Teaching & the Power Struggle

Teaching & the Power Struggle





I heard them fall.

Momentarily, it distracted me from the target group I was teaching to multiply 2 digit by 2 digit numbers.

I gazed around the room with that expert teacher scan. The quick glance down at his desk told me I’d found the culprit.

‘What did you just do?’

‘He’s been flicking paper clips Miss’.

‘Have you?’ I raised my eyebrows and waited.

Eventually, after an awkward few moments of waiting, the nod confirmed it.

‘Can you pick them up now please? At playtime I’d like you to stay in and tidy the rest of our classroom floor. If you wouldn’t do it in your own home we don’t expect you to do it here.’


Problem solved. Or so I thought… I hadn’t realised those raised eyebrows were about to get me in a bit of hot water.


I don’t run a dictatorship in the classroom. Gone are the days of ruling by fear. We very much have a democracy. We vote, we ask questions and we discuss. However, I am very much the manager and occasionally –  I make decisions to keep everything ship shape. Decisions for things like – flicking paper clips on the floor means a lack of respect for our classroom, fitting punishment = tidy the classroom.

Only it would seem at times the parents don’t agree. In this situation, the parent of the child in question arrived at school the next day livid. I mean livid. ‘It wasn’t an appropriate punishment’ she said (shouted). ‘Why should he miss his playtime’ she said (yelled).
I explained all of my reasons – and then stood my ground. I refused to budge, and I felt the power struggle that I’ve felt for the last 6 years. The lack of respect for the decisions we make and the job we do.

The power struggle in the classroom is real. Trying to educate 30 ten year olds to the standard the new curriculum asks us to is hard. Keeping the parents informed and up to date is hard. Being ten in this day and age is hard. However, being questioned every time we make decisions about how we run a class is harder.
I’m a parent myself, I understand how important our children are. When H comes home and tells me she’s been put on the yellow traffic light because she refused to tidy up and prefers to dance to the tidy up music. I feel for her, she’s young, she didn’t realise, but she needs to learn. Life is full of consequences, it’s part of what we learn as we grow up.

There are times when I’ve had discussions with parents in an open and honest manner and it’s been amazingly beneficial. They know their own children better than anyone, that knowledge is invaluable. However, it seems this profession has become one where it’s ‘ok’ for parents to question staff in an aggressive manner.


As usual, I googled it – Google is your friend- what was the best thing to do? I got this ‘It doesn’t matter how off base you think they are, how rude they behave, or how badly you’d like to tell them to take a hike. You have the power to keep your cool, address their concerns with class, and turn their anger into enthusiastic support.‘ Actually – that’s wrong. It does matter.

I don’t go to work to be told ‘I’m pathetic’, or that ‘I don’t have the right…’.

The balance of power in the classroom is shifting and I’m pushing back.






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