Saturday, December 1, 2012

Parent Teacher Conferences

My annual parent-teacher conferences begin on Monday.  It will be a truncated version of the conference due to the storm.  Parents will only be meeting with their child's homeroom teacher and receive a verbal report of their child in each of their other academic classes.  The parents will not be able to go see a specific teacher during that time (they can always contact them through email or phone).  I have to be honest, it seems more like a glorified progress report than a conference.

If you are going to a parent-teacher conference, here are some tips from the this teacher's perspective (and remember, my teacher views are my own and don't represent all teachers).

1) The younger the grade, the better the conference.  

There is a reason why most schools eliminate conferences in the older grades.  A high school kid can give their parents a better verbal picture of what is going on in their classroom than a 1st grader (assuming their child talks with their parent.  I'm getting into the habit of asking my oldest daughter everyday what she did in nursery school).

Also, since most younger grades are self contained and your child has one teacher and that teacher sees your child all day and only has 20-30 students under their care. They will have deeper and keener information than a middle school or high school teacher.  Please keep this in mind when your child advances grades.  It will be harder for each academic teacher to give the type of presentation of your child that a elementary school teacher can.  Some parents expect elementary school treatment for their middle or high school student.  The playing field has changed and your child is no longer playing on a baseball field with 60 foot bases, they've advanced to the 90 foot field.  Because of this...

2) Ask questions.

As a teacher, I appreciate parents who ask questions. I usually give general comments because I don't know what a parent wants to know. Questions allow me to focus the conference on what the parent wants to know about their child.

3) Take criticism of your child as constructive.

Most teachers are looking to be helpful and at times it can be difficult for us to say the hard things that need to be said about your child (because we understand that you love them and are protective of them as you should be).  I know personally I try to say it in a loving way.  Do not take it as a personal attack, take it for what it is, a way to make your child successful.

(Yes, there may be a few teachers who are jerks and find some kind of sick joy in criticizing your child just as their are a few jerk parents that I have to deal with which leads be to the next point...)

4) Parent Teacher Conferences are not for you to critique the teacher. 

I remember years ago being waylaid by a parent who came in with a list of what she had issues about each teacher's teaching style and methods (and she didn't say them in the most tactful way).  Zero percent of the conference was about her child.  After she was done spewing her complaints, I addressed each point to which she replied, "You don't have to become defensive."

To which I responded, "You come in here to complain about my teaching style and then tell me not to become defensive, as if I should just accept everything you had to say."

That's how the conference ended.  She went and talked to my principal.  I didn't lose my job, I was asked about one of her concerns, but it was quickly dismissed once he heard my explanation.

Contact the teacher beforehand, email, phone don't let it boil over at conferences.  If you really have an issue with a teacher is one thing, to take it upon yourself to be "the self appointed PhD of Better Education Crusader" is quite another.  Another don't do if you are a teacher yourself is say...

5) "I'm a teacher too, and I would..."

If you are a teacher don't EVER use this line.  Remember how much you don't appreciate it when someone says it to you.  I'm going to be honest with you, what goes through my mind when I hear a parent who is a teacher say this is,

"You may be a teacher, but it doesn't mean you're a good one"

which is basically what you are telling me.

6) The teacher's do not request a conference at this time.  

I can't remember if my sister had this box checked off on my niece's conference form a few years back or if she questioned if she go to a conference for her.  Either way, my sister was concerned that by not going (my niece was doing very well in school and her and my brother in law had no concerns) it would send a message to the teachers that they do not care.  My response to my sister was, "Send her homeroom teacher a note telling them you don't require a conference at this time since you know the teachers are doing a fine job allowing her daughter to excel and would just appreciate a note if that changes."

Just my thoughts. Happy Conferencing!

1 comment:

  1. As I re-read my blog, I realized 2 of the points deal with me not taking criticism well. I believe I do take criticism well if it is delivered in a way to make me a better teacher rather than a way that is to make me look bad. Which is what I must keep in mind when I approach a parent about their child.