Diving into this bi-annual event is a tough one. All three parties, parents and teachers and students, tend to have mixed feelings about participating in Parent-Teacher Conference evenings and afternoons. A lot of it depends on how well the child is doing, which makes sense right? No one wants to hear bad reports about their kid and, trust me, no one wants to give a bad report to a parent.
Twice a year, states schedule an evening and an afternoon for parents to come in and formally sit down with all of their children’s teachers. These events are scheduled around the release of a student’s first report card for the semester. This is prime time to meet with your child’s teachers. Why? Because you have solid proof of how they are doing so far, but there is also enough time to create strategies and conversations that will implement change should there be a need for improvement. So while you may have to leave work early, drag your younger children along, or set aside your chores and routines of the evening, the value you will find from making space for this meeting will prove to be worth it.
From my end of the conference table, as a teacher, I love Parent-Teacher night! I’m definitely not in the minority as a teacher. I clean my room up. I make sure my grade-book and my laptop are within arms reach at pretty 45 degree angles. This night is the night that I live for as a teacher. It is a chance to see who my students come from. I spend so much time with my students, I can’t wait to meet and greet the other third of our team of three, the student, the parent, and the teacher. This is the educational team of three in any classroom. All three have a huge impact on how well, or how poorly a student fairs in the school year. When this team is in sync, there is no other option for a child, but to succeed.
My last few years of Parent-Teacher Conference night have been a bit disappointing though. Parents were not showing up. There would be evenings where I would see 20 to 30 parents in the given time-frame. In the past few years, I am fortunate if I see 10. I struggle with this because I am the type of person that needs to know why. I emailed some of my students’ parents the next day and there seemed to be a common thread.
“I have to work during those hours. You can email me instead.”
“I know, *child’s name* is doing good so I didn’t come.”
“No hablo ingles, y no entiendo tambien.”
The parents that I really needed to see, did not respond to phone calls and the school had no email on file for them. They definitely have their own reasons for not coming to meet me. I want to hear them. I’d like to meet them!
Do you have your own reasons for the way you feel about Parent-Teacher conference? Share them with me on our facebook page! Comment here below!
So what’s a teacher to do? I did what I do best! I created a solution. Parent Focus. The only problem that I didn’t need to solve was response number 3. If you don’t know, now you do, schools should have translators available for people who do not speak the same language as their child’s teachers. I am not one who enjoys putting the burden of translation on the student that I am speaking about. It’s awkward. My school, however, does have volunteers that are walking the hallway during conferences, ready to aid in translation.
In terms of the parent who has a child that is always on target, that solution took me some time to mull over. This parent feels there is nothing they could really get out of parent teacher conferences. Their child is thriving, getting good grades, and has no expressed behavioral issues. So what if that parent is right not to show up? How could I find a way to reengage this parent? Then it came to me, give them a way to hack the system.
When I say hack, I’m not talking about illegally accessing the school’s computers. I don’t mean kidnapping teachers and water boarding them until they tell all. (Okay, I might have gone too far.) When you hack something you are trying to get more information out of it, milk it for all that’s there. I would find a way to teach parents to hack parent teacher conference night by asking the right questions, and looking for the right things. Finding ways to stretch their child’s learning both inside the classroom and out by having the right discussion with their teacher would definitely bring those parents in right? I got excited. I started writing, Ask my husband. I was up until 5 am. My eyes glued to my computer screen until I had squeezed out all the tips, questions, and advice my teacher brain had. My reward? Parent Focus’ first booklet/workbook pair, Parent Teacher Conference Hacks.
If you can’t afford to have a teacher stand in your place at parent teacher conference, the next best thing would be to have that teacher in your brain. The Parent Teacher Conference Hack Guide puts my mind inside of your mind! It tells you how to prepare before you get there, what to look for when you walk through the doors, and most important, what to ask when you are sitting face to face with your child’s teachers. I wanted to cry when it was done because it accomplished my main goal in life, to help kids do better in school. If parents are comfortable sitting across from their child’s teacher, the team of three can thrive and connect in ways that will only make the student be great.
I’m still working on how to help the parents that I can not reach. I think the booklet and workbook would help them feel more in control and by extension more open to attending. I don’t know. What do you think? Share your comments! Tell me your thoughts parents, teachers, Parent Focus family! The more we know about what parents need, the more services and products we can provide.
My goal? Make Parent Focus the go-to company for creating and sustaining school-home communications!