October is the month for school conferences in the United States. As a Teachosaur I don’t like conferences for the most part. For two simple reasons; One. If I needed to talk to that parent I should have already done so as that need does not occur on a schedule and two the parents you don’t need to talk to are the ones who show up.
Sometimes valuable information and ideas come out of conferences but most times you are either looking at a parent who came filled with pride to hear how wonderful their child is or conversely filled with anxiety because they think it will be just one more time they have to hear how bad their child is doing and hear it in a gymnasium surrounded by strangers. It is no wonder that some parents arrive at conferences pre-lubricated.
I have never been one to believe that the parent is the most important variable in the relationship between a student and a teacher. School is not home, I don’t have to love you and you don’t have to love me for education to work, respect each other yes, love each other no. I believe that every time a teacher calls home it weakens that respect relationship and also the teacher in the eyes of the student and the parent. It says to the student and their parents that we can’t handle our educational problems we need help. Not to mention the fact that in some schools I have taught in you had to be careful in talking to any parent because when the kid came to school the next day you might find yourself in your “ mandatory reporter” role. Remember there is a reason why the kid is what they are and that reason is that the apple does not often fall too far from the tree.
I am aware that modern educational theory involves constant and even ubiquitous parental involvement in school. I personally feel that is a cop out of responsibility for the educational system and students. Yes parents need to be informed of any serious issues but Johnny failing to walk in the halls is not a serious issue, even if repeated over and over again it is a problem in the school and the school and student should solve it.
With my love of conferences sort of explained it is time for some of my personal conference experience/ questions?
How would you handle a conference where a parent tells you that her husband is now sleeping with the mother of another student in your class but her daughter does not know?
What would you do when a child shows up at the assigned time and asks you to have a conference with his father but because he is not allowed on school property could I meet him across the street under the street light ( I did go across the street and later found that he also was not even allowed to be out in his yard when the school bus came to pick up his children)
How would you react when a women with greasy hair wearing a very dirty cowboy shirt tells you things are looking up for their family because she has a new job selling cosmetics and then when she smiles you realize she only has three teeth?
How would you handle a parent who tells you that she feels her son would either make a good street racer or sniper/assassin?
What about a parent who refuses to talk to you at all because your science room has a snake in it and thus it must be daemonic.
How would you handle a parent who asks about music lessons because her husband wants him take wrestling and if he is going to wrestle he is also going to play the clarinet. ( this student ended up missing school on every hunting opening day so I think I know who won eventually)
How would you respond to a parent whose first words are , “ You are oppressing the natural instincts of my son.”
And perhaps the most disturbing, parents who will believe that you are lying to them to hurt them or their children.
Well glad I’m not teaching all day today and then sitting in a gym until 8 at night with several hundred other people who would rather be watching the world series, Survivor or a football game. Good Luck All.