Parent-Teacher Relationship Conferences
If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you might know that I have long considered becoming a teacher, as I come from a family of educators.
Over the past few days, I have been browsing Reddit-the website that not so humbly refers to itself as the “front page of the Internet.” For those unaware, it organizes itself into communities called sub-reddits in which members post conversation topics about a particular interest, such as writing, video games, sports, etc.
The posts on the teacher subreddit has been quite interesting. Here are the 12 top posts from the past week, along with their upvote count (basically a thumbs up):
“I was observed today (online learning) and I hand picked the breakout rooms for discussion so the principal got placed into the room with all the kids who participate….At least there’s one thing I can control this year!” 1.9k
“Front Office: Hi, I have Sally’s mom on the phone and she says she’s frustrated because she’s been calling you and emailing you many times and she’s heard nothing and we need to get back to our parents ASAP.” 1.9k
I could have kept going, as the trend continues, though I’m sure you get the idea. While there’s a few humorous posts, most are downright depressing and alarming. The teacher who resigned is returning to wait tables because the pay is comparable and there’s far less stress. Another teacher is getting closer to quitting because they believe they don’t matter and the pay isn’t worth it.
These teachers believe that society sees them as babysitters and nothing else- they don’t impart any valuable skills, academic or not. The already wide gulf between society and teachers has fully ruptured because of the pandemic.
Of course, the Internet is often a place for venting, so we must keep that in mind when sifting through the negativity. However, the fact the stories repeat themselves from teachers in different states with different details supported by many upvotes lead me to believe the issues presented are reflective of a systemic issue, rather than a minority of disgruntled educators.
So, what do we do about it?
Although there are many policy angles to go after, we should reform the parent-teacher conference.
What exactly are these conferences?
The NYC Department of Education defines them as “a short meeting between you and your child’s teacher to talk about your child’s academic performance and experience at school.” Likewise, etools4Education, a state approved alternative certification business in Texas, says they “help to communicate to parents the areas their child are excelling in and to give them specific ideas of how to improve their child’s performance in school.”
Did you notice what’s missing? Teachers and parents talk about the child’s performance, yet….
What about the parent-teacher relationship? How do parents view teachers? How do teachers view parents?
Kind of a big part of the whole equation, isn’t it?
How about schools start a conference to discuss the parent-teacher relationship once or twice per year, independent of the child? The meetings would be recorded and honest feedback would be encouraged. How does the parent feel about teachers? Does he/she like, dislike or is indifferent to them? What could be improved about education, in the parent’s view? How does the teacher feel about parents? Are parents doing enough to raise their children outside of the classroom or do they expect teachers to do it? Is the teacher expected to fill too many roles that cannot be filled?
I cannot emphasize this enough: Be honest, even if the other party doesn’t want to hear it. Get the feelings out in the open, so there’s no passive-aggressive, behind the back shady tactics.
This official, recorded meeting would have to take place before any complaints could be escalated to the principal or superintendent level, thereby cutting down on incoherent or unjustified criticisms. For the front office post above, Sally’s mom would must have this conference before contacting anyone else. At least in that situation, the teacher couldn’t find any contact from Sally’s mom, so having a recorded meeting makes it really easy to prove if the teacher and parent talked or not.
I bet that a fair amount of parents may never have complaints due to comprehending their teacher better. Likewise, the teacher would have to express themselves articulately and with evidence against legitimate criticisms.
The more I research K-12 education, it seems as if educators and teachers talk past each other. Parents don’t think teachers teach. Teachers don’t think parents parent. They aren’t aware of the sacrifices the other makes, which translates into a bad experience for both. The parent-teacher relationship meeting, for the lack of a better name, is meant to address this ignorance, reduce it and have a more productive relationship in which the child in question will be discussed throughout the school year instead of getting into pissing matches and character attacks.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts!
Be honest, even if I may not want to hear the honesty!