‚ÄúF**K this,‚ÄĚ screams a furious parent at a NSW primary school teacher. He wants his seven-year-old child‚Äôs grade pushed from a D up to a C.
‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre going to speak like that, this meeting is over,‚ÄĚ snaps back the principal, who was sitting in on the meeting to support one of his teachers.
‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre not happy then there‚Äôs a school down the road that you can go to, we don‚Äôt need people like you here.‚ÄĚ
Most people would struggle with being spoken to like that but for many Australian teachers it‚Äôs all in a day‚Äôs work, listening to parents making outrageous demands.
The NSW teacher, who spoke to news.com.au on the condition of anonymity, said she‚Äôd been threatened by parents with affidavits and legal action and screamed at in front of her class of children ‚ÄĒ all in less than one school year.
The teacher said her meeting with the swearing dad had kicked off with an angry email in which he questioned her ability.
‚ÄúObviously there isn‚Äôt (sic) competent teachers at this school,‚ÄĚ he wrote.
Things came to a head when the father walked into the meeting and let loose with a string of expletives ‚ÄĒ eventually explaining his fury came from not wanting his daughter‚Äôs life ‚Äúto end up like mine‚ÄĚ.
The truck driver dad is just one of the types of parents schoolteachers are being forced to deal with ‚ÄĒ all while trying to do their actual job of educating children.
The teacher comments come as the principal of an elite Sydney private school hit back at parents who crossed the line, warning them he‚Äôd expel their kids if they didn‚Äôt ‚Äúchill‚ÄĚ.
Beth Blackwood, CEO of the Association of Heads of ¬≠Independent Schools of Australia, supported Dr Collier‚Äôs decision to take on the parents at St Andrew‚Äôs Cathedral School.
‚ÄúIt was courageous, he called it out,‚ÄĚ Ms Blackwood said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm delighted to see everyone is supporting his letter, including parents from the school.‚ÄĚ
In his newsletter, Dr Collier warned parents he could ban them from entering school grounds if they continued to ‚Äúverbally abuse, physically threaten or shout‚ÄĚ at staff members.
The Sydney principal also reminded parents, who pay up to $30,000 to send their kids to the prestigious school, they weren‚Äôt entitled to making any demands.
‚ÄúI am aware some parents, because they are paying fees, see the relationship with teachers as a master/servant relationship, such that they are entitled to make extravagant demands,‚ÄĚ he wrote.
Ms Blackwood, who was a school principal in Perth for almost two decades, said she‚Äôd noticed a definite shift in the involvement parents wanted in their child‚Äôs school life.
‚ÄúThe reaction from parents is definitely more heightened than it has been in the past. There is a growing number of parents who aren‚Äôt respectful and they behave in a way that can only be described as harassment,‚ÄĚ she said.
Ms Blackwood conceded parents ‚ÄĒ like the truck driver dad ‚ÄĒ were becoming increasingly worried their children would not find employment when they left school ‚ÄĒ and were shifting the stress onto their children and teachers.
‚ÄúThey want the best for their kids but there‚Äôs a raft of research that proves the overbearing doesn‚Äôt help, it‚Äôs not healthy,‚ÄĚ she said.
‚ÄúHelicopter parenting is not helping children. It doesn‚Äôt help them find their sense of self, improve their autonomy or resilience.‚ÄĚ
The NSW teacher involved in the screaming match with the dad told news.com.au she had recently received a phone call from a sobbing mother who had been told by her five-year-old he had no friends.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve had a lot of tears this year ‚ÄĒ from parents ‚ÄĒ about their kindergarten kids. They‚Äôre anxious about everything. One mum called me last week and said her kid has been coming home for the past two days saying they have no one to play with,‚ÄĚ the teacher said.
‚ÄúI tried to assure her the kid was in his first week of school ‚ÄĒ we were two days in ‚ÄĒ but she asked me, ‚ÄėI don‚Äôt know what to do, should we move schools?‚Äô‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI told her, ‚Äėthey‚Äôre in kindergarten, we‚Äôre building their social skills, this is where they‚Äôre learning how to socialise with others‚Äô.
‚ÄúThey just take whatever their child says and think that‚Äôs exactly how it is. It probably didn‚Äôt even happen like that and it just puts extra work on us so now I‚Äôve had to monitor that kid this week and I‚Äôve had to go to the playground every lunch break ‚ÄĒ the only time I have to eat food myself ‚ÄĒ to see who this child is playing with so on Friday when I have a meeting with her, I can tell her if he looked happy,‚ÄĚ she said.
This constant monitoring of children‚Äôs emotional states is another responsibility foisted on teachers, she said.
Ms Blackwood said parents‚Äô ability to reach out to teachers directly through email had only made things worse.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre so accessible now and it just adds to the social pressures and anxiety teachers face. Parents want access to teachers and they want it now,‚ÄĚ Ms Blackwood said.
Her opinion was backed up by the NSW teacher who said an increasing number of schools were being forced to implement email policies so parent had to go through the school office first with teachers given 48 hours to respond.
‚ÄúLast year I was emailed by a parent at 10pm as I was going to sleep. The next morning, at 8.15am when I was setting up things for the day, she came into my classroom and abused me and asked why I hadn‚Äôt answered straight away,‚ÄĚ she said.
Another teacher, who works at a high school in the northern NSW, said she had received an email from the parent of a Year 10 student warning the school to stop studying Shakespeare‚Äôs Macbeth. Her reason? ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs too violent and it‚Äôs making them become violent‚ÄĚ.
The NSW primary school teacher was also recently accused of falsifying an eight-year-old‚Äôs attendance records because his mum wasn‚Äôt getting him to school on time.
After telling the boy to get yet another late note to account for his late arrival, the teacher was confronted by the child‚Äôs mother in front of her whole class.
‚ÄúShe ran into my classroom and in front of my whole class of seven-year-olds says: ‚ÄėHere‚Äôs your bloody late note‚Äô and was screaming at me in front of all these kids and having a go at me for making him go and get legitimate late notes.‚ÄĚ
Eventually the school‚Äôs lawyers had to get involved and the mother was informed she needed to get her child to school on time.
After Dr Collier‚Äôs scathing newsletter, some parents at St Andrews spoke to The Australian, wholeheartedly supporting the principal.
‚ÄúPeople need to understand that they don‚Äôt own a teacher simply by paying fees,‚ÄĚ one parent said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just rubbish.‚ÄĚ
Dr Collier spoke on the Daily Telegraph‚Äôs Miranda Live last night where he again urged parents to ‚Äúget some perspective‚ÄĚ.
‚ÄúThese matters are often a small discipline issue or a bad grade but these parents represent that issue as the end of the world to their child,‚ÄĚ Dr Collier said.
‚ÄúWhat I urge them to do is get some perspective and to keep these things in proportion because the schooling journey is 13 years and it‚Äôs not good to, as one would say, sweat the small stuff rather than take the long view.‚ÄĚ