Dear Parents by Gabbie Stroud
A plea to all parents to understand their roles as their children's lifelong teachers forms the basis of this new book by Australian teacher Gabbie Stroud.
The book is made up of a funny, heartfelt and impassioned series of letters to the caregivers of her students over the course of the year.
At first, I thought the book was going to be more academic and directly addressed to the reader. But I was pleasantly surprised by the format and structure.
The letters are her imagined letters - the things she wished she could write to her class instead of the weekly newsletter. While a lot of it is funny and the sort of thing no professional would ever send out, it's also deep and honest.
Stroud makes a pleas to parents to understand the fundamental changes to the way their children are being taught, and what this may mean to the development of future generations. She decries the standardised testing of students through programs like NAPLAN (think the old National Standards on steroids) and My School, which make families think they are getting results because of rankings and comparisons. But as so many teachers know, those tests are actually negatively affecting students' ability to gain crucial life skills and a love of learning.
She wants parents to recognise their responsibility as their children's primary educators and to appreciate the lifelong benefits that committed and dedicated school teachers can bring to their kids.
Stroud also dives into the life of a teacher - the pressure on teachers in terms of workload and commitment, how their own families and health get neglected for the job. She makes a case about how the love of the job can only sustain somebody for so long and muses on how our new teachers are coping.
It's not all negative though, Stroud is funny and witty. She recalls anecdotes and events with a good dose of humour and heart.
As the daughter of a teacher (and a former primary school teacher myself), it was incredibly eerie reading Stroud's words. I have heard them many, many times - almost verbatim - in staffrooms and homes across the country. Stroud taps into that collective consciousness that teachers share. Through her letters she gives a voice to the educators who can't speak out. Dear Parents gets an important message out of the staffroom and into the hands of what should be a teacher's biggest cheerleader - the parents.
Sitting alongside Stroud's memoir Teacher, Dear Parents is an important call to action for every parent or caregiver.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell
Allen & Unwin, RRP $36.99