Parents, Parents and More Parents!

Image by mohammadali via Flickr

I think I’ve finally recovered from Thursday night.

Thursday night we had our snow-delayed evening session of parent-teacher conferences.

A couple of years ago, when I was a special education classroom teacher with twelve students it was considered a major victory if the parents of half showed up.

I spend a total of five hours split evenly between day and evening sessions, talking to a total of three or four parents.

I’d get all my paperwork filed. I’d read. I’d socialize with parents waiting to see the general ed teachers.

Now I’m teaching two general ed classes social studies and three special ed classes reading, a total of about 95 students.

Thursday night I met with 31 sets of parents. In two and one-half hours.

That averages to about five minutes per child.

Averages lie.

I spent less than two minutes with the parents of my sixth grade students.

“Your son/daughter is very bright, a pleasure to teach. Do you know about the 6th grade year-end trip? Excellent! Do you have any questions? No? Well, it’s been a pleasure to see you again.”

Out the door.


Eighth grade parents took longer, a lot longer.

“No, I couldn’t give your son/daughter a passing grade when he/she scored below 50 on the midterm exam.”

“No, I don’t know why your child did so poorly on the midterm. Perhaps because while I was teaching the material, and again when I was reviewing it, he/she was throwing pencils across the room or shouting out the window,”

No, it doesn’t mean he/she will fail the year. Right now the students are working on their exit projects. These require a well researched written report, a visual presentation like a slide show, and an oral presentation that includes the visual. Ii is a big deal, the students get dressed up for their presentations.”

“No, I didn’t assign topics. I wanted each student to choose something he or she is interested in. Something they feel passionate about.”

“His/her topic? I’ve lost track of what he/she is doing the project on. It started out being one thing, but he/she’s changed her/his mind several times.”

“This is the first you’re hearing about it. We chose topics in January and the written report is due next Wednesday.”

“Yes, this is a graduation requirement. No project, no graduation.”

“Yes, I told the class that. The principal told the class that. I told them again. Several times.”

“Yes, I keep asking about it, and I required a draft by President’s Day weekend, but only six students gave me one and your child was not one of them.”

And so on.

Then there was the parent who complained that the 90 I gave her son lowered his average to 93.75.

“Count your blessings, ma’am.”

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4 Responses to Parents, Parents and More Parents!

  1. Barb L. says:

    As a future Special Education teacher, I cannot help but feel the frustration and, dare I say, the futility of this exercise. Does anyone come away feeling the meeting was worth it? What can be done to make conferences worth the time and effort and of benefit to the students themselves?

  2. KitchenSink says:

    It’s got to be a school-wide effort! Barb, find yourself a school that values parent input.

  3. Michael J says:

    Everyone knows these kind of assembly line 2 minute meetings are a pretense of “parent involvement.” It’s not that hard to figure out why many parents choose not to show up. It’s mostly a waste of time as organized.

    Probably be better off hosting a two hour cocktail party. The parents and the teacher could meet in natural small groups, plus share a couple of laughs and food prepared by the kids.

    The kids could do invitations and the decorations, maybe a performance or two. It would be the same amount of total time, just organized in some kind of human way.

  4. Your experience reminds me of what we went through when our building changed to a temporary location. We announced a parent/community meeting. Most of the attendees were looking for construction jobs. We sent letters home about the move. We announced it over and over.

    September came.

    “What do you mean my child has to take a bus? What do you mean the school has moved?”

    It is frustrating to say the least.

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