Is it ever OK for parents to use social media to express their frustrations with a school?
I have to hold my hand up and admit to doing this, but it was a last resort. Nobody was listening. Communication works both ways and when a school says that you can pop in for a chat with a teacher or the head, that is great – but only if they listen.
Rightly or wrongly social media is often a way to be heard. It is a tool when used positively is quick, easy and public. But this is also true when it is used in frustration. If you want to avoid this at your school
- Be authentically true to your core beliefs
- Show your values don’t just say them
During the autumn term of 2016 I had multiple ‘chats’ with more than one member of staff about wanting to know the date of my daughters Christmas performances. I personally think that this sort of planning should be done at the beginning of the school year so parents can book time off work to support their children and the school. We got well into late November and still no dates were set. I am a self employed musician and my diary was beginning to fill up with performances and I wanted to keep the school performance date free. It is very important to me. I know life can be short and I want to share in my daughter’s successes and achievements. I eventually had to make the decision without a confirmed school date. I made an educated guess and turned down nearly £1000 as we made alternative decisions about how my wife and I would work over this period.
I guessed wrong (an expensive mistake) but luckily I was free on the day that was eventually confirmed. I’m sure the school has no idea of the impact their way of organising themselves has on others. They can’t if they don’t listen. There is a lot of rhetoric about community and working together but actions often show the reality clearer than words.
My use of twitter in this case was only to show how disappointed I was that having spoken to the school, no action or positive reply was forthcoming.
What happens when you show positivity?
I have had many detailed chats with the headteacher about education and I have previously fallen for the rhetoric I heard. Last summer I supported them by offering half a day of music for 10 weeks. At the end of the term I asked on multiple occasions for a time to discuss and assess what had been achieved. They were too busy to fit this in – well the school is expanding with new building work going on. However new buildings don’t make a school, people do and this is very clearly put by Janice Mardell in my podcast episode 003 which you can listen to here.
What is heartbreaking is that I offered this help because a visitor to the school had previously said that the school obviously wasn’t very musical. This was so sad because when I was first involved with the school, music was at it’s heart. But headteachers have come and gone and staff have changed. As a result there is no orchestra or ensemble for my daughter to perform in. Her horn lessons have no immediate focus in school, in fact all of her skills and abilities are given to her by clubs and opportunities we pay for outside of the curriculum!
The meeting I was proposing last summer was going to result in me offering my services as a professional musician and educator for one day a week for a year – free of charge – to support music and the creative curriculum. I wanted to do this for my daughter and her friends using the skills I have.
However without a meeting I couldn’t offer my help and arranged my work diary to fit my other obligations that I did know about.
The real sadness for me is that the opportunity was there. During the 10 weeks last summer the pupils got to know me, I was stopped in the street by them to say hello. One of the children of an assistant headteacher was in my class and I was told how much her son had enjoyed it.
Until now I have not used social media to express my feeling about this particular situation, but I wonder if seeing it in a blog will be seen as supportive or negative? Feedback is important to schools and this is a way I can deliver it that will be seen and heard by all.
While I want Education on Fire to be positive I also want you to know I understand the frustrations that you can encounter as a teacher or educator. My frustration was both as a parent and educator. My daughter’s school weren’t listening to me and as a result I couldn’t offer my help and support.
What do you do in that situation? Do what you can. I have devoted even more time working on Education on Fire and finding examples of great things that are going on in schools to set your imaginations racing!
You can listen to all my podcasts at www.educationonfire.com/episodes/