Principal’s Pen

I discovered this thought provoking blog on Facebook. It discusses the helplessness of many generation Y young people because the instant gratification of the digital age and the need for their parents to fight their battles for them. It talks of extreme cases where students who have been sent out of class by a teacher have texted parents to come down (sometimes with their lawyer) and sort out their teacher or parents pressuring teachers to push up students grades.

In New Zealand we may think that we are a bit protected from these extreme helicopter parents but the realities these issue are not isolated to the US or UK. Even in my time as a principal I have seen some amazing examples of the Gen Y influence. We once had a parent who came to look around our school to decide which school they will send their child. The parents were both very excited about what they saw and said they were keen to enrol. Then they decided they need to ask their four year old what she thought.

She said “It’s ok….” with a bit of a sad look on her face. The mum turned to me and said “She wants to go to another school because it has a better adventure playground.” The parents then spent the next five minutes pleading with the wee girl to change her mind but eventually gave in and apologised to me and said “Sorry, she’s got her heart set on the other school. To my horror they turned and walked out the door. Who was in charge?

When I was in Indonesia earlier in the year I visited a school right in the heart of a slum in Jakarta.  Even in this lawless and extremely poor area teachers and schooling is held in very high regard.

There was a waiting list for students to get into the school because parents saw schooling as an important opportunity for their kids. Right across Asia and in other high performing school systems like Finland schools and teachers are highly valued and there is a high trust model of education. Parents have faith that schools are doing their best for their students.

One of the issues in most English speaking western countries is that same high trust model doesn’t seem to exist. The end result is many parents feel they need to take a more hands-on approach in their child’s school. Community engagement in school is vital but fighting students battles over discipline or grades is another story.

So why has this occurred I think we can blame politics and the media. In our free democratic society education is a popular political football. Every three years the parties filter through the data and seek the agenda that will score the most vote. Usually the picture painted to the voters is negative and in need of some new political policy. Add to this teacher unions who tend to oppose most political agenda particularly if they come from a right wing party.

Unfortunately, picture the union paint of teachers is rather negative and at times makes us appear a pack of whingers! Of course all this is played out in the media supported by unhelpful commentary. It is no wonder that parents don’t have the faith in schools they should.The reality is schools are tremendously positive places where young people thrive as they learn. We need to celebrate that.

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