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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!