriously and are constantly vigilant towards their children and monitor their progress consistently.
There are also parents who keep regular contact with their children’s teachers — sometimes even turning up unexpectedly in school to meet with them.
And even if there are moments when this parent-teacher interaction doesn’t proceed quite as smoothly as desired, teachers are still thankful for the opportunity of the meeting and the feeling of shared responsibility it conveys. We are glad that we are doing this together.
The bottom line is that what teachers would like most to see is parents getting involved in their children’s education — and this is not just about paying for school expenses or enrolling them in the most popular tuition centres.
We would also want parents to uphold the role of the teacher to their own children so that this feeling of student-teacher respect becomes ingrained in them without being forced.
The education of our children is a shared responsibility, one which parents and teachers should take on side by side without trampling upon or eyeing each other with hostility, contempt or suspicion.
Perhaps my old friend and retired teacher Mrs. Sivam says it best with these words: “I long for the days when any sentence beginning with ‘Teacher says,’ carried as much authority in the home as a sentence beginning with ‘My father or mother says’ did in the classroom.”