All this week (and probably into next week, the rate things are going), I’m providing a thoroughly reliable, scientific, not-at-all-in-any-way making any assumptions or judgments based on stereotypes whatsoever, handy, cut-out-and-keep, collectable, 11-part series on the different species of Parent you can observe on the daily School Run.
Part One was all about The Gang, the collective of parents who can dominate the school gates; how to observe them, what they like doing, and why it is recommended that you mingle with them, even only on a temporary basis.
From this point on, we’re dealing with individual species types – their plumage, their calls, and their behaviour (other than mating. Much as I’d like to conduct research into such murky areas, I don’t think most parents would appreciate me observing their sweaty rutting and taking notes. Some would, but not all).
DISCLAIMER: None of the examples in this series are people I know in real life. Or rather, they’re examples based on EVERY SINGLE PERSON I’ve ever met, ever. So if you’re reading this and think “bloody hell, that’s me!”, I can assure you that it isn’t.
(Please Note: This is a guide to the UK species. Some School Runs may be different in your location. I imagine that if you’re in the USA, it’s pretty much the same, just a bit more swollen and with guns. In Australia, I’m sure the parents are more prone to sunburn. And in Japan, I believe that there are more parents with the power of flight).
The Belligerent One Who Argues With The School
There’s always someone who will take the school on. The Belligerent One disagrees with everything the school does. From homework to events, from the price of school dinners, to the way the Star of the Day award is given out – probably on the basis of how frequently they perceive their own child to be rewarded; The Belligerent has always got a bee in their rectum.
Usually unhappy with some aspect of classroom routine, with a tendency to have impromptu meetings with the class teacher at every pickup/dropoff, often quick to disagree with school policy, regularly outraged that the school’s Christmas celebrations are too religious/not religious enough… Nothing will please them.
A Belligerent often loses the sympathy of the school. If a teacher or staff member discusses a Belligerent with a colleague, education professional, or even another parent, the Belligerent is often referred to with a sigh, a pained expression in the eyes, and a diplomatic but highly-pointed descriptive phrase. It can be guaranteed that if YOU are a Belligerent, the chances are that every single one of your phone calls, emails, or letters to the school is met with a roll of the eyes from every staff member who receives it, and often a muttered “For fuck’s sake…”. If you are the Belligerent, then you won’t have noticed this because school staff are trained to be very rude to you in mysterious and undetectable ways (like holding the phone away from their ears while you harrumph on, and mouth “it’s that silly twat again” into a nearby mirror).
Plus Side: If the school fucks something up – and sometimes schools do fuck things up, let’s be honest – The Belligerent One will not let them get away with it. Some Belligerents are altruistic, thinking of the common good; they will fight on behalf of the other parents, often leading the cry for justice, and able to give voice to those who don’t often feel they get heard. A dependable presence on often poorly-attended parent committees, regularly able to decipher school bullshit, and quick to end unfair or inefficient practices.
Minus Side: The Belligerent is often selfish, only interested in their own child, overly sensitive to perceived criticism of themselves or their children (so mock them at your own risk), reacts to any punishment given to their child (no matter how well-deserved that punishment can be, even if the child is a poisonous shit and everyone knows it), humourless, needlessly confrontational with the school, quick to anger at any letter sent home, questions Every Bloody Thing The School Does, and is a massive irritant to the school staff. Even worse if The Belligerent is a teacher working in another school, because every teacher thinks other teachers are rubbish, and a parent who is also a teacher cannot be wrong about anything. Ever.
APPEARANCE: Frowning, intense, glares a lot, marching through the playground, aiming straight for any member of staff, sometimes with a hideously embarrassed child in tow
CALL: “I really don’t think you appreciate…” often in quite a penetrating voice. Also “Do you have children yourself?” before launching into a patronising attack on the only male newly-qualified teacher who is clearly in his 20s, might not be married, and totally out of their depth arguing with an angry parent in their late-30s on a self-righteous mission
HABITAT: The school office, berating the admin staff. On the class teacher’s shoulder during the School Run telling them about something or other. Being discreetly ushered into the Headteacher’s office.