Letters from the Teacher-your children, their education, and how you can help
In this funny, heartfelt and passionate call to arms, Gabbie Stroud makes a plea to all parents to understand their roles as their children's lifelong teachers and show how they can best help their kids' teachers and schools achieve the best results for the next generation of leaders.
GABBIE STROUD is a freelance writer, novelist and recovering teacher. After years of juggling the demands of the primary classroom, she became disenchanted and disillusioned, eventually making the painful decision to leave the profession she had loved. In 2016, her critical commentary of Australia's education system was published in Griffith Review's Edition 51 Fixing the System, which went on to be shortlisted for a Walkley Award. Gabbie's smash-hit memoir Teacher was shortlisted for Biography Book of the Year at the 2018 ABIA Awards and contributed to the national dialogue on education. Gabbie lives on the far south coast of New South Wales, where she co-parents her totally awesome girls - Olivia and Sophie, aka Yaya and The Boph.
As a secondary teacher and a parent of primary school aged children, I found myself constantly changing hats while reading Gabbie Stroud’s Dear Parents. I wanted to read this as a parent, as the title suggests, Stroud has written this to parents, and I wanted to be the recipient of parental advice. However, with Stroud’s emotive pleas for parents to understand the Australian Education system, I found myself with the educator hat on, nodding, agreeing and wanting to champion Stroud’s cause.
Stroud asks a pertinent question early in her book: “I guess the question I really need to ask is: What’s my responsibility as classroom teacher and what’s your responsibility as parent?” Stroud’s letters (emails) to parents outlines that this needs to be a shared responsibility, parents need to take a vested, yet teacher supportive interest in their child’s education. Teachers and parents need to be in this together.
Based on a hypothetical classroom, Stroud assumes the role of class teacher and her letters are emails to the parents of her class. At times humorous, it is an all too real classroom setting and the demands placed on classroom teachers. Stroud poses valuable and questioning comments about the state of the Australian education system, including NAPLAN and standardised testing, the curriculum itself, underfunding, school leadership, political ignorance, etc.
For the sake of our education system and retaining teachers within the profession, educators need to both promote Stroud’s book and make it readily available for the community to read. Changes need to happen within our education system and Stroud’s Dear Parents, is an essential read and hopefully a catalyst in encouraging the community to see the real side of our schooling system.
Jodie Webber, NSW
Gabbie Stroud has once again made public the all too real experiences of so many connected with the world of teaching in Australia. Dear Parents invites the reader to follow the 'yays' and 'nays' of a year in the life of a NSW primary teacher. Crafted in an accessible, epistolary form, this work presents so much truth, both triumphant and despondent. It is a work that current, future and former educators could most certainly connect with. Dear Parents is also a book that decision makers, advisers and caregivers could glean much from. It speaks through a voice that was in the classroom and one of the most significant points raised is that educational decisions should be made by those who have 'walked the walk'. Amongst the many lessons and reality checks offered, Gabbie Stroud unashamedly promotes two vital messages that parents and leaders should advocate for; reading is key and screens are not the answer to raising a child in the 21st century. The author also repeatedly highlights the congestion of the current primary curriculum. Although set in a Stage 3 classroom, educators from early years, high school and tertiary arenas will find much to connect with in this work. Dear Parents speaks from the heart of a coalface that so many can identify with. It will most certainly keep the state of education systems in this country very much in the public sphere.
Fiona, High School Teacher, NSW
Maintaining communication between teachers and parents can often feel like treading a minefield, complicated further by social, institutional and political policies. Despite this, perhaps in light of this, Gabbie Stroud’s Dear Parents argues powerfully for a more honest and open conversation between teachers and the families of their students.
The letters home to parents that constitute the book take the reader on a year long journey with Stroud’s (semi-fictional?) 5/6 class. We get to know her class and their struggles and triumphs over that year and the book is a warm, engaging and entertaining read. However, the political and institutional intrusions come not only from the principal and educational authorities around Stroud, but occasionally Stroud herself. When she steps onto her soapbox to declaim the flaws of NAPLAN, however valid or otherwise her points, the conceit of the book is lost and it intrudes a little on the ‘reality’ of the implied dialogue.
I found myself lamenting the lack of support and resources provided teachers, cheering on the children’s successes, laughing at the irrepressible Ax, and admiring the sacrifices and dedication that so many teachers put into their profession. Reading this book as both a teacher and parent, my response was to put it in the hands of as many of my non-teacher friends as I could, so they could also peek through this window and consider their children’s education from a new point of view.
Lisa Pothoven, Walford Anglican School for Girls, SA