When parent support is too much

By Greg Whitby, 18 September 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

We get information in very different ways from how we used to. When I was at school, the go-to sources for facts and figures were teachers and textbooks. Libraries were also different places. I remember my train treks into Sydney University’s Fisher Library to search for information on my HSC assignments. In the world of Wikipedia, the same information is accessible on a smartphone!

Having information available anytime and from anywhere has changed for the better the way we live and learn. It has also made it easier for parents to support their children with their learning. The question that arises a lot, however, is ‘How much parent help is too much?’

There is a story that does the rounds about a parent ringing up their child’s school to complain about the teacher’s feedback on an assessment. The parent feels that the outcome should have been better. The teacher explains the reason for the assessment result to which the parent replies: ‘But I put so much time into it!’

Parents just want the best for their child, and can feel the pressure for them to do well. So many of the public measures of learning success are about test scores and league tables, ratings and rankings, and comparisons between students and schools.

Parents have a very important role in supporting their child’s learning. Support can mean different things: it can be about sharing ideas or testing new ones, asking questions, providing feedback and encouraging them to be discerning with the information they find (just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s correct!). And it also means staying endlessly interested in everything they are learning.

Virgin founder Richard Branson said: “You learn by doing and by falling over.” There might be something in that. He seemed to do okay.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


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