Sometimes around October, some teachers may start to dread parent conferences. Many times, they are difficult to do and once in a long while they are a breeze. However I feel about the kids and the parents, as a parent myself I appreciate the partnership of teachers and parents. As a teacher, I try to keep my own kids in mind when holding parent conferences. It is a delicate balance between what I would do with my own kids and what is the best for my students. Somewhere in those parameters I plan my teaching and my parent conferences. All schools can benefit from a parent conference and my particular expertise shows how effective they are in elementary schools.
Meeting with parents can be challenging. There are many “types” of parents but really every parent is an individual case. There is the type that don’t really care who came in due to fear of Child Protective Services being called. Then there is another type that are all too involved. They can be challenging for completely different reasons like: how do you tell the parent their child is not perfect. Finally, there are the victimized parents with no answers. These people are quite challenging because they have thrown up their hands in surrender willing to try just about anything. Again, there are MANY types of parents along a spectrum. Each one you encounter will fall somewhere in between these three examples. Establishing and fostering that parent involvement can be the magic ingredient with a kid.
Meeting with parents can be helpful. I would say 70% of the time, meeting with parents will fix a problem. After all, they are the ones in charge of the kids. They can reward and take away in ways you couldn’t dream of. In short, they know the kids better than you. For many years I would avoid meeting with parents and calling parents. I didn’t want to rock any boats. I learned eventually that as a professional I am entitled to call parents any time, even in the middle of class in front of the class. Parents need to know what is going on and most of them want to know. The helpful properties of a parent conference should never be underestimated.
Meeting with parents can be educational. Every college I have attended has always said something in the commencement speech about “life-long learning.” If anyone should be life-long learners it is we teachers. Like it or not, we set the pace for education in our communities. If we listen to parents they can enlighten us to the needs of their kids. Then, we can extrapolate from that the needs of our entire class. At the end of every parent conference, I ask for comments, questions, or suggestions. Sometimes I get some really valuable wisdom. It takes a teacher with strong self-esteem to feel safe asking for advice from parents. I encourage you to try it. Don’t let anyone attack you but keep an open mind. It will make you a better teacher.
On a given day you probably wouldn’t get excited about parent teacher conferences. At the same time, you probably should because the challenge, helpfulness, and education are highly positive aspects for teachers.