Diary of a schoolteacher: how to read the riot act to complacent parents
This year's first parents' night has just passed off without incident, which is a bad thing. What is the point if nobody actually says anything that will make a difference?
I've seen the odd parent, sweating in their overcoat, twitching and shifting in their chair as Mr Prince goes through a litany of offences committed so far this term, but even he knows that after a week or so, Kylie will be back to her old nasty self in class again.
The problem is that schools have become as banal and toothless as the rest of the nation's institutions. It's all Nescafe and digestives when it should be fire and brimstone.
First of all, we should take the initiative in setting the tone by playing the right music from speakers placed on the front of the building so that we set the scene as they arrive at the school. Just one song will do the trick -- the Manic Street Preachers' 'If you tolerate this, your children will be next'. Play it over and over so that they get the message.
Some schools allow parents to bring the child in question with them and some of them will bring the whole brood with them -- this must be stopped.
Teachers are there to read the riot act to the complacent and get revenge, not broker deals. A parent should return from a meeting seething and hell-bent on clearing the family name.
Parents with a score to settle -- because Ciaran didn't get an A in his Junior Cert or Sarah said you never gave back that assignment in September -- need to be reminded who is the expert here and who is the attention seeker.
Once they're in, every teacher must be determined not to waste this golden opportunity to confront these people with their child's evil-doing.
Make sure tea is served by the worst example of a filthy down-and-out alcoholic bum to have left the school, so that parents who tell their kids that they don't need French/Irish/religion/CSPE/ whatever can have a chat with him and he can tell them how he wished he had worked in school. If you can't find one, employ an actor.
If they start pontificating about your teaching style or some incident in class, tell them with your best concerned face that: "Mrs O'Brien, if you believe everything your kid tells you about school, then I'll have to start believing everything he tells me about home . . ."
If you're in that kind of school, you might want to point out to Mrs O'Thugarty that having six children by six different fathers is generally a bad idea. Have you tried contraception?
On the other hand, Mrs Courtauld, it's great that your make-up is impeccable, your hair is magnificent and that dress is sensational -- and all after a busy day at the office, but why does your Fintan never have a coat or a book or even a clean face?
Still, at least these are the ones who actually bother to turn up.