No one likes a poop sandwich

Parents want the truth ... not a poop sandwich

Photo of Thomas Gilliford
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Most teachers will know what I mean when I say giving a child 'Poo sandwich feedback' where you slide some negative feedback between two nice flavoursome positive points to make it more palatable e.g. "Timmy- a really imaginative piece of writing, next time make sure that you use the definite article correctly. I particularly liked your use of simile" 

Well after reading through the amazing parent responses to the PTA UK parent survey it seems that we sometimes do this to parent too-  And it turns out they'd rather take their poop on its own! Here's what a few of them said:

  • [What one thing would you change about parent-teacher conferences?] Be honest - ditch the positive slant on everything she does.- PTA UK respondent

  • [What one thing would you change about parent-teacher conferences?] - Instead of saying nice things and a "sleight of mouth" I would like them to give an accurate assessment of ability and potential, benchmarked against the hundreds of other children they will have taught in the past. - PTA UK respondent

  • [What one thing would you change about parent-teacher conferences?]  I wish they would discuss openly an honestly with me my daughters progress in school without being concerned about favouritism or pidgeon holeing. My daughter is in year 4 and ever parent evening I have asked teachers for an assessment either marks out of 10 or a-e however the wish to do score it so I can visualise how well she is doing academically but I am always told that they can't do that. Instead they tell me she is doing great it doing fantastic. I have no idea what that means. I am by no means a pushy parent but I do want my daughter to do really well in school. I wish they could say "she is well above average with her creative writing, you might want to encourage that at home" or even "she's not too great at maths, maybe you could think about these extra books to help". I want honesty. -PTA UK

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

Parents want honesty even if it is negative.

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Photo of Lisa Abel-Palmieri

The honestly policy should be reinforced by school admin I think.. sometimes I worry teachers are "afraid" to tell the truth.. "Be honest - ditch the positive slant on everything she does."

Photo of Lindsey Ott

Thank you for this post.  I think that getting direct parent feedback about this issue is crucial for developing a better relationship.  I am 100% guilty of providing those two yummy pieces of bread to slide in the unappealing center.  Although I am very direct in most settings, I worry about being off putting to parents so they lose trust in me.  I typically work with older students, so parents feel like they have a better sense of their child's abilities, but in reality they usually do not.  Perhaps I need to gain the confidence to be fully honest....

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Thomas, Great observation after synthesizing your interview data. I've been seeing this theme come out in other Teachers Guild posts. We're spend so much time trying to be nice and say the right things that we can forget to focus on the areas that need improvement. Parents deserve the truth. I wonder how we can better prepare teachers to build relationships so that they can speak honestly?

Photo of Thomas Gilliford

It's a very strange relationship when you think about it even best friends will stop short of openly criticizing each other's children- Honesty is the Best Policy gives an interesting take on this.