Things that I think and do
It does not matter how many hundreds of times you tell students that they should come to me, or in fact any other member of staff, if they have any problems while they’re here. We tell them repeatedly when they arrive and remind them the next morning. We have posters. They even have it in their little pocket timetables, for God’s sake.
Yet still, still, the first time I hear about so many student issues is when their parents phone me to say that their kids have said how we’re neglecting and mistreating them. Quite what the kids think their parents can do about the quality of the food, or the size of the bedrooms, I don’t know. Quite what they think I can do about it is still a mystery.
One father phoned me to inform me that his sons had been calling him ‘five times a day’ to complain about being unhappy that they’re not in a room together. As far as I was aware, they’d been to see me once on the first day and made a half-hearted request to change, which I denied because of room allocation rules. Obviously they thought their father could magically transport them to different rooms.
A girl came to me one morning complaining of a sore neck after sleeping on it awkwardly. I gave her an ice pack (already excessive medical attention, in my opinion) and she seemed satisfied. Perhaps two hours later she came in again, asked to call home, and stood not two metres away from me complaining to her mother, in Italy, about her neck. She then demanded that she be given some strong Italian painkillers, as her mother was a ‘chemist’ and had told her to take them. I said no and she got an extremely small and mild dose of children’s paracetamol as a placebo, which seemed to cure her completely.
A kid wants to change their English class? They call their parents. They don’t like the chicken curry for dinner (although, to be fair, I don’t blame them)? Call mummy. I kind of understand the instinct that tells them their parents can solve everything, but at the same time the kids must realise that daddy can’t come and make their English lessons better.
Some of the kids here are, I’m afraid, pretty dense. Yet curiously it’s the ones who seem to be a bit smarter who call home most often – perhaps they are the ones who have learnt how to manipulate parents or how to make their parents take notice some more. Those boys who wanted so desperately to move rooms suddenly don’t any more, after a whole afternoon spent trying to organise it and listening to their father’s remonstrations and claims about the layout of a bedroom he can have no conception of.
It doesn’t particularly annoy me, I’m just perpetually astounded by their refusal to ask for help from anyone who a) can actually do something and b) is in the same country. Especially considering they have to make some effort to make a phone call here, where there is bugger all signal anywhere and it presumably costs a hell of a lot of money if they do manage to connect.
Actually, it does annoy me a bit. It means that I have to find ways of diplomatically and subtly telling the parents that their offspring are mollycoddled pathological liars. That father who called me insisted repeatedly that his son’s room had a spare bed, despite the fact that he didn’t have the bed lists in front of him (as I did) and he doesn’t have a solid grasp of the layout of this school’s boarding house (as I do). A girl complained to her parents that there was no WiFi (a complaint infuriating in itself) and I had to explain to the agent that despite what her parents thought they knew there is in fact a strong WiFi network here.
Sadly it’s not really acceptable to call someone’s child a spoilt liar to their face (or even down the phone) so I’m forced to carry on counting to ten before I reply to parents on the phone (it makes for very long phone calls). Until they sign a document allowing us to teach ‘realities of life’ on the summer school curriculum I’m worried this petulance is going to continue.