Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 October 2012
Issue No. 1118
Living
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Education for parents

While many teachers complain about their students' attitude in class, Nesmahar Sayed discovers that some parents can be even more annoying

photo: Nader Habib Click to view caption
photo: Nader Habib

The school year has begun, and many parents have been complaining of the anxiety they suffer from because of their children. While teachers have been asking for increases to their salaries, some believe that parents, as well as salaries, are becoming a source of professional irritation.

"Parents feel they pay a lot for school fees and that is all the interest they take in education," said Nesreen Ali, who has worked as an English teacher for six years. According to Ali, some parents feel they have the right to give orders to teachers and that teachers have to obey them. For Ali, however, the most important thing is that parents should "not interfere in the teaching process."

Ali says that she has seen various sources of tension develop between parents and teachers, with "the students being the main losers. Either a teacher treats the student badly as a result of parental interference, or he fears dealing with the student at all in order not to have to face any confrontation with his or her parents," she said.

Nagwan Abbas agrees, adding that for her the main concern should be the student's benefit. Abbas, who has been teaching for 13 years, believes that parental attitudes towards teachers have been going from bad to worse.

"Many of them deal with the teacher as if he or she teaches only their child," Abbas said, adding that the administration also sometimes takes the part of parents against that of teachers. "But both should work for the student's sake," she added. For Abbas, one issue that strikes her is that some parents do not seem to care about the presentation of their children. "They sometimes do not make sure that their hair is neatly cut, for example, or that they are properly presented for school."

In addition, some parents do not give their children appropriate meals. "Can you believe that once a boy brought out a jar of honey and feteer [Egyptian pancakes] for lunch in class? How could something like this be acceptable," Abbas asked.

Hanaa Al-Rafei, who has worked as a kindergarten teacher for five years, said that some parents see the teaching process entirely from their point of view. Al-Rafei said that some mothers feel that giving more homework to the students is the only way to make them study harder. "They refuse to accept the modern education system, which says that education should be about quality, not about making children repeat things like parrots," she said.

According to Abbas, some parents insist on keeping children with special needs in the same class as those without. "This can affect their children negatively and both mentally and emotionally," Abbas said.

If female teachers tend to be more patient in dealing with children and their parents, this is not always the case with male teachers. One of these is Ahmed Mansi, 29, who taught for one year and then quit because of difficulties with parents. "Many of them transfer their materialistic ways of thinking to the teaching process, and this can lead to an unhealthy relationship between the student and the teacher," he says.

Mansi remembers one situation when a student refused to obey the rules in class and concentrate during lessons, which made Mansi lose his temper and shout at him. When the father came to the school as a result of a letter from the administration, he said that his son should not be "insulted" as he was paying high school fees. "I told him that sending children to school should mean making them responsible for their work. If not, they should just go to the club instead," Mansi said.

Afaf Esmat, an expert who has spent 36 years in schools, said that the relationship between parents and teachers needs to be put on new foundations.

When Esmat started her career as an English teacher in the 1960s, parents used to treat teachers with respect, she said. An American University in Cairo graduate, she chose teaching out of a sense of the valuable work she could do in this career. "I still remember one of the parents I met in the school neighbourhood, and when I asked about his children he said that 'they kiss your hands'," a reference, Esmat feels, to the respect both students and parents felt for teachers at that time.

That father was a lawyer, and he was grateful for the way in which his children's teachers were raising them. However, such attitudes are rare today, having begun to change at the beginning of the last decade, Esmat says. According to her, both morals and behaviour have changed for the worse in society, and this has been true for parents as much as it has for other people.

"Parents feel that they can control teachers because of the fees they pay them for private lessons, especially when students deliver the money directly to the teacher," Esmat said. One day, she heard a father shouting at a teacher in front of his son to the effect that "I pay your salary."

"I have never tried to deal with such parents as a matter of self-respect," Esmat concluded. She said that a teacher's main requirement of parents should be that they follow up their children's work. If a child has severe behavioural problems, on the other hand, then parents should be more closely involved.

Frau Kobler, a German teacher who has been working in Egypt for some years, said that teachers at her school had just held a meeting and that they ended up with some points that teacher need to know about parents and vice versa.

First of all, parents are responsible for a child's concentration. They should give time for their children to sleep well, eat healthy food and enjoy their childhood. "It is not a must for kids to study every evening".

Secondly, there should be a common responsibility between parents and school regarding children. "Parents should build a bridge between students and school so they have to show interest in school activities and their self-development," Kobler added. According to Kobler, many teachers wish to better monitor their children at home and more cooperation from the parents other than giving them private lessons. "Parents preferably encourage their children to participate in school competitions".

Taking into consideration her experience, Kobler believes that parents should not ask their children to exert effort that exceeds their abilities. They should accept that every child is capable of doing things others cannot. "Children are not the same or equal in talents or effort". This means, according to Kobler, that children's grades should not be compared with each other. "Parents should create an atmosphere of fun while educating and positively encouraging their children," she added.

Parents should be aware that a child's personality does not appear in grades. "Parents should understand that marks do not reflect one's personality."

Teachers' tips

Teachers often give parents the following advice:

- Support your child, but don't

spoil him or her.

- Believe what your child tells you

and trust your child's teachers.

- Respect the rules of the school

your child goes to.

- Focus on your child's behaviour.

- Never gossip in front of your child.

- Discipline comes from the home

environment.

- Education means learning

and behaving well.

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