Twice a year I get to sit down with all of the parents in my class one at a time to talk about their students’ academic, social, and emotional growth.
Right now it occurs to me that the phrase “parents in my class” makes sense to me as an educator, but I’m not sure if it makes sense to others. The parents aren’t “in” my class, their children are. However, I firmly believe that my students’ parents and I are part of a team, working together to help the children “achieve personal greatness” (a phrase in the Urbana School District’s mission statement) and therefore, while they are not actually in the room, they are still a part of the class.
Anyway, parent-teacher conferences. They give me a chance to sit down with parents and talk to them about their children but, more importantly, it gives them a chance to talk to me about their children. I am with these
22 21 children for roughly seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year (minus holidays and breaks). The parents are with them the rest of the time (or they have trusted childcare providers with them). So these conferences help me gain insights into my students’ lives that I may not gain otherwise.
I also get to find out about the things students say about me at home. I learned that several students are using XtraMath, FrontRow, and Typing Web to practice skills at home. I discovered that I have a student who is a struggling reader who takes my suggestions for books to heart and when the local library doesn’t have them, submits requests, knowing the titles and authors’ names. I found out that a student who has, on several occasions, told me very angrily that she hates me, hates my classroom, and hates our school actually loves coming to school every day. I discovered that many students respond to parents’ attempts to help them with work with, “Well, that’s not the way Mr. Valencic taught us!” or they will just bring up at the dinner table something that starts with, “Hey, did you know [fill in the blank]? Mr. Valencic told us about it today!”
The school district did something different with conferences this year. Instead of doing Thursday evening and Friday morning, we had them changed to Tuesday evening and Thursday evening. Adding to the mix is the fact that I have late-night classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. So right now I am thoroughly exhausted. I have put in a lot of hours this week and I still have one more day to go. (There is not school tomorrow, but I have a staff development day and will be presenting to my fourth grade colleagues about my efforts to integrate Chromebooks into my instruction.) However, I am grateful for the opportunity and grateful to all of the parents who took fifteen minutes out of their schedules (plus travel time) to stop by, visit, and talk. I always feel like things are just a little bit smoother in the classroom after conferences. I feel like my students and I are finally able to hit our stride and start moving forward at a better pace. So even though I am worn and drained, I am glad to have had these conferences. The things I learn and the things I am able to share with parents who are looking for ways to support their child’s learning make it all worthwhile!