Private school teachers are being stalked to their homes during the weekend and harassed via email and SMS by helicopter parents anxious about their children's homework.
A Queensland University of Technology study of nearly 900 parents whose children attend an independent or Catholic school found those who tended to overparent had greater expectations that teachers would be responsible for their child completing homework. These expectations of teachers rose as the child moved through school.
"Teachers were seen as falling short in their actual responsibility in the higher grades," researcher Judith Locke
Ms Locke said overly involved parents could be too invested in their child's academic achievements, "which may result in excessive emotional reactions if the academic expectations are not fulfilled", and a tendency to blame the school for their child's failings.
Teachers increasingly report unreasonable homework expectations from parents. One father, on learning his son did not know what homework he had to complete that weekend, went to the apartment building where he knew the teacher lived. He rang every bell until he found the teacher on a Sunday afternoon and demanded the homework details for his son.
"It shows a real inability of the parent to accept the consequences for the child," Ms Locke said. "Instead, it was the teacher's responsibility to take time out of their weekend [and explain the homework]."
As children progressed through school, they should be taking more responsibility for their academic work, and the adults in their lives should be taking less, Ms Locke said. "That doesn't appear to be happening."
"In days of old, parents would say to the child 'why aren't you doing your homework'. Now they're much more likely to say to the school 'what are you doing about it?'" Ms Locke said.
Helicopter parents were less likely to approve the school giving consequences to students who had not completed their work.
To manage parental expectations, some schools have introduced "continuous reporting", where parents can log on to a website at any time to see tasks set, due dates, and the grades their children receive for assignments, rather than wait for the end-of-semester report to gauge their child's progress.
Independent Education Union acting secretary Gloria Taylor said parental scrutiny of teachers was escalating, spurred by the use of email and texts.
"People feel they can expect an instant response from a teacher if they contact them out of hours," she said. "They aren't very reasonable about that ... There is no doubt that those people expect teachers to be on call or do a lot of work that probably could be done at home."
Private schools said some parents had high expectations of the teachers and their child's academic achievement because of the fees they were paying.
"They're making a particular financial commitment; perhaps their expectations are unrealistic," Ms Taylor said. "The fact you are paying more doesn't necessarily mean you can put someone in a place they're not necessarily going to go."
Australian Primary Principals Association president Dennis Yarrington said children who took responsibility for their own homework learnt how to manage their time and workload and set priorities.
"These are all life skills parents want kids to learn," he said. "I know parents want to help their kids, but just stop and think 'am I teaching them to take responsibility for their learning?'."
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This is why I don't like homework and why an increasing number of teachers opt out of it. It is too often used to:
Give the impression that the school is 'old school style' tough on kids!
Cover large swaths of the curriculum that can't be covered in class time ( 'Do chapter 6 at home because we will start chapter 7 next week ....or after the holidays)
Create a selling point for some parents who think completing that page full of 'soldier sums' will give their child 'the edge'.
For all those parents who want homework there seems to be just as many who don't and chasing up overdue and 'lost' homework and dealing with parents who resent it is just as onerous.
I don't mind a 'holistic homework' that includes things like playing a board game with your family, making your bed, reading to a younger sibling, learning your tables or explaining to your parents a concept you learnt at school. Some kids like this but some don't . Few like regimented homework and I think the jury is still out on whether that makes kids better organised with their learning or not. I think liking school and enjoying what they do at school makes children enjoy learning and become life long learners. Five hours a week per subject of homework like a private school friend of my daughter had over the summer holidays doesn't make you a keener learner....in fact she hardly did any of it! I think it is better to focus on making school time a more worthwhile and happy experience. I think that makes children hungry to learn and do extra to achieve their goals.
As far as 'helicopter parents' I think we all have experiences with those whether it is state or private, pre-school, primary or secondary.
Hooray 64000 views.