In most parts of the world, children start school formally at about the age of five. In some other countries, especially in Africa, they start one form of schooling or the other right from about the age of two. The average student, therefore, starts attending school from about the age of two to seventeen, when such a student finishes high school and is now ready to proceed to the university. In the early years of schooling, students stay in school from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is an average of six hours. Students in high school will normally have lessons between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., giving an average of eight hours in school. This does not account for the time spent in school when children are waiting to be picked up by their parents.
A day student, that is, one who goes to school from home and returns home at the end of every day, spends about one-third of his or her day at school, from Monday to Friday. Most of the time students spend in school is spent in the company of teachers. For students in boarding schools, the time spent in the company of teachers and other school administrators is more. This is because they reside in school perpetually for whole terms, except during holidays and mid-term breaks.
There is no doubt that teachers spend time interacting with their students, sufficient enough to influence their character, and shape their personality, their worldview, and attitude. The undeniable conclusion is that teachers and school administrators play a significant role in the shaping of the character of their students and in how these students eventually turn out. This is why teachers are said to be in loco parentis with their students.
Given the enormous influence teachers have on their students in terms of their personality development and in many other areas of their growth and development, the question of whether teachers need to learn parenting skills through a formal parenting education program becomes pertinent. Do teachers and other school administrators need parenting skills in order to be effective in the performance of their duties? In view of the quantum of time teachers spend with their students, coupled with the vital roles they play in their formative years, it should be accepted that, as a matter of necessity, teachers need a lot of skills in the handling of children. When teachers have good parenting skills, they are better positioned to handle their students in ways that ensure their optimal personality and cognitive development. Teachers’ actions, utterances, injunctions, attention or the lack thereof, empathy, or harsh treatment of their students can have a positive or negative impact on those children for the rest of their lives.
There are real-life examples of how teachers negatively impact their students’ character and psychological well-being. I am aware that some years ago, a teacher in the biology class of a high school jettisoned the slated topic for the period. In place of the biology topic meant to be taught for that period, he introduced and taught masturbation to his class of students, comprising both boys and girls. He especially encouraged the boys to give masturbation a try as a way to reduce sexual pressure. In another high school, a teacher discouraged a class of students, including some who had been nursing a long-standing ambition to be doctors, from reading medicine. The teacher’s argument is that doctors rarely get rich.
Experienced child handlers will agree that these encounters have the capacity to teach the students concerned a bad habit, as in the case of the biology teacher who encouraged his students to masturbate, just as some students may find themselves abandoning a life ambition as a result of the wrong advice from the teacher who discouraged them from studying medicine.
From the foregoing, we can safely conclude that:
1. When dealing with students, teachers must adopt a parental approach.
2. There is a need to include parenting education in the training of teachers with a curriculum that must carefully teach child psychology.
There is no doubt that teachers who have better parenting skills are likely to produce students who perform better academically. It is hoped that school administrators and the various teacher training schools will realize this and adjust the curriculum for teachers accordingly where there is presently this gap in training.