parent opinion

'Teachers already have demanding jobs. So why do we expect them to send us daily updates of our kids?'

My grandmother started teaching preschool in 1974.

Back then, she wasn’t responsible for providing daily updates to parents. No one was. 

"We would verbally share a simple sentence or two at pickup, but we weren’t taking notes or even answering phone calls from parents during the day.

"That just wasn’t allowed," she told me over the phone when the subject of technology in the classroom came up. 

"We were laser focused on the children. That, on its own, is a full-time job. I can’t imagine having to do much more than that."

Watch: The weirdest things our kids have done. Post continues after video. 


Video via Mamamia.

Now, of course, they had lesson plans and monthly newsletters to complete. When she became the Centre Director later in life, that would become one of her many responsibilities. 

"But it was all quite broad communication. Maybe a paragraph or two about what we were focusing on the next month and a few sentences on how parents could tackle the next developmental stages at home. Nothing too fancy."

In short, she recapped, "The parents trusted us."

My mother started as a teacher's assistant two decades later, in the early 90s. Back then, the teachers still didn’t provide daily or even weekly written updates to parents. 

"We spoke to them every day when they picked their kids up, naturally, but nothing too substantial," my mother told me.

"'Sean had a great day. Everything’s going fine.' Simple stuff like that."

But they weren’t totally left in the dark. 

According to my mum, there was a master chart that parents could physically check each day to see when their child slept or how much they ate. 

"We’d become close with the teachers and if there was an issue or a highlight worth discussing, it was always shared with us."

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"Did you want more information from them?" I asked on that very same phone call, watching as she squished side-by-side with my grandmother to fit into the tiny FaceTime screen. 

"If I needed to understand more about, say, your toilet training, I would just talk to the teachers. Remember, we didn’t have cell phones back then with cameras on them. We didn’t expect to have constant access to our children like parents do now, because it wasn’t possible."

There it was. The sentence that would stick in mind as we said our goodbyes and even this morning as I packed my boy-girl twins into the car to take them to preschool: "We didn’t expect to have constant access to our children like parents do now."

She’s right, isn’t she? Somewhere along the way, from 1972 to 2022, things changed drastically. And while it might be easy to point the finger and blame technology, I reckon it’s much deeper than that. And by "deeper", I mean, "I reckon it’s our fault."

Being a teacher, at the very best of times, is an extremely challenging job. Students' needs are complex, learning is difficult, and each child grows at their own unique pace.

Teachers have to plan and develop lessons, implement assessments, research new teaching methods, manage the classroom, engage in activities, decorate the rooms, purchase supplies (often with their own money), obtain and re-obtain relevant certifications, deal with colleagues and, yes, provide updates to needy parents. And that’s just on Monday morning before midday.

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So why are we expecting - nay, demanding - that they provide us with daily updates on our children?

Are we all living in a constant state of fear that we don’t know exactly what our children are doing?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love getting updates from our preschool as much as the next parent. I’m just like everyone else, accidentally addicted to the access. I, too, feverishly swipe with anticipation when the emails arrive and scroll quickly through the daily photo album to find my two children. I delight in knowing how they’re doing and who they’re playing with. 

And I benefit greatly from knowing what activities they engage in each day, mostly because my children are wading slowly through the "I did nothing today" developmental phase. *insert eye roll*

I want it. But do I really NEED it?

Because after talking to my mum and grandmother this weekend, who seemed a bit shocked at the level of communication me and my friends receive each week, I started to wonder: are we moving in the right direction?

Ask yourself, is this level of access for us or for our children? Is it making our child’s experience during the day better? Is it making us better parents? Or better yet, is this communication expectation making our teachers better?

I’d argue that the answers are "no, ma'am", "nah" and "hell to the no". I reckon the more access we have as parents, the more we expect it. 

When it was once part of the standard parenting experience to drop your children off at school and disconnect for a few hours from your role as mum or dad, now we’re unable to log off because we’re always looped in.

We’re constantly picking up our phones to check the app and look for an update, making it harder and harder to focus on the endless list of tasks - personal and professional - on our to-do lists. And what happens when we lose that access as they get older or the teachers skip a day of daily communication? Do we all become anxious helicopter parents desperate for the information that is rightfully ours? Okay, that’s a *slight* exaggeration. But you get the point.

Technology is a scary and beautiful gift for any modern parent. Besides providing us with a portable distraction box that makes parenting a whole heck of a lot easier, these magical devices also allow us to have access to people (in this case, our tiny humans and their teachers) when we’re far apart. 

If they get injured at school, we’re just a short phone call away. If there’s a clothing drive, just pop another message in the parenting portal. And if the kids make a mud pie, record a video and ship it off to the parents in real-time.

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I reckon, cautiously (because I’m afraid of being screamed at for even thinking this), that somewhere along the way, things have gotten out of hand. Who decided that a teacher needs to double as a photographer? And when are they fitting in all this time to draft up these beautiful updates?

Listen to This Glorious Mess, a weekly look at parenting as it truly is: confusing, exhausting, inspiring, funny, and full of surprises. Post continues after audio. 


Am I the only one who feels like they have enough on their plate, especially as they’ve had to power through two (going on three) years of difficult pandemic teaching?

I’ve heard all the arguments before: 

"We’re paying a lot of money, we deserve updates" and "It's important to manage first-time parents' nervous energy" and "It forces the teachers to keep the days packed with fun activities" or even "It’s just the teacher’s job now".

But at what cost?

I obviously don’t have the answers. I’m just a passionate parent, raised by two generations of passionate teachers, who is sitting in his living room asking himself a simple question: Would I rather have a daily update of what my four-year-old twins did today, or would I be happier knowing that their teachers were able to spend more quality time with them because they weren’t being pressured to constantly communicate with us? 

I imagine that most parents (and teachers) would choose the latter. I know that there’s a happy medium somewhere; a gorgeous balance that leaves parents feeling informed and teachers with enough time and space to do their job and spend time with our children. 

I know that we can survive with (and even benefit from) having less access, forcing us to cope with the distance schooling provides and verbally communicate more with the staff during school drop-off and pickup each day.

But in my circle of friends, that perfect balance simply isn’t being achieved. Not yet, at least. And I’m just a little bit worried that we’re so hungry for access that schools are only a few angry emails away from installing live-streaming cameras in every preschool so that parents can sit back and watch their children play all day long.

It’s a world that my grandmother and mum simply can’t imagine. But sadly, as a parent of the Access Generation (I made that up, so don’t Google it), I can see it clear as day. Because in many ways, I’m already living it in.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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