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Parental Complaint - Help!!

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by GruffyMax, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. Evening,
    The Head of Hums came and saw me today and dropped a bombshell and I really could do with some advice!
    The year 8 office have had an anonymous complaint about my RE teaching. We've done a unit on the environment & looking at different creation myths, we've look at ones from other cultures but also spent time on the Christian creation story. I approached it from the angle that it's a myth that explains the beliefs and students should look at the meaning, literal vs figuative language. I know i've made a very clear case of 'some Christians believe this....., others believe....'. Anyway, student has gone home to his/her Christian parents & they've phoned the school concerned that i'm teaching that Christianity is a myth.
    We've now moved on to a short SoW on religion & the media. We've looked at religion and how it's presented in the media and are currently watching Bruce Almighty, before they do an assessment (see, not just an end-of-term video!). The parents aren't happy as 'what's bruce alimighty got to do with religion anyway?'.
    And..... my teaching is too much about my own opinions....
    Now, i'm only in my 2nd year of teaching, but i try really hard to present an unbiased view. I know a lot of the students latched onto that they are taught the creation story as fact at primary school and i worked hard to break the meaning down for them, to get them engaged with it in the liberal sense, maybe too much for these parents?
    I think the thing that's worrying me is that i'm an humanist, and while i don't tell my students, maybe my beliefs are coming through too much without me noticing? It makes me feel like i spend every lesson slagging of Christians & Christianity!!
    Is this par of the course as an RE teacher?!
     
  2. This is par for the course for an RE teacher and, from the sounds of things, you have done a perfectly acceptable lesson where you have pointed out different views regarding the creation narrative. One thing that you will encounter (depending on your school) is that parents can be very touchy when it comes to RE. I have had parents complain about the fact that I am teaching about Islam. Some who don't see the point of RE because they are not religious. And, yes, those who think that RE should be about instructing a child in a particular faith rather than looking at faith critically and objectively. Really, the Head of Hums at your school needs to explain to the parent what RE actually is. RE teachers do not exist to show disrespect to religious belief but neither do they exist to present these things uncritically.
     
  3. Helena Handbasket

    Helena Handbasket New commenter

    I have been in this situation too, I am a NQT and subject leader in my school.
    The first 'complaint' was that I had asked their Christian child to write an argument against the existance of God. However, they never actually spoke to me about it and just told the form tutor in passing.
    I then had a few parents who stopped their child doing a homework on Mohammad because they said it was offensive purely because it was Islam and it was soon after the poppy burning incident. I just phoned the parents and told them I teach all religions equally in the hope that people will have a better understanding of others and therefore can understand why things happen.

    Being a bit of a stubborn person I actually quite enjoy these parents because I get to have a bit of a moment of self expression with them. (Not a good quality, I know)
    Also, sometimes I feel that I can maybe over do the whole 'this is what I believe but I don't expect you to and whatever you believe is fine' in an attempt to not be accused of indoctrination.
     
  4. Hi Gruffy
    Part of this may be par for the course as an RE teacher I'm afraid. At a parents evening recently I had parents from the same class express the following views of our curriculum;
    • There is too much Christianity - we should look at other faiths to increase tolerance
    • There is too much about Hinduism - we are a Christian country after all (after I listed the Christianity focused topics in KS3 this parent then said 'Oh I don't remember them doing those')
    • There is too much Sikhism - why didn't they do Christian initiation (when I said they did and child agreed again surprise)
    • It's a hard subject as they have to think for themself too much
    • They feel they cannot express their own opinion (yes they can, they just need to give reasons for their opinions and not call out intolerant statements when the class is quiet)
    I also had positive comments;
    • So much more interesting than when we were at school
    • Important to look at other religions in the world we live in today
    • The only subject they really get a chance to think about things deeply
    The problem is that parents come with such preconcieved notions, and in some cases strongly held views, that we will never please all of them all of the time. I think it is a good idea to think about whether a complaint has any validity. If you feel it might have some, then address that issue. If it has none then try to stop worrying about it and move on.
    Whilst I accept the other comments about many Christians seeing the Genesis account as a myth I do think for some the term myth can be very loaded. In popular culture it can simply mean story or untruth. Whilst with older students you can discuss what the term myth means, and thus the importance of the truths within the account regardless of its historical accuracy you might not want to do this with year 8. Perhaps saying you are looking at the deeper meaning and symbolism of the account without using the term myth would avoid a parent misunderstanding your aims.
    As for the Bruce Almighty issue, if the s-o-w meets the requirements of your Agreed Syllabus, and your teaching strategies are linked to challanging objectives then there should not be a problem. It might be possible to do this using clips rather than the whole video though, depending how much teaching time you have and what your aims are.

     
  5. Oh thiese parent's comments made me laugh so much!!
    You make them 'think'!?!

    As for the complaint at the top of this thread.
    - if it is anonymous it was made without expecting response - a genuine expression of concern from a parent would not be anonymous. What is the office doing accepting messages like this? When your HOD presented it to you surely there was a conversation about it - why did they feel the need to tell you unless it was for a development/improvement reason? Whatever 'transition' etc is going on - they are still your HOD and should give you time to explore whatever it is they felt needed passing on. These things happen and don't fret!
    You could discuss it with your RE advisor, if you need to chew it over.
    One strategy you might use is to get into Celebrating RE (RE Month in March 2011) and use it to get parents on board - asking parents to come in and see what they do in lessons/some work etc. If you can, put something on the school website etc. If they want to find out more they will.
    Hope this helps!
     
  6. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter


    I agree completely with what you say about the use of the word 'myth' here, baileysp. I use the term Oral Tradition.
    I like to take the students in a 'journey back in time' about 20,000 years - stripping away everything we have - including books and libraries - even the written word. When someone has an important question, where do they turn to get an answer? They ask the Wise Elders of the tribe. They interpret dreams - and the answers which make most sense to them are recorded not in a book but are woven into the stories and songs which are passed down from one generation to the next by Oral Tradition.

    This kind of Oral Tradition is rich in wisdom and truth - but a different kind of truth to the sort that science offers. It is a different GENRE. Then we look at the bible to find some of the different Genre of writing it includes, recognising history, geneology, rules, letters, poems etc - and finding in the ealry books of Genesis, evidence of the recording of ancient stories which probably began as the Oral Tradition of the tribes in that region.


    Then we look at the different ways that the books of the Bible can be approached and understood. For a non-Christian who approaches the stories in Genesis as Oral Tradition they are fascinating records of the way that those ancient people explored important questions - where did the world come from? Why are we alive? what is our relationship with our Creator and with the rest of the natural world? What is the relationship between man and woman? Why do people do the wrong thing? Where did evil come from - etc.


    If someone is a liberal Christian then they will read the Bible with an awareness of the different Genre it contains, reading the Oral Tradition in a way that interprets it as you might interpret meaning from a poem - exploring the symbolism and not looking at it as literal truth - but none the less full of important meaning. They will also be interested in what science tells us about the world - but find no problem with learning from both because they are looking at the world in completely different ways.


    If someone is a 'fundamentalist Christian' then they would argue that since God is all powerful and good, He will have directed all who wrote the different books of the Bible, making sure that they wrote what He wished them to write, or if they were selecting books to include in our Bible - making sure that they only included the ones He wished them to include. Therefor the Bible we have today is the real and undiluted Word of God, accurate in every way - and true in a literal way. For such people the accounts of creation in Genesis are absolutely true. When anyone discusses the things that science shows us about evolution or the creation of the universe - they will not be interested. They know that the Bible is true, therefore anything that contradicts it must not be true. That is part of the mystery of their faith.


    Interestingly such an approach often gives Fundamentalist Christians a strength of faith which simplifies their lives and intensifies their prayers and their inner relationship with Jesus. When they see their prayers are answered and miracles unfold in their lives, this proves for them that they are right. - although from outside that tradition it can seem quite narrow and 'blinkered.'


    The moral of this story is that it is important to learn to understand and respect all people and all ways of interpreting religious teachings and understanding the world - which is what we try to achieve when we are teaching Religious Education.


    I hope this helps
     

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