Our Education Expert Ciara McGuane from Rahoo.ie talks about how to encourage your child to be positive about school if you had a negative school experience yourself.
Our days are centred around school – we spent the best part of our days there when we were children, and now our children do. It can seem like school is where children spend most of their time.
Whereas in reality, it is a proportion of their day – approximately one-third of their weekdays and does not feature in their weekend schedules. The vast majority of your child’s time is spent with you or another caregiver. Which means the influence you have on your child is greater than any teacher or school.
With this in mind, it is important for you to understand how your own school experiences can have an effect on your own child’s experience of school, as research suggests that there may be strong links from one generation to the next in relation to their view and feelings about school, and the outcomes their children might achieve (Kaplan et al., 2004; Messersmith & Schulenberg; 2008).
When parents have had negative school experiences, which influence how they think and feel about education in a negative way, this can have a detrimental impact on the experience and educational outcomes of their children.
Did you have a negative school experience?
Were there issues you had to contend with such as bullies or lack of support?
Was there a teacher who you felt picked on you?
Of course, we can all remember incidents in school that were upsetting and, for that reason, are stuck in our memory. I recall an incident when I was 15 and had gotten my nose pierced (yes, I know, it was against school rules but lots of other girls had it done!). I came into class (late, I will admit) and the teacher pointed out my piercing and called me a bull in front of the whole class. I started crying. The class continued while I sobbed into the textbook (which I was sharing with another student because I had forgotten mine!).
There were a few other
incidents, mainly negative comments about how I would not do well, from this teacher who taught me for less than a year because I subsequently dropped to pass-level in this subject.
This is a minor experience in comparison to what others experience but it has affected me – especially as a teacher and how I have interacted with young people myself. It was a clear as day that this teacher did not care about me or believe in me. As a result, I didn’t either.
This experience shaped me and influenced the teacher I became.
And it all worked out fine for me… in the end!
But it is important to be aware of experiences like this that might influence you and recognise the power of negative emotions from the past to cloud the positive ones.
Parents who associate school as a negative experience can show disinterest in school life, activities and work. They may not want to get involved in school life, and can thereby unintentionally devalue the importance of school to their child.
School has changed.
Things have changed!
Generally speaking, there is a greater focus on child well-being across education and training to support teachers and schools in these areas. Specifically, child well-being and mental health is a focus for the Department of Education. What was once acceptable, is no longer tolerable.
It is worth reminding yourself of that and giving schools and teachers the benefit of the doubt in terms of your mindset and approach to school initiatives, news and feedback from your child.
As stated by the National Parent’s Council Primary, 2010, “we know from research that children do better, behave better and are happier at school when parents and teachers work closely together and when parents are able to give their children support at home; and teachers can do a better job when they are supported by and work closely with parents”.
Realising that your experience will not be your child’s experience is hugely important for your child’s success and happiness.
Whatever negative experience you may have had at school – whether a one-off or long-term – has been part of you for a long time. No doubt it has influenced you in some way.
This can be the beliefs that you have about yourself like “I was never any good at school/maths/sport” or “Nobody likes me” to beliefs about school itself like “School isn’t important” or “The teacher doesn’t care”. As well as these beliefs being untrue; they can be hugely damaging for you and your child to think this way.
It would be worth getting
support if there are any negative school experiences that you think may be
affecting you today including counselling, talking to a friend or opening up to
the school about your own experience.
Whereas then, you had very little power to change anything – now you can and with that, be the best support for your child.
It is believed and proven that parents with high expectations of their children and continuously communicating and motivating them to strive for their best in whatever they are doing will result in improved achievements (Stagelin, 2003).
By taking the bull by the horns (I don’t mean me!) and addressing your own past, being aware of it and how it might be affecting you – you are doing all you can to ensure that the next generation has a better experience of school.