From the Principal

Power, influence and authority, and who gets yelled at…

Researchers have observed Primary School teachers and noted that, on average, they made at least 1,500 decisions a day. That comes out to about 4 decisions a minute given six hours of class time.

Sometimes some of these decisions are not going to be popular. Even when the decision is the right one, there is every chance the teacher is going to be questioned by someone. Sometimes the way that the decision is questioned can be problematic.

Teachers and administrative staff are the frontline in education and like many frontline staff they can find themselves on the end of an angry tirade.

“One of the most annoying parts of being a frontline staff member and also one of the most necessary parts is dealing with irate customers. Sometimes customers just aren’t easy to handle. Frontline staff encounter difficult customer service situations every day, the most challenging of which is handling irate customers. Some of these angry customers vent out their anger by yelling and threatening your frontline staff.”

As a school leader, in concert with the School Executive and leaders, I get to make a fair number of policy and procedural decisions.  We, as school leaders, also have the responsibility of making sure that staff follow a multitude of laws and regulations that govern the education process. 

Like all schools, ours must be compliant with laws and regulations as well as upholding its own rules and standards.

Privacy laws, Duty of Care, School attendance requirements, financial reporting, NESA registration, WHS Legislation, Working With Children checks and Mandatory Reporting are just a few of the important things that have to be considered in any decision, process or action a school takes.

Sometimes following these requirements can cause delays, limit information, require paperwork and be just outright annoying!

Unfortunately, when annoyance strikes it is often those who have no say in setting policy or regulation who have to bear the brunt of the anger, irritation or even violence that comes from doing their job.

Almost every Australian teacher has been bullied by students or their parents, and it’s taking a toll.The Conversation, May 6, 2019.

Teachers are bullied daily by parents and students. They experience the kind of harassment that would be deemed unacceptable in most workplaces. But, in the case of teachers, such treatment is often dismissed as par for the course. Nearly 60% of teachers reported experiencing at least one incident of bullying and harassment by parents in the last 12 months. The most common were parents verbally disparaging a teacher (15.2%), yelling (14.4%) and arguing on their child’s behalf (13.4%).

Female teachers bore the brunt of parental abuse (nearly 60%, compared to 41% for male teachers).

Bullying and harassment have a considerable impact on teachers. Respondents in our survey reported severe repercussions for their mental health and well-being. A number of teachers said they were suffering symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD, including panic attacks and uncontrollable shaking.

Around 83% of respondents who we interviewed disclosed a desire to leave the profession due to teacher-targeted student and parental bullying.

It is perhaps indicative of an issue in our society that it is women teachers who appear to bear the greatest amount of parent anger.

“It’s not just the culture of violence against our teachers that concerns me, it’s the fact that this behaviour signposts a culture of self entitlement and blame – where an entire generation are being conditioned to believe that other people are somehow responsible for their achievement. Don’t beat yourself up about your poor performance, when you can go and beat up someone else.” Mandy Nolan, Mamamia, 2016

Thankfully, compared to other schools, this is less likely to happen at St Columba, but it does happen.

We know we are not perfect and that we can make mistakes but if you feel aggrieved or angry about a school decision or process, please take your concern to the people who set the policy or created the rule, rather than take it out on the first person you speak to at the school.

Some things to remember when you feel the School is in the wrong and you need to express your concern:

  • The school has a duty to protect its staff from bullying, harassment etc and will fulfill its legal and regulatory obligations.
  • If a staff member feels threatened by your demeanour, they have the right to terminate the conversation, phone call etc.
  • If we “get it wrong” we will try to make it right.
  • If you don’t feel satisfied with the response you receive first up, don’t yell or threaten, take your concern “further up the line.”
  • Remember that the School has a Code of Conduct for parents/guardians and will act if it is breached.

Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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