Parent responds: 20 things a secondary teacher wants to say to parents

A popular article on The Kids Are All Right website this week was 20 things a secondary teacher wants to say to parents. In writing this list, teacher Paul Whitehead said he understood that he’d be “opening the door for ’20 things parents want to say to their child’s teacher'”.

Challenge accepted! (In part.) Here I respond to some of Paul’s points.

1. I want to help your child – please trust me and empower me to move your child forward.

I definitely believe this of most teachers.

2. Read the school policy statements. You NEVER know when you need to know them.

Wow, what have I been missing? 50 Shades of Grey will have to wait. 🙂

3. Serve your child a good breakfast, pack a healthy lunch, stop excusing them from sports and leave the cola and energy drinks for the weekend. Nutrition and physical activity hugely impacts concentration and behaviour. PS – They could pack their own lunch and they could make their own breakfast.  PPS – They could pack your lunch now and then too.

Every week in our house there’s an argument about sport or PDHPE. I am sympathetic, as I was not particularly sporty at school either and have some really bad memories of that pummel horse. But when your sport options are ten pin bowling or splashing around in a pool with your friends, really, what is there to complain about?

She could pack her own lunch, but we’re still working on getting to school on time so, you know, baby steps. (School holidays, she’s TOTALLY making my lunch. Thanks for the tip!)

4. I didn’t give your child a “D” – I gave their work a D.

I’ll pay that.

5. As an English teacher – I BEG you. MAKE THEM READ! Read TO them when they are young. Buy them books/comics as much as you already buy them video/games based materials. When they get older, buy second-hand texts that will either SUPPLEMENT what they are currently learning OR model the kind of writing rigour they are expected to produce in essays, etc. My biggest recommendation? Put these materials in the toilet and change them regularly!

I like that he mentions comics. As one mum on our forum says:

“I keep reading articles by the experts that it doesn’t matter what your kids are reading as long as they’re reading. I thought of this the other day when my son was reading the Special K box.”

8. I ask this question of teachers too – Should we reward children for things that they should be doing anyway?

Maybe just with some positive reinforcement? Such as, “good on you for doing your homework without me having to mention it”.

10. Your child is just like you were at their age. Your child’s version of class events, homework due dates, behaviour and attendance; reflect this similarity. If you were a perfect child and you don’t know what I am talking about – please speak to your partner /spouse.

You mean, the teacher is not an idiot, homework dates are given in advance, my child’s behaviour was out of line, and the teachers do care if kids are late to school? Yep, I learned to apply critical thinking to my kids’ version of events a long time ago.

11. Your child’s education will be negatively impacted if you continue taking two-week holidays during school time because it’s cheaper to buy Bali tickets in the off-peak time.

Guilty as charged. But it was only that one trip to Bali, our first full family holiday ever. And that special visit to family in the US. And that week we went skiing when she was in year 5. And now I sound like a rich jerk. I swear I’m neither.

12. Be involved wherever possible. Read the diary, read the blog, read the school newsletter, know the examination timetable. Ask me how you can help in my class – but only if you’ve done the other things first.

I do read all these things, but just for pleasure. My daughter would stab herself in the eye if she thought I was going to volunteer in her classroom.

14. If you are visiting the school to see me – GREAT. Please make a time. I don’t want to be rude when you “talk to me at the classroom door” but when I am talking to you during teaching time, I have my back to 30 children.

I’d never dream of knocking on the classroom door. I feel the same way about people arriving at my front door unannounced. And as per the above: my daughter, a stabby thing, her eye.

15. Stop doing your child’s homework for them. I know it is tempting to do some “creative scribing” and editing. I know you want them to do well. BUT … I know it’s your work because they can’t replicate it in class. If you keep doing it – I will embarrass you by asking you to stop. It is OK to let them fail.

I find it very hard to read any writing without subbing it – I’m annoying helpful like that. And that goes for homework as well. I talk my daughter through my suggested changes, and hopefully I’m part of her education. My intention is not to change or perfect her writing.

16. If you’re allowing your child to use technology – YOU have the GREATEST power and responsibility as the gatekeeper – please exercise this power. Letting them have free rein and saying you “aren’t tech-savy” is like sitting in the backseat when your 17-year-old commences driving lessons with your car.

I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to not understand computers, social networking or the Internet, but I know those parents do exist. I really feel for them, because some people get a real mental block about technology. But I believe at the very least parents should be on Facebook themselves and preferably be their child’s ‘friend’ to understand what it is their teens are doing for all those hours behind their closed bedroom door.

18. Please don’t ask me to be your FACEBOOK FRIEND until after your child has left the school. Please don’t visit my home, phone me at home or send mail to my personal home or email address. BUT do write to my school email, leave me a message to ring you back or arrange a time to get together.

Facebook friends with your kids’ teachers? I’m beginning to suspect Mr Whitehead has met some helicopter parents in his time. I knew these in primary school, not in high school, but here’s evidence they don’t grow out of it.

20. You know your child – I DO want to know what motivates them, what their interests are, what might be “eating them” at the moment, a little of your family situation and of course any challenges or medical conditions that need attention. Please don’t leave vital information for me to discover after three months. I only have a small window before they potentially move on to another teacher.

Mr Whitehead, you sound like a very caring teacher and I hope my kids have many like you in their time at school.

Read all of teacher Paul Whitehead’s message to parents here.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your child’s teacher?

To Sir With Love, but I'm never going to be your Facebook friend

To Sir With Love, but I’m never going to be your Facebook friend



  1. i think the whole FB friends with your kids teacher scares me…. a little. Just a little.

    I enjoyed this post – and your response made me giggle 🙂

    Lyndal recently posted..if its not personal, why is it happening to me?My Profile

  2. Wow, that’s a really interesting approach from a teacher. I think I would really appreciate such honesty!

    As for the off season holidays, it’s not for the cheaper tickets – it’s to get away from the crowds of bogans! 😉
    Kim-Marie recently posted..Holiday Movies: Ice Age 4 and BraveMy Profile

    • Thekids says:

      Well, as we returned from Bali with Bintang stubby holders, I won’t be throwing any stones from this glass house 🙂

  3. These responses are hilarious! I had to giggle at your trip to Bali, USA and the skiing trip. You rich jerk! 😉
    And FB friend? Seriously?!!
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  4. Loved both articles. Thanks for sharing. Visiting from IBOT.
    Emily recently posted..Don’t order furniture for your house while renovatingMy Profile

  5. This was great, thank you. I was giggle the whole time. Rachel x
    Rachel from Redcliffe Style recently posted..I must resist….My Profile

  6. My eldest is in 3 so this is a long way off for me but I could still relate to a lot of it. This is an excellent article. Totally spot on.
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  7. Our school is really good when it comes to mid term holidays. The idea is that family time is just a necessary part of education as schooling is, and if that comes at a lower cost and with less stress to the family, that is a good thing!
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  8. 50 Shades of Grey cannot wait. But all the other points really rang true. After working for teachers for 5 years I can tell you that big brick wall between teachers and parents need to be pulled down, definitely not to the extent of being FB friends but much more communication is needed. Also I’m a big believer in encouraging reading with your kids. If they see you reading a lot they will be naturally drawn to it too, be it books or newspapers (I don’t really think looking at celebrity mags counts as reading, but that might be just me). And find out what’s on your kids’ FB page – it can be enlightening reading your 13 yr old daughter’s online conversations, once you get past all the “wassups”, “heys” and “totes”.
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    • Thekids says:

      I’m struggling to get past the 3rd chapter – so you’re telling me to persevere? I totally agree with you about the communication. My teen has been to two high schools, and their levels of communication could not have been more different. It makes me wonder if schools – principals, teachers – understand how much we value communication and transparency?

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with number 5 – read, read, read. I’m happy to spend money on books anytime over junk food or a visit to a cafe.

    As for #11 and #14 I don’t agree with him. #11 an overseas holiday is going to be just as educational as two weeks in lower primary school (if not more educational). #14 I’m glad my child’s teacher has an open door policy and we often sit in on 15 minutes of class. I understand not interrupting with a lengthy conversation, but I love the idea of being able to drop in any time.

    As for 50 Shades? lol I guess I’ll have to put it down to read the school policies too 😉
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    • Thekids says:

      Thanks for the comments Kim. I think the attitude towards to holidays during the school term changes from primary to high school. I never had any push back from the school in the primary years, but it gets harder in high school when it gets more serious and you miss assignments and exams etc. And I don’t know why this is, but parents being part of the classroom is also much more common, and encouraged, in primary school compared with high school. Like I said, most teens would rather die than have their parents present, so that probably has a lot to do with it! But that is something I miss, being more in touch with the school and her school work.

  10. I love Mr Whiteheads points and think they are insightful, a lot of parents would do well to read them and I love your comments regarding them, with 2 teenage daughters I understand the stabbing themselves in the eye thing all too well.
    We have always encouraged reading from a young age, especially considering I am a voracious reader and hubby not so much. My grandfather will read anything with words including the cereal box and the phone book. It’s not about what you read it’s about making it habit and practising that habit.
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    • Thanks for your comments Peta – glad you get the teen girl thing! (I’m sure they love us very much 🙂 )

  11. I’m involved in things at my children’s school now, but I really don’t think they will want me too involved when they hit high school! He certainly does sound like a caring teacher, and one that I can only hope for as my kids go through their schooling years.
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