In my untiring campaign to keep turning pages forward rather than back, I ask this question. What difference does it make if there are parent/teacher/student conferences? Are they really worthwhile or is it just another minuet we keep dancing through the decades?
If you are just finding out at a formal conference that your child is a slow learning, argumentative, uncoordinated bully who is way behind in reading, I’d suggest the problem isn’t your child’s. Conferences should be seen the way I view progress reports, as one leg on the stool. (Got that one from President Obama,) Along with report cards and conferences there is that more important organic exchanges that go on between home and school. These include homework, grades on papers, projects, emails, phone calls, notes back and forth and the drop-in chat or parent observation. You really want to see how your child is doing? Take a morning off and spend it in your child’s classroom.
Back in the day, parents didn’t come in school and jaw with the teacher. It was much more formal. The playground was the moat. These days there are so many ways to communicate that a planned conference is not necessary for everyone. We have them because we’ve always had them. Frankly, we don’t need to see all of you. Nothing personal, we just don’t. If we needed to, we would have contacted you long before these meetings.
The parents we really need to see usually don’t come. It’s understandable, so if that is always the case and always has been the case, maybe a day off for home visits would be more productive. There are plenty of reasons people don’t want to spend a half-hour with us. I get that. Maybe we show up at a workplace during a parent’s lunch hour and meet with them there. We would be more helpful to the seven parents we could see in a day that way than the twenty-one parents we see just to see them. Ask any teacher how many parents they really need to see on conference day. If they’re honest, the answer will be fewer than ten.
So if you’re dead set on having conferences, ask yourself what you need to know about your child that hasn’t already been discussed, and then ask yourself why you didn‘t find it out sooner. Conferences should be done away with, call them conversations and let parents and teachers schedule their twenty minutes worth when they really need to. These could be done in many ways, including video conferencing or simple web cams and Yahoo Messenger if that’s the only way parents and teachers can come together. As it is now, we have “conferences” with parents all the time and often on our own time and we’re fine with that. It could be that we have more to communicate to our parents than other teachers do, but I highly doubt it.
I lost the battle to do away with hot dog day, true; but this idea has some real meat. So maybe this year…
Hold the muster.