Tip Jars


We are in the final stretches of parent teacher conference week and energy is waning after long days of teaching and meeting with parents until 7:00 at night. It makes for tiring days, without a doubt, but the joys of meeting with parents is well worth it.

I’m in my twenty-third year of teaching, and I’ve never had a dull moment in a parent teacher conference. Rather, I’ve had many great observations and reflections. Some of which I will share here. Buckle up.

  1. I’ve never had a parent say to me: “Show me the data you’ve collected on my child.”  “Where are your notebooks and spreadsheets?” In fact, it’s just the opposite. They want the data that we often don’t discuss enough in our data meetings: how their child is progressing socially with their peers and teachers. I’ve never had a conference go by without a parent asking: Does my child pay attention? Get along with others? How do they treat others? Listen? Follow directions? Are they making friends? In other words, parents are concerned deeply about their child as a well-rounded person of the world first. I’m thankful for that. It gives me hope when we are asked to swim in a sea of data, data, data, data, and more data.
  2. In every parent’s eyes, you see the sparkles and glimmers of their child. They light up as they hear their child’s many assets and contributions to our classroom community. They are surprised to hear certain things. And they leave with a heart full of pride. And the next day I see their child, I am reminded to see that parent in their little glimmering eyes. It’s humbling that I am entrusted to take care of and guide their most important treasure in the world. I always feel the need to do better by them.
  3. As my friends and I support one another in all the good, bad, and yes, sometimes ugly, that goes along with teaching, we always find time for laughter. One of my friends this week joked, “What if we placed a tip jar on the table at conferences?” In all the ridiculousness of the suggestion, it made me wonder. What do parents think of our performance as teachers? And it pushed me to think of ways to ask them in conferences. What can I do better? In what ways would you like to see things change in the daily ebb and flow of our communication? What are you most worried about with your child? What are you most proud of? And in all my sarcasm, “how would you rate me on the teacher effectiveness rubric on which I am evaluated?

Perhaps I could ask parents to show me their data notebook(!), but maybe a tip jar would be the easier (and less painful) option!


5 thoughts on “Tip Jars

  1. Data, data, data! Love it. It is easier to tell teachers how to be teachers than getting int the classroom and doing the job. What data will show unequivocally is that education has become a multi-million dollar business.
    23 years. Wow! Kudos to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your perspective on the parent-teacher conferences. I found them intimidating for many years, as if I were being judged, first as a teacher and later as a parent. The conferences are really about nurturing and celebrating the child. I had to get out of my own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very worthy reflections, Keith. Meeting the parent(s) can often illuminate everything about a student. And when things get really challenging with an individual kid, I always remind myself “this is someone’s much-loved child”. It works for me every time. Thanks for writing!


  4. This is a great reflection for me to read as I prepare for upcoming conferences. I’ve been busy collecting and entering the data, data, data, data for the powers that be and the report cards. I also need to be aware of the other things I will be asked. I get the chance to spend hours each day with the apple of someone’s eye. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. The reminder to share the social successes is a good one. That is what parents want to know about. How is my child as a person functioning in this classroom, not as a number on a data chart.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Printing this out and showing it to friends tomorrow. We’ve been feeling pretty defeated lately, a first.. for so early in the year, too.

    It’ll be great inspiration for a Friday – going into the weekend! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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